What Are The B2B Buyer Personas In The Manufacturing Industry?

In today’s increasingly digital world, there are numerous ways for manufacturing companies to reach potential buyers — email blasts, eBooks, blog posts, social media, and even SMS texts can all be used to connect with target audiences and increase brand awareness.

Inbound marketing aims to entice your target customers to come to you on their own by providing valuable content that will help them reach their goals. But before embarking on any of these efforts, it’s crucial to fully understand the types of buyers you’re looking to target.

So how do you go about creating the content that will attract the customers you want? Well, that depends on the customers themselves.

You may already be busy crafting informative, engaging emails or penning fascinating eBooks, but if you’re not customizing your content to the needs and interests of your specific audience, all that work will have been in vain.

Establishing a well-thought-out buyer persona will allow you to more effectively reach your target audience with content that is made just for them, increasing your chances of turning leads into customers.

What Is A Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a piece of fiction based on fact of a character you create as a representation of your company’s buyers and potential buyers, comprised of customer demographics, behavior patterns, buying motivations, and overall goals.

By creating a buyer persona, companies can develop a clearer idea of who their buyers are and what they’re looking for in a specific product, service, and partner — all of which will be determined by specific data points you’ll need to gather. 

How To Do Persona Targeting

Persona targeting is about compiling that data and organizing it to help you create the right content to reach your audience where they are. Creating distinct personas will help you determine where to focus your marketing efforts — like through display ads, email newsletters, or sponsored articles.

The more you build on your personas, the better you can navigate product development and tailor your business growth strategies to meet your target audiences' needs.

Many U.S. manufacturers advertise on online platforms where their more than a million B2B buyers do their jobs every day, like on Thomasnet.com.

“Thomasnet.com simply delivers the purest industrial audience on the internet, and advertising there has helped us connect with new customers and buyers in new industries,” said Pete Elzer, President, Apex Plastic.

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"U.S. Continental started using Thomasnet.com in July of 2014 as our primary pull marketing strategy, and now we receive at least one qualified lead daily — accounting for 74% of our new customer sales," said an executive at U.S. Continental.

The 3 Manufacturing Personas That Influence The Buying Process

As you've learned by now, a detailed buyer persona will help you determine where to focus your time, guide product development, and allow for alignment across your company. But we want to provide you with a a more in-depth look at the three personas that influence the industrial buying process.

3 Influential B2B Buyers - Manufacturing personas

Design Engineers

Design engineers are the first opportunity to get specified into a product, assembly, or project.

They are tasked with developing and/or identifying the proper components that will solve the end need. This means they are not only designing custom parts to be manufactured, but they are also researching specs and attributes of standardized products.

Once conceptualized and thoroughly researched, the design engineer creates the necessary drawings for custom components, sub-assemblies, and the overall assembly model in a 2D and 3D CAD system. A bill of materials (BOM) is created and submitted to the purchasing department from these drawings. (Learn how you can use CAD files to generate more leads and get into more BOMs.)

The design engineer usually recommends products by OEM name and part number. This OEM may or may not be on the “approved vendor list" — if the OEM is not on the “approved vendor list,” the engineer must justify the request to go outside the typical supplier network.

Their job focus:

  • Concerned with form, fit and function
  • Evaluates products to determine the best available solution
  • Wants all information about a product to make the best decision 
  • Target with product brochures, sizing charts/dimensions, performance curves, graphs, CAD files, standards, specifications, certifications, product options/configurations, etc.
  • “Nothing but the facts” 

Their stress comes from:

  • They are relied upon to solve all functional problems of a product or project 
  • If they can’t develop a solution to the problem, the project can’t move forward

Their job functions:

  • Degreed engineers or manufacturing professionals
  • Focus on problem solving
  • Adept at reading and creating CAD drawings
  • Designs parts and assemblies for prototype and high volume 
  • Designs can use existing products and newly designed components

Their buying behavior:

  • Strong input in the buying decision process, recommends products by brand and part number 
  • Need to be completely confident in the abilities of the products they are specifying
  • Mainly using a desktop computer, likely with more than one monitor

Their background and personality:

  • Tend to be more introverted
  • Would prefer not to speak to people to gather needed information
  • Appreciate detailed technical information

Procurement Managers

Once the necessary parts of a product or project have been identified, they need to be purchased. The procurement manager is tasked with finding the right product, at the best price, from the most reliable supplier. 

Procurement managers maintain a list of approved suppliers, which will be their first resource for finding the sourcing options for a project. If they do not have the correct vendors on their “short list,” then the external research begins. 

Also, this individual will look for cost-effective alternatives to the design engineer’s recommendations. This means they need to find other options that have the same specification and function.

Once suppliers have been identified, the procurement manager will frequently request samples for testing or additional information before negotiating the contract terms and pricing.

Their job focus:

  • Concerned with cost, quality, delivery time, and reliability

Their stress comes from:

  •  If they don’t pick the right supplier, all productivity stops (Click here for the most critical aspects they're looking for.)

