The Rise of the Digital Buyer Persona

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I have been evolving the buyer persona development process as well as have been writing about buyer personas for the last eight years now.  To say buyers have changed during that time would be an understatement.   Most notably, the B2B buying process has undergone a significant transformation within the past three years.  Predicting and assessing shifts in buying processes and buying behaviors is becoming increasingly difficult.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen several reports that indicate what buyers are doing.  For example, the recent Buyersphere Report regarding B2B use of social media commissioned by Base One of the UK is very illuminating.  It takes a snapshot of what B2B buyers are doing in the B2B market space albeit reflective of a sampling of 500 businesses from across the UK.  In addition, we’ve seen insightful views from Mike Seltzer’s 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.  I have also enjoyed the treatment Steven Woods, CTO of Eloqua,  gives to the shift in the way buyer’s consume information in his book “The Digital Body Language.”  There are several others cropping up as well.  What is evident from them all is that B2B buyers and markets are exploring social media and digital marketing strategies.  I believe what we are witnessing is the rise of the Digital Buyer Persona.

Although we are beginning to get some indications of where buyers are going, (for example Facebook and Twitter) and an idea of when (i.e. early stage of buying process), we are not exactly certain why they are going to these communities and what they may be doing there.  We also are seeing emerging data on how B2B buyers will access various “social points” and how they will engage with these points digitally.  Will mobile technology become more prominent in the buyer’s digital world?  Will the Apple iPad usher in a new model for B2B buyers to interact with suppliers and customers?  Is “social” just “social noise” at the moment?  These types of questions are yet to be answered.

In light of these evolving and emerging trends, I along with Angela Quail and those associated with Goal Centric will be examining the Digital Buyer Persona in our work going forward.  We believe this is important for several reasons:

  • The need for qualitative and experiential analysis is greater than ever for B2B businesses in particular.  We are dealing with business model, cultural, social, and behavioral changes on an order of magnitude that has not been seen before.
  • The need for businesses to discern differences between core Buyer Personas and Digital Buyer Personas will become more apparent.
  • Buyer’s use of digital and social communities will continue to evolve and businesses must find out what that means in terms of how they construct engagements with buyers.
  • There have been and will continue to be transformational implications to strategy models for marketing and sales as we know them today.
  • We are entering the first wave of change and we will undoubtedly have several more before we have a clear picture of how much buyer behavior has changed and what these changes mean for B2B businesses.

Over the next few months and perhaps few years we will be exploring the Digital Buyer Persona, how buying behaviors are manifesting, and what are the key strategies for engaging the Digital Buyer Persona.  It is our hope that we will be able to help organizations make informed decisions about the increasingly complex world of digital marketing and social business.  Without question, we will continue to refine this evolving vision and will hope to communicate what we have been learning as we work with leading organizations in this important new area of B2B Customer Strategy.

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

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