Writing Content for Different Industrial Buyer Personas

Posted on Sep 18, 2014 by Kerry O'Malley


You Can’t Please Everyone…Or Maybe You Can

Convincing different members of an organization that your product or service is better than your competitors’ can be daunting. How do you get your message across to the engineers while also appealing to the needs of operations managers? The B2B industrial buying journey is more complex than B2C purchases. With industrial marketing, you have to create several types of targeted messaging that will speak to the different members of an organization who have a say in purchasing decisions. So, what may sound like complete nonsense to a CFO or Procurement Manager is music to the ears of an engineer. So, how do you create the right messaging to speak to each targeted person? You’re going to need to learn how to create content for all of the industrial buyer personas – your ideal customers, the archetype of your targeted buyers. To determine this you need to follow the 5 W’s:

  1. WHO do you need to persuade?
  2. WHAT information do they need to help them in their part of the buying journey?
  3. WHEN in the buying journey are they most receptive to messaging?
  4. WHERE in the buying journey does your target become involved?
  5. WHY does this course of action benefit the target?

The more detailed you are with determining this information, the more likely you’ll be able to convert leads to sales.

The Usual Suspects

Once you have identified the major players, you then start to create a  profile sheet that contains the information that lists each industrial buyer personas’ focus, function, buying behavior, personality, and barriers. Most of the time, your major players will be the engineer, procurement manager, operations manager, and possibly the CFO or CEO. Here are a few tips to reach the different people involved in the buying journey.

Engineers: Just the Facts, Please

Engineers are the technically-inclined folk that want product data, CAD renderings, specs, and every single piece of technical information you have. They are the first to realize that new equipment, components or technology is necessary, so you want to make sure you give them exactly what they want. They are the members that must solve the end need.

  • Focus: Wants all the facts.
  • Function: Designs the parts, can use existing products, or new components (this is where you come in!).
  • Behavior: Likes known brands, wants to feel confident about products/services, strong input.
  • Personality: Loves data and would rather find information online than talk to people.
  • Barriers: They are relied upon to solve all product problems. If they cannot find a solution, project stalls.

Procurement Specialists: Are We Getting the Best Deal?

You have to hand it to procurement specialists. They are the members of the buying team that do a lot of the legwork with information gathering. Want to wow them? Make their job easier by giving them the information they need. Show them you understand supply chain management, examples of your reliability, and problem solving skills. You’ll position yourself as a cut about the rest, which is good, because in many buying scenarios, they have the final say.

  • Focus: Best deal – pricing, reliability, service life, maintenance costs.
  • Function: Choosing the perfect supplier.
  • Behavior: Negotiates everything!
  • Personality: They’re not as tech-centric as engineers, but they understand CAD files and specs, tough nuts to crack, haggling is a badge of honor.
  • Barriers: Finding the right supplier, at the best price, without causing project delays.

Operations Manager: I Need Plans A-Z.

Operations managers keep things running. They know emergency shut-downs happen, so giving all pertinent troubleshooting information will keep them happy. Because they are tasked with being available 24/7 in case something fails, they want to know that you’ll be there right alongside them helping them out if it happens.

  • Focus: Keep it running smoothly.
  • Function: Manage installations and systems, understands the Hows and Whys of products.
  • Behavior: An interesting combination of procurement and engineering. Gets information from different sources. Loves contingency plans.
  • Personality: Decision makers, needs convincing, wants to make sure you have a plan in place for maintenance, repairs, and emergencies.
  • Barriers: They have to plan everything to eliminate unplanned emergencies, does not like unexpected chaos, and must figure out how to handle emergencies with the least impact on production.

Chief Financial Officer: Show Me the Money

Selling to a CFO is different than selling to a CEO or department head in B2B sales. To reach the CFO, you must build your case using financial metrics and the benefits of ROI, let them see how you did your analysis with documentation, and substantiate with benchmarks and case studies. Don’t forget independent analysis! CFOs love having objective opinions when they assess products and services. Bonus tip! Make sure your documents have been copy-edited. CFOs are grammar and spelling fanatics, so making a mistake in your documents could kill the deal. Think about it…CFOs are all about accuracy, it’s how they got to be where they are. Grade-school grammar and spelling mistakes send strong signals that you might let accuracy slip in other areas of your work.

  • Focus: ROI
  • Function: Seal of approval; determines whether capital expenditures are worth the investment.
  • Behavior: Must have financials. Need to know how your product/service stacks up against your competitors. Relies heavily on analysis and metrics.
  • Personality: Sometimes the ultimate decision maker. Loves numbers and data, so makes decisions based on them.
  • Barriers: It boils down to numbers. Does not want to cause delays while making decisions, but needs data to make the right decision.

 Target Acquired

Creating these archetypal personas sounds like a lot of extra work; but it really is an opportunity to understand how you can create content that speaks directly to the right person at the right time, in terms they understand and in a way that will resonate with them. Targeted messages also help industrial marketers show ROI because they deliver maximum value by converting more leads to sales – and that makes everyone happy.

Author: Kerry O'Malley


Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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