Shopify B2B: Defining Your Online B2B Buyer Personas And Their Online Buying Journey

Is selling in B2B ecommerce hard? Not when you know exactly who you’re selling to. Establishing online B2B buyer personas and mapping out their buying journey online are the first steps your Shopify B2B store will take towards finding its audience.

This is chapter 2 of PageFly’s Ultimate Shopify B2B guide. In this article, we’re going to share with you how to connect to your ideal buyers and how to create content that hits them at the right time, no matter where they are in their buying journey.

If you missed chapter 1 about starting your online B2B store with Shopify, be sure to check it out before or after this.

I. B2B Online Buyer Personas

01. Brief Recap of B2B Online Buyer Personas

Like we said in our previous post, B2B online buyer personas are a little more complicated than B2C ones. You’ll need to construct at least 3 different personas for the minimum 3 different types of buyer you’ll be targeting in one sales team. Those buyers are:

    1. The Researcher The one who identifies a solution to a pain point and researches different product options. They trawl through all the market research in white papers, case studies etc. and present a portfolio of the best product options to their boss.
    2. The Doorman – The one with direct access to the head decision maker. They screen your calls and scour your emails, with the ultimate goal of narrowing down a selection of products to present to their boss.
    3. The Honcho – The one who calls the shots from the top of the pile. They make decisions based on the information about your product and company provided to them by the researcher and the doorman.

For each type of buyer in your targeted buying team, you’re going to need as much information as possible. Being informed about what they want and how they get it is the best ammunition you can have for making a sale.

02. Aims, Pain Points and Needs

Aims, pain points and needs

You should create at least 3 online buyer personas for your B2B store. Image credit

It all starts with identifying what the researcher, doorman and honcho from your targeted buying team wants the most. To do this, you need to determine 3 aspects of each role’s operation: their aims, pain points and needs.

  • Aims are the jobs that each member of the buying team have assigned to them. This can range from gathering data to contacting potential sellers, or from answering emails to striking deals.
  • Pain points are problems that cause your buyer annoyance – problems that are fixable with the right approach or product. Figuring out what a buyer’s pain point is and empathizing with them are the crucial first steps to not only knowing exactly what to offer the buyer, but also to establishing trust with that buyer and forging an initial connection that can lead to a sale.
  • Needs are the resolutions of pain points. A need is what the buyer requires, either in terms of a product or service, in order to banish their pain point, or at the very least, ease it a little.

These 3 facets of your B2B online buyer personas should be grouped together under generic names that help personify your target audience: something like Researcher Rita, Doorman Dan and Honcho Horatio

03. How to Create your B2B Online Buyer Personas

Okay, we’ll give you an example to piece all of this together.

Let’s say that you’re selling trendy eyeglass frames in an online B2B capacity targeting buyers working for an eyewear company. To start, you need to create 3 different buyer personas; one for the researcher, one for the doorman and one for the honcho. Each of these personas will have different aims, pain points and needs.

Make a simple spreadsheet that clearly maps these out, much like we’ve done below.

Researcher Rita

Through looking at the market, checking out social media and placing some calls and emails, you’ve established that the main aim of Researcher Rita in the eyewear business is to pile through market research and deliver a portfolio of quality, affordable eyeglass frames for her boss to have the final say.

Her problem is that the cheap materials and labour that her company’s suppliers use means that frames turn up scratched and, very often, late.

What she needs more than anything is guarantees of delivery: offering her insured delivery for your frames, as well as a money back guarantee if she’s not happy, is a great way to win her over. Ask her if she’d be interested in speedier shipping, even if it costs a little more; if she expresses an interest in this, you know you’ve created a winning buyer persona.

Doorman Dan

Doorman Dan’s main aim in the B2B eyewear business is to screen incoming emails and calls to present the most professional pitches to his boss. Not only that, but he scours social media to find ads that align well with the boss’ and the company’s needs. 

Generally speaking, Doorman Dan is tired of adverts that put flashy visuals ahead of the product’s basic features and the supplier’s need-to-know policies, and he’s sick of purely email pitches with 100 calls-to-action and no substance. 

He’d like to see better laid-out pitches and ads that focus on clearly defined bullet points with a less pushy tone. You can ask if he or his boss would be interested in seeing a more diverse range of media, such as white paper reports or printed catalogues.

Honcho Horatio

When creating your Honcho Horatio, it’s imperative that you know what his current aim is. You can find out through either the doorman or the honcho himself. In our example, your honcho is relying on his researchers and doormen to narrow down a multitude of suppliers to just 3 or 4 for the next season, and will strike a deal with the right suppliers when found. He also checks suppliers’ social media channels before committing to any sort of deal. 

