Developing Insightful Understanding of Customers with Buyer Persona Canvas

 

By Omodiaogbe Samuel

Last Updated: November 26, 2023 

Introduction

Buyer personas are designed to help us understand archetypal behaviors, activities, mental models, and contextual situations with which buyers use to make purchase decision. The model is a research-based approach of modeling buyers in an attempt to understand what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. It helps us to understand customers and buyers in a very human-centered way.  At the heart of buyer persona development is discovering how goals affect behaviors and choices. The emphasis is placed on understanding the story of the buyers and being able to ultimately help them to accomplish their goals. Buyer persona is intended to identify and illuminate goal-directed motivations and emotions, which reveal insights into why and how decisions are made. Buyer persona canvas was designed by Tony Zambito to serve as a strategic guide for understanding the buyers more deeply.  The model highlights ten blocks where we need in-depth knowledge about buyers to make informed strategy decisions.

 

The Core Elements of Designing Buyer Persona

  • Buyer Insight Research: Understanding the gaps buyers have in fulfilling goals is at the heart of buyer personas. This component involves qualitative research-based buyer interviews such as ethnographic research, which can help you uncover game-changing unarticulated and not-so-obvious buyer insights.
  • Buyer Archetype Description: Buyer persona archetypes serve as a communications platform to capture insightful findings of buyers. Central to buyer persona descriptions are stories of goals and goal-directed buying behaviors.  The aim here is to understand buyers much more deeply. 
  • Buyer Scenarios: Buyer scenarios are used to describe the research-based activities, tasks, and workflows buyers use to accomplish specific goals. The aim of buyer scenario is to help communicate the how and why of what buyers do to accomplish their goals.
  • Buyer Mental Models: Buyer mental models are perceptions and internal images of reality buyers have on how things are, how they work, and how we interact. They represent a qualitative research-based collection of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, assumptions experiences, and goals. 
  • Buyer Strategy: The real key to insight generation is to help us understand the gaps buyers have in fulfilling their specific goals. What buyers seek is foresight into better means for achieving their specific goals.  Buyer strategies, informed by the above four components, can do just that – articulate why buyers can better fulfill and achieve their specific goals.

Buyer Persona Canvas Design Process

1 Insight Research: The aim here is to understand buyers deeply.  At the core is insight into goal-directed buying behaviors.  Understanding the gaps buyers have in fulfilling goals is very critical in developing buyer personas.  These gaps also should connect to solving a problem statement. A qualitative research technique, such as ethnographic research is helpful in unearthing buyers’ deepest needs

2: Broad and inclusive team participation: Successful efforts usually have executive buy-in.  The team should be inclusive of marketing, sales, service, and other functional areas that are important in delivering effective services to the customers.  When a buyer persona initiative is seen as an enterprise endeavor, it helps the organization to have a common focus and understanding

3: Customer narrative approach: This requires involving research with an appropriate level of qualitative context and observation to know how buyers behave in their environments. By deploying Persona-Based Customer Narratives, you will be able to use a multiple research-based personas to tell a compelling humanized customer story. It shows how buying behavior are affected, the situational context of the customers, how customers view the world, their visions for the future, and how you and your company can contribute to their customer story.

4:  Buyer problem statement and/or objectives: You need to have a deep insight into the problem the buyer has and the objective it wants to achieve. Without a clear tie to a problem statement and/or a clear objective, the whole initiative will be like a ship without a compass.   That leads to not knowing which direction to concentrate research efforts on, which buyers to talk to, and therefore missing deep insights as a result. 

 5: Buying scenarios: Persona-based buying scenarios can offer rich insights helpful in guiding marketing, sales, service, and operations.  However, they’re only valuable if the right level, as well as depth of research has been conducted. There is a degree of specificity and richness needed to make buying scenarios be insightful and informative to the enterprise. Not having this element is like having an initiative without a heartbeat.

