How to Build Buyer Personas for the SaaS Market

Building a buyer persona is foundational to everything in marketing. Quite simply, the purpose of any marketing content, no matter the form or platform, is to connect with a person. Right? Starting your SaaS marketing strategy with a look at the specific types of people you’d like to connect with will massively strengthen your marketing and sales results. In an environment where we are striving intensely for specific KPIs, and keeping a close eye on marketing spend versus reward, it is essential to make sure you are reaching the right people in the first place.

Buyer Personas

Creating detailed buyer personas allows you to target your marketing strategy to meet your leads exactly where they need to be met. Skipping this step will leave you just “throwing out ideas” and seeing what sticks. Isn’t it better to be as strategic as possible?

This article will walk you through the most important steps for creating buyer personas, with important specifics for the SaaS market.

Building Buyer Personas

If you’ve achieved any level of success in the SaaS market, you already know how important it is to identify your specific ideal customer. You may have even built out customer avatars — or buyer personas — to capture and record those particular ideal users. Buyer personas incorporate demographics, psychographics, behavioral data, and self reported identities or preferences to create a full picture of your customer. Every SaaS company can have more than one buyer persona if needed. The important thing is that these personas should be as specific as possible. What you are trying to do is create an imaginary person who holds all of the characteristics of your ideal customer. It’s important to identify what makes a great customer for you, whether that is company size, geographic location, personal interests, or any other type of characteristic.

You may want to look into your sales data to see if there are any similarities between all your best customers who stay with your solution the longest. This type of investigation into your current customer base can provide a good structure to build out your specific buyer personas in detail. Another option to gather data is to ask your current customers. Send a survey to your users to gather demographic information. Ask short answer questions about their goals in using your product. If possible, getting data from customers or users that opted not to use your products can be just as helpful. Asking about roadblocks that stopped them from purchasing your product can give insight into their behavior.

Involve Stakeholders to Create Rich and Accurate Personas

One of the most important aspects of building your buyer personas is involving all of the right stakeholders from the very beginning. And, look into places that might not be so obvious to pull in people closest to your customers. Many SaaS companies know that they should involve sales and marketing in discussions about customer personas, but skip involving customer service people, or even executives that have a huge stake in how customers are identified and targeted. Don’t make this mistake yourself!

The best way to start building your buyer personas is to begin with data. For SaaS companies that have been around for a while, this is a little bit easier, because you can look at your actual customers. As mentioned above, your buyer persona includes demographic details, but you want to go a lot further than that. It’s important to understand the individual customer and their personality as much as possible, so if your salespeople and customer service team are involved in the conversation, they can add a lot more detail and color to the personas you are creating. By adding their feedback on top of data on your customers’ actual buying behaviors and use of your solution, you can start to build a very robust buyer persona.

SaaS-Specific Buyer Persona Nuances

Every type of company needs detailed, specific buyer personas that capture the different people looking to use their products and services, but for SaaS companies, there are a couple of additional layers to be aware of, especially in the B2B context.

One of the most important nuances of B2B SaaS marketing is the layering of buyer personas. Many of your leads will be conducting research for a decision-maker higher up, and so many different types of people in your target account will have to be sufficiently impressed with your solution and the messaging you’re using to explain it. You may have to layer your intended audience for specific parts of your marketing strategy. This means understanding, for example, that you are speaking to an Administrative Assistant, a Business Development Director, and a Sales Director at the same time.

In a practical sense, this type of layering will influence your content strategy. Of course, you will have specific assets meant for specific personas, like an ROI calculator for that Sales Director, a slew of testimonials from successful BDRs, and a simple downloadable PDF outlining your solution’s main benefits the Administrative Admin can use to present his research.

Layering personas like this means creating assets that may appeal across personas. For example, you may create your product page or pricing grid to speak with more than one of your personas, or offer an eBook with sections skewed toward meeting each persona with the information they need.

Another nuance of creating buyer personas for your SaaS marketing is understanding the crossover between social platforms and media used in personal and business life. Did you see that video ad on seemingly every single YouTube video in the last year? It was a B2B advertising effort on what is typically stereotyped as a B2C channel. The specifics of where that overlap and nuance will happen can only be discovered with detailed and deep work on buyer personas. When you begin to understand your personas as people with full personalities and full lives, you will get closer to creating SaaS marketing strategies that actually reach them.

Buyer Persona Tip: Focus on Benefits

If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start with differentiating your ideal customer profiles, try starting with looking at the main benefits of your solution. This allows you to back into discovering which types of people those benefits will help the most. For example, if one of your product’s main benefits involves cutting down on the time it takes to create sales proposals, it’s likely that individual salespeople and their support teams might be a type of persona to pursue. On the other hand, if your solution’s main benefit is to provide data visualization of top-level metrics across sales, service and marketing, you may be looking for a CFO or Founder who cares more about getting a handle on the “bird’s-eye view” of their company. 

Bottom Line

Any business needs to create detailed, whole-person buyer personas to guide the marketing strategy from the beginning. And as discussed above, there are important additional nuances that SaaS companies need to consider as well, especially in a B2B context: layering your buyer personas in your specific marketing, creating messages that need to appeal to numerous buyer personas at once, and realizing that the final decision-maker many times is not the person doing the research on your solution. And remember, the key to any buyer persona is to be specific, be detailed and consider it a description of a REAL person. After all, you’re not marketing to algorithms - you’re marketing to people.

This post was originally published June 2020 and has been updated for completeness.