Like Researcher Rita, Honcho Horatio is sick of poor delivery standards when it comes to suppliers’ frames. He also bemoans the lack of innovative designs in the eyewear field and is turned off deals by subpar social media channels that aren’t well maintained and raise doubts about the suppliers’ reliability.

To combat each of these points, you can reassure him of your ability to provide quality delivery with insurance and guarantees, along with fresh designs when it comes to the frames. Lastly, you can ensure that your social media channels are active and full of followers, giving him trust in the deal via social proof.

Example Spreadsheet

Example spreadsheet

Lay out the general information for your buyer personas in a spreadsheet. 

Of course, not all of this information is going to apply to all of your buyers. It’s highly unlikely that every single researcher in your field will be fed up with poor delivery quality, and that every buying team honcho is sick of the market’s lack of product innovation. The information you gather for your buyer personas in online B2B has to be based on averages and the general aims, pain points and needs of the buying market.

04. The Who, Where and How of B2B Online Buyer Personas

For any B2B online buyer persona, the aims, pain points and needs is the minimum amount of data you’ll want to find out. Knowing what each buyer’s role is, what they hate and what they need is essential to cultivating any sort of understanding of your target market.

However, there are other things you should know if you want to complete the perfect buyer persona. You’ll need to know who they are (their personal and professional attributes), where they are (their hangouts) and how to identify them (their telltale traits). Let’s take a look at each of these:

  • The Who – This is a summation of the buyer’s personal attributes such as age and gender, but also their professional ones – their experience, past employment and influence in the buying team.

If we head back to our eyeglass example, we might find that our Doorman Dan is relatively junior, aged between 21 and 26 years old, and skews towards being male. He’s been in this line of work from anywhere between 1 and 6 years, this is his first time in this role, or he’s worked in one different company before, and he has a small amount of sway with the boss.

Your Honcho Horatio will be more experienced, so might sit somewhere between 30 and 40 years old, skew towards being male, and will have been in this career for between 8 and 15 years already at this point. This is the 3rd or 4th company he’s worked for and he answers to no one.

  • The Where – This is a look into where you’ll find your buyers spending most of their time online. 

42% of B2B buyers nowadays get their research from blogs; you can tap into this by finding out what keywords they’re searching with and what articles they’re reading. What’s more, 54% of buyers regularly hear of B2B opportunities through social media, predominantly LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

Maybe email campaigns work well for your Doorman Dan, while a professional LinkedIn presence seems to be the way to impress Researcher Rita. Finding out where your buyers’ hangouts are is the best way to discover what content they want, when they want it and where they find it.

  • The How – It may not be immediately obvious if someone is a Researcher Rita or a Doorman Dan, you’ll have to do a bit of sleuthing to find out who’s who.

Does your buyer persona screen calls? Do they have their calls screened? If they’re spending more time on Facebook than replying to emails, the chances are that they’re a Researcher Rita. If someone’s asking you direct questions, you’re probably talking to a Doorman Dan, or possibly even a Honcho Horatio.

These traits can vary wildly between industries, so you’ll have to do your research into which personalities suit which kind of roles in your targeted buyers’ team.

Who, where, how of your buyers

Establish the who, where and how of your buyers to learn exactly how to connect with them.

Building a comprehensive B2B online buyer persona takes time, but so does digging the foundations of a house. If you’ve got a solid base to work from, it will give your business the structure it needs going forward, and will set you on a strong path to achieving the well-defined goals you set out earlier.

Once you’ve created your online B2B buyer personas, you’ll have a much better understanding of:

  • what type of content to create for each of your personas
  • where to share content for maximum exposure to those personas
  • what pain points to focus in on
  • what type of language or style to use to generate and convert leads

If we leave the B2B world for a brief second, we can take a lot of inspiration in the effectiveness of buyer personas from the realms of B2C. Netflix and Shopify are gigantic B2C companies that both sell to the mass market, yet they still manage to provide every single user with personalised suggestions about what they might like to watch or listen to next. Generally speaking, these suggestions are fantastic, but how do they do it? 

It’s all in the magic of buyer personas. Both companies have crafted such incredibly accurate buyer personas of their different types of users that the algorithms that group different types of shows or songs together know exactly which users should be experiencing what.

Now we’re not saying that you have to be a giant like Netflix or Shopify to make this work; you don’t even have to be in the B2C field at all. Accurately knowing your buyer persona becomes easier the more data you have, and in B2B, it can lead to you knowing your buyers like they’re your personal friends.