Key Factors to Take Note of in Designing Buyer Personas Canvas

  • A human-centered approach: First and foremost, it is important to note buyer personas should be viewed with human-centered approaches. Therefore, there is need to deploy a design thinking methodology by putting humans at the center of the design and strategy.
  • Goal-centered approach: The foundations of user and buyer personas rest on the concept of understanding the multi-variate goals of users or buyers.  Well-researched and crafted buyer personas tell the insightful story of how the goals of buyers arise and how they affect the choices and decisions buyers make. This sets the stage for offering a service that allows people to see a clear path to fulfilling their goals.
  • Use of best practices. In developing buyer persona, we need to make use of the best practices such as qualitative research, field observation, synthesis of goals, and understanding contextual scenarios and mental models that affect choices. Without these best practices and methods, you cannot have a human-centered outcome
  • Strategic thinking: Understanding how buyers will make decisions in the future is a key aspect of buyer and customer insights.  Having insights into how future decisions will affect attitudes, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors can guide the direction of an organization’s own future strategies.  Without this understanding, organizations will have a tough time providing a customer-centric solution. 
  • Unearthing New Opportunities: The whole idea is about understanding the customers enough to be a solution provider to their problem. Part of the solution is helping them to shape their future. While some strategies can be focused on solving the immediate challenge, there can be profound buyer insights which leads to new opportunities. Such opportunities can lead to new strategies designed to introduce a new way of thinking as well as solving unmet needs. 
  • Understanding the Buyer Value Ecosystem: A buyer’s value ecosystem affects choices being made.  Choice is a powerful element into why buyers make purchase decisions.  While there is the ultimate choice related to purchasing, there are many sub-choices being made along the buying cycle from purchase to repurchase.  Value drivers influence these choices. The use of an ecosystem model can help us see how different values can interrelate and play a part in buying decisions

                         Components of the Buyer Persona Canvas

 

Buyer Persona

Buyer personas are meant to provide archetypal representations of real buyer stories and scenarios. An important aspect of buyer personas is the ability to help you understand how buyers think and what their mindset is.  This helps to open the door to go beyond the how into the why about buyer decisions. They are based on qualitative ethnographic research over a period of time.

 

Some useful questions to ask:
• Who are the buyers?
• What is the archetype of our buyers?
• What is their archetypal background?
• What is their archetypal experience?
• What is their archetypal balance of professional and personal lives?
• What are their areas of focus and responsibilities?
• What are the archetypal roles in organizations?

 

  1. Goals 

Goal is a cornerstone principle in persona research and development.  A buyer persona attempts to understand goal-directed buying behavior.  Goals are very powerful.  They are a motivating force, which shape behavior.  Understanding the goals of buyers helps us to know what they are attempting to achieve – both on a business and personal level.

 

Some possible questions on the goals are:

  • What are our buyer’s business goals?
  • What are our buyer’s personal goals?
  • What organizational/private goals affect their buying behavior?
  1. Initiatives 

Every industry display’s a pattern of initiatives and strategies.  The purpose here is to gain an archetypal representation of the key initiatives relevant to your buyers and industry. This is something your team need to know since every industry has different patterns of initiatives and strategies.

Some possible questions to ask here:
• What are the archetypal initiatives of our buyers?
• What are the archetypal strategies of our buyer and industry?
• Which programs and projects are important to our buyers and industry?

 

  1. Influencers, Stakeholders, Buying Team 

In the buying process, we have influencers, stakeholders, approvers, and the buying team.  Knowing the role your buyer persona plays in the scheme of processes and policies related to buying is critical.  Understanding the full story of how people and team members interact in the buying process is just as critical. Therefore, this block focuses on influencers, stakeholders, approvers, buying teams and how they work together.

 

Key questions to ask:
Who are the key stakeholders?
• Who are the internal influencers?
• Who are the external influencers?
• Who are the participants in buying teams?
• What role does the buyer persona have in the buying team?
• Who are the participants in the approval process?

 

  1. Buying Process 

Buyers today take different paths to a purchase decision, depending on each unique scenario and set of goals. As in initiatives, we seek an archetypal representation, through mapping, of the buying processes.  Modeling the buying cycle and the buyer’s journey end-to-end is important for it gives you the map you need to create the experience buyers seek.

This block is focused on modelling the buying cycle and the consumer journey

Some possible questions to ask here:
• What buying process do our buyer follow?
• What is their archetypal buyer’s journey?
• How does procurement govern the buying process?

 

  1. Timing

Certain types of buyers, as well as industries display specific patterns of timing.  Gaining the timing knowledge will lead to powerful insight of truly understanding the customer buying procedure. If nurturing is to succeed, then this intelligence is important. This block is focused on understanding how the buyer time their buying process, and the general trend in the industry

 

Questions to ask here:
• What are the seasonal patterns of our buyer?
• How does formal budget planning affect timing?
• What is the normal end-to-end buying cycle?

  1. Buyer Thinking: 

Understanding the buyer mindset is a critical element to gaining insights into beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and norms driving behaviors. There is need to have a great understanding of the buyer business―how they operate, and what can be done to improve it.  Understanding how buyers form mental models, attitudes and perceptions enables you to tell a good story. And so, this block focuses on understanding how buyers form mental patterns when going through the buying cycle.

Questions to ask:
• Which attitudes hurt/help us on the part of the buyers?
• What perceptions and benefits do our buyer have?
• How does buyer thinking affect buying behavior?

 

  1. Channels 

Understanding the channel buyers use in purchasing is a critical element. It is easy to say buyers want to use multiple channels.  However, more work needs to be done in understanding the how and where the buyers truly make purchase decision. Therefore, this block focuses on knowing the preferred channels our buyer uses for purchasing

Questions to ask:
• What channel do our buyer use?
• Where are our buyers socially?
• What external sources do targets frequent?

