How to create buyer personas for today’s built environment

The customer’s challenge

The key to any market strategy begins with understanding your customer. All companies start from this starting line, including your manufacturing, distribution, or construction business. Sometimes called customer or marketing personas/profiles by marketing professionals, buyer personas help executives, sales, and marketing depict a target customer through a research-based profile. Buyer personas put aside your biases and empathize with your ideal customers. What are their days like? What are the challenges they face, and do they make decisions? Here’s how to utilize buyer personas to better acquire and serve your customers in the built environment. 

Putting aside biases

One of my first jobs out of college was with a mid-size production builder. Entering the building industry in 2009 with no background in the market presented itself with a steep learning curve. One thing I did have on my side was the benefit of being their primary target buyer. Newlywed, a recent graduate, and a first-time home buyer, I got a seat at the table to speak on behalf of the elusive “millennial.” They were shocked to hear I received my news from social media, never carried cash, read online reviews, and didn’t pay for a newspaper subscription. I confessed that I bought my house solely because it fit my dog well. My life circumstances dictated my decision-making, how I acquired media and my spending habits. For example, my manager questioned traditional radio campaigns: "everyone had satellite radio in their car.” I took him outside and showed him my essential Kia Rio. This car was what our buyer drove. Our buyers listen to the radio to win concert tickets and learn about upcoming events, and they do NOT necessarily drive new cars, like his Jaguar.

With that builder, we wanted to position ourselves for a first-time homeowner/first-time move-up homebuyer. The target buyer was used to rent but not mortgage calculations. We started including monthly mortgage projections on inventory homes and home plans. Making a marketing strategy based on how YOU purchase products and services might not be the best fit.

But don’t take my personal story as permission to think someone younger on your team is the answer to defining all your buyer personas. I didn’t represent every buyer persona, just one primary ideal buyer. Too often, we see positioning and marketing decisions made by delegating the project to someone “younger” who we think will naturally represent all our buyers. No one person at your company is the silver bullet to unlocking buyer personas. Instead, leverage an outside resource such as Illumine8 to bring perspective and research and help you lay an unbiased positioning and buyer persona foundation to serve your customers better.

What do B2B vs. B2C buyer personas look like? 

You build the strongest buyer personas through market research and customer feedback through first-party data. First-party data is information your company collects directly from its customers and owns. If you have a CRM, you’ll find your first party there, but you can also find first-party data in other places, such as accounting, project management software, email software, survey apps, and your website analytics. In addition, you can gain additional market research through surveys, focus groups, reviews, and quantitative data such as demographic statistics.

Conduct your surveys and utilize industry experts and sources to identify patterns and begin filling out basic information on the following as samples:

  •       Demographics
  •       Values and Goals
  •       Ideal Experience
  •       Challenges
  •       Technology
  •       Motivations
  •       Background

Unless you have a particular product or service, you will most likely have multiple buyer personas, as each customer may represent a different decision-maker at the helm. Multiple personas are particularly true in the built environment. Manufacturers and distributors have consumer (B2C) and trade (B2B) customer personas. For a home builder, you might have buyer personas developed for a move-up buyer, down-sizer, and someone moving for relocation, which are all B2C personas. Professional services and contractors work exclusively with B2B personas. 

When deciding B2B personas, industry and role will be the primary determining factor. Consumer personas, B2C, usually segment themselves based on their specific challenges, which generally correlate with age and geographics. For example, if you are a home builder, renovator, contractor, or distributor with B2C buyers, your personas will link with appropriate housing challenges at each stage of life.

Take today’s first-time home buyer. What could they possibly be motivated by when deciding on a home? What are their challenges? What excites them? You want to think in general terms that are universal to most of your target demographic. You can start writing the story from your surveys and verified statistical sources. The following factors might shape a first-time home buyer’s persona:

  •       Just as their professional lives were starting to begin, COVID-19 hit
  •       Possibly graduated college virtually and interviewed for a job virtually
  •       They probably haven’t worked in an office full time or have remote work options
  •       Grew up with cell phones = text preferred and expect timely replies
  •       Their cell phone is with them ALL. THE. TIME.
  •       Uses the internet/YouTube as a resource for recipes, home repair, and health concerns
  •       Doesn’t pay for cable — streams their media
  •       Doesn’t carry cash, buys coffee with app for the rewards

While not an entire person, based on the shortlist above that we verified by data, we know how to reach this customer. We can exclude cold calls and cable ads but include video and video calls as media options. We can look at our floor plans and see how we can create home offices and make sure we have coffee in the sales center. We can offer virtual tours and on-demand scheduling.

But what exactly is the content? What is the message? The real work begins now that you have your customer persona in hand. 

Crafting content for your buyers’ “job-to-be-done”

Take the information you’ve distilled from your buyer persona and dive deeper into possible pain points. Developing a strategy that peels back the layers of each pain point will help you articulate the solution your project or service addresses. Inform your marketing strategy about why your customer has hired you or chosen your product. What is the job to be done? Buyer behaviors and habits can be fleeting. The best way to resonate with your audience and form your marketing strategy is to segment your personas by the “job-to-be-done” you address.

So how do you figure out the job to be done? First, try Illumine8’s toddler test. The framework is a series of simple “why” questions posed by using a mirroring technique. When listening to prospective customers describe their problem, follow up by repeating the last three words of their statement. If this is uncomfortable, add “why” to the question. For example, if the prospect answers that the reason they are calling you to tour a new house, simply repeat “a new house? Or “why do you want to tour a new house?” Repeat up to three times, and you will be surprised at the root causes you uncover. Document the topical symptoms and your follow-up questions in a list. This list is the basis of your buyers' journey and marketing strategy.

According to Harvard Business School Professor  Clayton Christensen, “companies that develop offerings centered on jobs, instead of customer attributes and buying behaviors, can excel in the market and avoid disruption." Using this example, the first-time home buyer segmented list could address the following pain points:

  •       Not enough cash for a down payment
  •       Student loans
  •       Works from home
  •       Tired of renting/rent increase
  •       Moved for their job

From the list above, we can see how our sampled first-time buyer builder could start developing messaging and sales strategies for scenarios.

The pain points of a down payment, student loans, and rent increase are reactive to money. The home builder could do a blog series on “5 Floor Plans That are Basement Rental Friendly” or perhaps partner with a lender to record a podcast about government programs available for housing assistance. Because we crafted the buyer persona, we know the medium to best reach our buyer. Craft the buyers’ journey messaging from the “job-to-be-done.”

Most articles shared on buyer personas focus on attributes that marketing teams and executives can use to keep their messaging consistent. However, limiting your buyer personas to only character traits and statistics restricts your connection and reach to the right customers. So instead, go deeper to answer why people would buy your product or service.

Creating robust, unbiased buyer personas with Illumine8 as your guide will lay a foundation for better marketing and empower your team with the best strategy to target, support, and work with customers to improve reach, boost conversions, and increase loyalty. Contact us today!

 

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