05. The Importance of LinkedIn for Making B2B Online Buyer Personas

So, now that you know what data you’re looking for to create a B2B ecommerce buyer persona, where exactly are you supposed to find it all? While case studies, B2B publications and the analytics of your own blog and Shopify B2B store are all great ways to learn about your audience, the undisputed champion of buyer persona data mining is LinkedIn.

91% of marketing executives think that LinkedIn is a great place to find content; not just the kind of content that comes from company posts, or networking groups, or LinkedIn courses, but also from the people behind the content; the ones who do the uploading.

More than anything, LinkedIn is a great way to connect with people. It can help you to construct your online B2B buyer personas and to understand exactly the kind of researchers, doormen and honchos that you should be selling to.

You can use it to search groups, posts and job ads that your target audience is interacting with most. Not only that, but you can use its industry search function to pinpoint real people who have the exact roles you want to sell to.

Example of LinkedIn group

LinkedIn groups are a fantastic source of information, no matter what B2B niche you’re working in.

After you’ve harvested the information for your minimum of 3 different B2B buyer personas online, you need to familiarize yourself with them. Create giant cardboard cut-outs of your personas; have someone role-play as a Researcher Rita or a Honcho Horatio to see how you and your team deal with them. These may sound like goofy ideas, but if you know your personas inside and out, your chance at making a sale with them will skyrocket.

II. The B2B Online Buyer’s Journey

01. Brief Recap of the B2B Online Buyer’s Journey

If you missed what we wrote in chapter 1 of our B2B Shopify guide, don’t worry about it. We’ll give you a quick run-down of the 5 stages we talked about earlier:

  • Awareness – The buying team researches solutions to their company’s pain point and finds you. They become aware of your product by searching Google, participating in forums, reading your blog or being referred from other buyers in the same business.
  • Consideration – The buying team thoroughly researches not just your product, through case studies, white papers and other publications, but also your company through your social media, reviews and via a thorough look at your B2B Shopify store.
  • Intent – The buying team registers an interest with your service via a sign-up form on your store or by taking up a free demo offer. This is the first part of the B2B online buyer’s journey where you’re aware that you have a potential customer and, chances are, you’re already 60% of your way through the sale by this point.
  • Decision – The buying team gathers together all of the research and comes to a decision about whether or not to buy your product. This typically involves some in-depth return on investment (ROI) analysis, a lot of meetings and some speaking to you personally.
  • Loyalty – The buying team, happy with the pain point your product is solving, continues to use your service. They refer other companies to you and your B2B grows exponentially. Your job from now on is to keep them happy.

It may look fairly simple here, but in reality, the B2B online buyer’s journey is not just a linear progression from one stage to the next. Nowadays, a buying team might linger around each stage, head back to certain stages, enter the journey at different stages and so on.

The modern B2B digital buying journey involves multiple people on one team, a consensus of opinions, researching and re-researching, countless analyses and committee reviews, all of which zig zags endlessly until, around 6 to 12 months later, they’ve made a final decision on whether or not to invest in your product.

Exhausting, right? Well, for better or for worse, you, yourself, don’t actually play much of a direct part in the whole process.

02. Where you Fit into the B2B Online Buying Journey

The old way of selling B2B meant that you’d have to make a huge amount of pitches and drive all over the place to meet with potential clients. In today’s B2B environment however, 83% of the buyer’s journey is done by the buyers themselves, be it researching online, offline, performing analyses or meeting with their team.

With just 17% of the journey involving talking to you at all, for the most part, the best thing you can do is to put out the right information in the right places, to keep experimenting with different strategies and to keep developing your store into its best possible self.

If you’ve never ridden the waves of a B2B buying journey before, don’t be scared. You will learn a lot of what works and what doesn’t through trial and error. You’ll have many questions about why potential buyers seem to stall at different parts of the buyer’s journey, but don’t worry, there’s an answer for each one.

For instance, what if your blog is getting great traffic, but no one is taking your product into the research stage? Try adding a clearer call-to-action or removing page clutter to make your product more attention grabbing.

What if a buyer has signaled intent to try your product by signing up to a free demo, but the line has gone cold? Well, you have their details; give them a phone call or send them an email to ask them why they lost interest and what you could do better in the future.