  1. Why Buy

We need to have a deep understanding of the purchasing and procurement policies of our buyers. Getting at the core of “why” is the ultimate test.  Ideally, buyers are reluctant in sharing with the sellers why they buy. However, we need to be customer-centric enough to know why our buyers buy. But we could also use a third-party expertise to help us unearth why they buy. The attempt is to unlock the not so obvious and the often-unarticulated reasons for making decisions.

 

Questions to ask:
• How do our buyers make choices?
• What risks affect buying choices?
• How do our buyers balance consequences and payoffs?
• How does buyer thinking affect “why” choices?
• What are the unlocked drivers for decisions?
• What are the unarticulated “why” reasons for decisions?

 

  1. Content and Information

What we seek here is not only mapping content to a buying process but understanding the meaning, usage, and sharing of content.  More importantly, we seek to know which information directly affects positive buying behavior. So, this block is focused on knowing which information/content affects buying behavior of our buyer both in a positive and in a negative way
Questions to ask:
• What information and data references do buyers rely on?
• How do buyers utilize and share content?
• What types of content affects purchase decisions?
• What content buyers seek and when?
• How do buyer obtain and receive information?

 

Case Study
Okoroh Energy Services

Okoroh Energy Services is a services company that provide solutions to oil & gas companies, power plants and petrochemical companies in Nigeria. The company is into maintenance, fabrication, electrical & instrumentation (E&I), drilling, and installation services. At the moment, the company want to have a deeper insight on the purchasing methodology, the internal processes, systems, and the purchasing decision ecosystem of the customers. The company need to conduct such analysis on each of the strategic business unit. However, the emphasis here is on the fabrication division. The fabrication division provides services to multiple companies, but the focus is on developing buyer persona of the oil companies purchasers. Being the largest customer segment, we want to have a deeper insight on how the oil companies’ customers, particularly the major oil companies make their purchase decisions

Essentially, buyer personas are designed to help us understand archetypal behaviors, activities, mental models, and contextual situations in which buyers attempts to accomplish specific goals.  They help to gain insights into how buyers pursue goals and the motivations behind their pursuits. Buyer persona canvas gives a systematic approach to diving deep into the buyer’s world by understanding their goal-directed behavior and the underlying influences on buying decisions. Such insight would empower Okoroh Energy Services to be customer-centric in the fabrication division of the company. Therefore, it will make us not to be solely driven by the aim of selling our services to the customers, but helping them to realize their overarching goals. To truly understand the customers, we need to deploy ethnographic research techniques which will allows us to have conversations with and observe the customers. That will enable us to gain deep insights that cannot be attained through surveys, focus groups, or through the use of telephone-based win/loss analysis. Been into B2B business, ethnographic research can be especially valuable for us to engage in complex marketing and long sales cycles.

 

Buyer persons canvas is a 10-block model fashioned along the popular business model canvas. The canvas starts from the buyer persona, and then identify the goals, initiatives, buying team, process, timing, thinking, channels, why buy, and then ends in content & information. By working through each of the blocks, Okoroh Energy Services would be able to unearth the true insights of the major oil company purchasing rationale and strategy. Such strategic thinking approach would enable us to design our marketing and sales strategy to position ourself as solution provider in helping the buyers to achieve their goals and aspiration. Additionally, deeper insight into the buyer’s business ecosystem would enable us to articulate where the industry is headed, and how we would better position ourself to harness the full potentials of the fabrication industry. Essentially, the buyer persona canvas would help Okoroh Energy Services to have a deep dive into the buyer mindset, and therefore articulate strategies to attract, help, and retain buyers in a wholistic approach

 

                         Buyer Persona Canvas of Okoroh Energy Services

               Analysis of Buyer Persona Canvas of Okoroh Energy Services

The buyer persona is specifically focused on the major oil companies, and therefore, we need to understand their buying behavior. Without such knowledge, it would be difficult for Okoroh Energy Services to position itself to meet specific requirements or standards of the customer. We equally need to know the goal of the buyer, and therefore come up with a strategic approach to buy into their goal.  Next is attempt to preempt their initiatives, by understanding their strategic moves. The next process is on the influencers, stakeholders and the buying team. They all play critical roles in the buying process and decision. Next is working on the buying process, as that gives us the criteria for selection. Knowing such criterial would help use to work on our internal process and design our systems to meet them. Appropriately timing when they buy is also very important. That helps us to design our strategy to initiate the buying process at the exact time it’s needed. There is also the need to know the thought process of the buyers. What is their long-term goal? What are they worried about? After understanding their thought process, we then figure out their purchasing channels. Next, we shift our attention to knowing why they buy. It’s all about creating a deep insight about the customers, and trying to unearth their hidden or latent needs. The last part of the canvas is content and information.  That gives us a clue of the content and information they seek from their vendors