No one’s expecting you to bag thousand-dollar investments on the first try, but with a few golden principles, you can really grease the B2B buyer’s online journey and help buyers fly through the stages:

  • Keep content short – In a B2C buyer journey, you’ll want to find out how to appeal to your buyers on an emotional level. Your content will have to create curiosity, entertain and offer a solution to a problem that connects with their sentiment. In an online B2B buyer journey, however, you’ll need to be much more straight shooting. B2B buyers aren’t attracted by colorful, flashy ads that tug at the heartstrings, they prefer to live by the cold, hard business principle of time equals money. Do away with the pizzazz and keep it clear and concise; doing so also makes your content shareable on social media.
  • Keep it quantifiable – Stats and figures speak much louder to B2B buyers than B2C buyers. They respect and listen to numbers, all of which can help them figure out your product’s potential to make their company money. All of your content, be it case studies, white papers, webinars, or third-party analytic reports shared on your social accounts should be based in research, and should give clear, quantifiable data that they can analyze.
  • Keep it free and in plain view – There’s nothing worse for a buyer than having to sift through pages of unrelated information until they find the one stat they’re looking for. A buyer’s time is precious and if they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly enough, they’ll just stop looking. Likewise, a buyer is not going to pay you for information that they need to consider your product; would you pay an advertiser to advertise their product to you? Make sure that your content is free and that it’s organised and signposted super clearly.

03. What Types of Content do Online B2B Buyers Love?

Types of content online B2B buyers love

Case studies are a highly converting type of content for online B2B buyers.

The term ‘content is king’ has been beaten to death at this point, but in the emerging world of digital B2B, it still rings true. The content you make and put out there is a magnet for your B2B buyers; it leads them to the starting line of the online buyer’s journey and guides them through each of the 5 stages.

Click here for more about creating an effective marketing strategy for your ecommerce business.

Giving your buyers short, quantifiable and freely available content about the market and your product’s exalted place within it can be gold dust for your business. Here’s a few of the content-driven media that most often appeal to B2B buyers:

Blogs – How often have you gotten your information from blogs? What you’re doing right now to learn about B2B online buyer personas and the buyer’s journey, B2B buyers do to learn about the market that they’re interested in. Like we said earlier, 42% of B2B buyers source their information from blogs, so you really can’t afford not to have one.

Further reading: BlendB2B – Guide to B2B Blogging

Case studies – Case studies are stories of companies that have used your product and have reaped success because of it. Naturally, you’ll want to promote these stories whenever possible to give your product some real-world backing for new potential clients. As a B2B business ourselves, we’ve done exactly that at PageFly. Check out how we do it below:

Further reading: PageFly – Case Studies

White papers – If you’ve got a notion that white papers are boring, ineffective methods to explore the markets, you’ll want to ditch that immediately. 50% of B2B marketers rate white papers as the most effective type of content their company uses. It’s true that white papers have no place in B2C but, in B2B, their professional, research-backed, long-form approach to evaluating a market and a product’s place in that market works absolute wonders.

Further reading: Paperflite – Best B2B White Paper Examples

Social media – The B2B buying team nowadays looks like this: 73% millennials with one-third of those millennials acting as the sole decision maker for their team. This means sweeping changes in the way online B2B companies advertise to their buyers, and probably the biggest is in social media. Expanding your online presence into LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, and religiously posting content that connects with your buyers, is vital to any B2B success.

Further reading: HubSpot – 10 B2B Social Media Strategies that Work for any Industry

Webinars – Video content is all the rage amongst the new millennial B2B buying team and webinars have a big part in this. Webinars help you to establish your company’s presence in a marketplace and can really drive your leads towards making the right choice at the decision stage. 

Further reading: Medium – Why B2B Webinars Work

Of course, the content you create depends on your company’s niche. Construct the right online B2B buyer personas right at the start of your venture and you’ll know exactly what kind of content your targeted buyers will love. Like many things in B2B, you’ll learn what to post, when to post it and where to post it through trial and error.

To see a content strategy done right, let’s take a quick look at Scripted. Scripted is a B2B business that provides a service to help online businesses find content writers. They bring in prospective customers through a content-rich blog, informative podcasts and a fantastic SEO score that puts their site at the top of Google for their ideal keywords.

Once customers are aware of their service, they can also read white papers and attend webinars to advance through the consideration stage. There are email sign-up forms and free demos available across all of their content, so customers can express intent, all before coming to a decision on whether or not to use their service to hire a freelance writer. All of their content is kept short, quantifiable and free in order to give potential hirers all the information they should need before making that final decision.

Like Scripted, be sure to visualize your B2B buyer’s journey and what you can do for them at every stage. Remember, you want to be the gentle nudge in a buyer’s back as they find their way from the awareness stage to the loyalty stage. Give them the content they need to do their jobs, without being too pushy, and your store will begin to take the form of the perfect sales funnel.

The Scripted Podcast is an innovative and very effective way that this B2B business appeals to its target buyers.

The Scripted Podcast

Next Time…

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