 

Essentially, the buyer persona canvas is all about developing knowledge of the customers.  Modeling buyer persona behavior offers insights into how buyers make purchase decisions, the goals driving their buying behaviors, and their attitudes of decision-making. The canvas offers a narrative of customer goals and desires, how buying behavior are affected, the context of the buyers, their visions for the future, and how we can contribute to their story. Where does all these lead us? It’s all about strategy. We need to use the information gathered about the customer to develop our winning strategy. We need to position ourself as the preferred provider to meet their needs, fit into their goals and aspiration. Therefore, our value proposition should address their concerns, and place us top in their consideration. Also, it offers us the opportunity to innovate on our process and system to meet or surpass the customer expectations

Essentially, the buyer persona canvas is important to Okoroh Energy Services in the following ways:

  • Strategy design: Strategy is at the heart of developing buyer’s persona. Therefore, Okoroh Energy Services need to strategically connect the 10-block to form a wholistic view of the customer, and so position itself to be at the center of meeting their need. Without a strategic approach, the company would not be able to use the canvas to create value
  • The Canvas is updatable: Updating the buyer personas should be part of an overall strategy. When new insights are gathered about the buyer, we need to incorporate them into our strategy.  Okoroh Energy Services need to constantly look out for market and buyer signals to determine if it is time to reset its strategies, gain insights, and update the buyer personas
  • Connect with buyers: Obtaining insights into what buyers are experiencing is one way to connect with them. Buyer research can help the company to understand how the goals of buyers are changing.  It can also tell us plenty about what new challenges buyers face.  Therefore, that would put us in a better position to be part of the solution to their challenges
  • Fitting into buyer thought process: Knowing how your buyers think about today and the future has never been more important. Buyer Insights come from the ability to curate stories, articulating the unexpected and the not-so-obvious development in the buyer business. Therefore, Okoroh Energy Services need to continue to Invest in understanding the often hard to ascertain underlying goals and goal-directed behaviors of its buyers
  • Communicating The Value: Buyer personas are effective when their purpose is tied to addressing buyer’s problems. The most successful buyer persona endeavors are those addressing overall buyer’s strategy, and not relegated to just finding e tactical moves. Therefore, the insights gathered put Okoroh Energy Services into a prime position to use the information to develop competitive edge

                               Conclusion

Buyer personas are designed to help us understand archetypal behaviors, activities, mental models, and contextual situations in which buyers desires to accomplish specific goals.  The real intent of buyer persona development and in-depth buyer research is to understand the effect of goal-directed behaviors and the underlying influences on buyer decisions. By understanding how biases, perceptions, and mental framing are influencing choices, companies can be in a better position to help buyers make informed decisions. To truly be a customer-centric organization, every employee must not only know the customer’s story, but also know how they contribute to it.  This is at the heart of customer centricity. Essentially, what marketing executives should be concerned about is customer strategy making, by helping their company to develop a refined and intimate view of the customers.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Make marketing strategy research-based: marketing executives should embrace ethnographic-based buyer research to gain deep understanding of buyers. Buyer insight research is bolstered by both qualitative and quantitative measures.
  • Create persona-based strategic customer narratives: Buyer personas are helpful in providing a common view of customers and buyers. The building of buyer personas is an interpretation and synthesis of gathered insights
  • Create envisioning oriented strategic customer narratives: By creating strategic persona-based customer narratives on potential scenarios, marketing executives can work together with the buyers to solve their problems by helping them to achieve their goal. Essentially, goals drive both conscious and non-conscious buying decisions
  • Communicating the value: Buyer personas are even further effective when their purpose is tied to addressing organizational problems with overall customer strategies. The most successful buyer persona endeavors are those that fits into the overall customer strategy
  • Know how customers think and view the world: How customers think is influenced by a new vision of the world they live and work in.  New thinking and a new view of the world ultimately reshapes the buying behavior of customers and buyers.  

Omodiaogbe Samuel, MSc. CMC, ChMC, FIMC

Omodiaogbe is a Strategic Management Consultant, and he the Principal Consultant/CEO at Vast Thinking Consults Ltd where he help organizations and business leaders to create superior value. Omodiaogbe holds BSc. and MSc. in Economics. Also, he is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), a Chartered Management Consultant (ChMC), and a Fellow, Institute of Management Consultants, Nigeria. He is an Instructor on Coursera, where he teaches 25 courses in Strategic Management. Omodiaogbe is one of the world’s leading learners on Coursera and Edx with over 500 Certificates from top-ranked Universities, Business Schools, and Organizations.

Contact him:
Email; somodiaogbe@vastthinking.com.ng
Visit: www.vastthinking.com.ng

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