Their job functions:

  • Create and maintain the “approved vendor list” as their first resource for finding suppliers
  • Review BOM (Bill of Materials) from design engineers listing what is required to make the product
  • Research and contact potential suppliers to identify best resource
  • Collect and keep on file all technical information and product information including: certifications, MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) and Declaration Information
  • May need to do some research to familiarize themselves with a new product or service

Their buying behavior:

  • Works with engineering to make sure the right suppliers are identified, but tend to be final decision makers on commodity products
  • Negotiates price and delivery for stock products and custom manufactured parts
  • Mainly using a desktop computer or a laptop with extra monitors

Their background and personality:

  • Not engineers, but can read prints and understand CAD files 
  • Some knowledge about manufacturing and products
  • Tougher personalities, used to negotiating

MRO Managers

Maintenance, Repair, and Operations Managers keep the systems of a large plant or installation running smoothly. They try to do this through planned maintenance and upgrades. This means scheduling “down time” to replace parts or components hitting the end of their expected life cycle. Unfortunately, even the most skilled MRO manager faces emergency outages through system failure. 

When this happens, they are their own troubleshooting problem solvers with the purchasing power to fix the problem. This means that they do their best to order parts for planned maintenance and stock consumables that they need regularly but will call upon their suppliers to help them in an emergency.

Their job focus:

  • Up-time and maintenance to systems
  • Swiftly restore service after system failure

Their stress comes from:

  • Trying to plan all necessary system maintenance to eliminate unplanned interruptions 
  • Inevitably dealing with the chaos of a system failure and working feverishly to get back to full productivity with the least impact
  • Knowing that they can be called on at almost any hour of the day to handle an emergency 

Their job functions:

  • Handle on-going maintenance and emergency repairs
  • Manage existing installations and systems 
  • Able to read and work from a print or CAD file
  • Advanced technical knowledge of system they are charged with maintaining
  • Interested in product bulletin information, recalls, updates to installation best practices, new products to replace existing technology 

Their buying behavior:

  • Buy for both planned purchases (product features and cost focused) and emergency orders (delivery time focused) 
  • Complete small and large orders
  • Act like a combination of engineer and procurement personas 
  • Can be on almost any device — desktop computer, laptop, tablet, phone in the field (which is why it's important your website is responsive)

Their background and personality:

  • Tougher personalities, decision-makers

How To Develop Personas For Your Manufacturing Business

When developing a buyer persona, you’re creating a stereotype about the type of people who would be interested in your product or service. Any tidbit of information you can obtain about your targeted buyers can be hugely beneficial here.

What do you need to know about your buyers to craft effective content marketing that speaks directly to their needs? Everything that could possibly impact how they do business.

On the most basic level, take a look at the potential buyers’ jobs and how they do those jobs — their patterns, goals, motivations, the demographic makeup of their company, and the companies they do business with. How do your targeted customers go about the purchasing process? How do they approach each fiscal year? How can you best assist and guide them?

Keep in mind that these people aren’t merely just serving a company function. They’re unique, messy, flawed, and sometimes irrational human beings. So, if you can tap into these other aspects of their personality and reach them on a more personal, engaging level, you’re already a step ahead of the game.

Think about what stresses them out. What motivates them? This stuff may seem silly, but it can make a massive difference in fully understanding the type of buyers you’re dealing with.

Take the time to truly understand your targets. The most basic information you should have should be their business, objectives, obstacles, weaknesses, and strengths.

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Research Your Current Customers

To get more information about your prospective customers, start with what you already know about your current customers — then supplement that with information from trade magazines, general research, and sourcing data (like this one from 2021).

Think especially hard about the following considerations and document them. Tables tend to work well, but whatever method you choose should mesh with your personal work style and that of your team. 

What Are Your Buyers Doing?

What exactly are your buyers doing at their jobs? Are they decision-makers? Think about your potential buyers’ job titles and what their typical day looks like. Your job as a seller is to make your buyers’ lives easier. To do that, you need to know their pain points, which inevitably tie directly into their relationships with their colleagues. Ask yourself who their bosses are and how their performance is assessed. Or, if your buyers manage others, how can you help them improve performance in the workplace?

What Do Your Buyers Want?

Presumably, you’re dealing with a group of professionals who show up to work with some sort of goals in mind. What are those goals, and what is it you offer that can help them reach their objectives? Keep in mind that there are different measures of what it means to be successful, so this isn’t necessarily a no-brainer. Don’t jump to conclusions about what your buyers are trying to accomplish.

What Do Your Buyers Look Like?

Adults operate very differently depending on what decade of life they’re navigating. Generation matters a great deal, too. Are you trying to attract baby boomers, Gen Xers, or millennials? What’s important to each of those groups? Think about education levels, political leanings, marital status, and concerns specific to folks in their geographical locations. Be wary of over-stereotyping, but remember that demographics matter.

What Are Your Buyers’ Autopilot Settings?

You start brushing your teeth in the same spot every time, don’t you? Getting dressed, you either go sock-sock, shoe-shoe or sock-shoe, sock-shoe. Your buyers are creatures of habit and preference, too. When they have a question, they may be the type to turn to Google instantly, or they may be the type to stick their head out of their office and ask somebody. Some like email, whereas some like phone calls. Still, others like in-person interactions.

Their jobs require a very particular set of skills. What are they? When they hunt for resources that will make them better at what they do, are they turning to blogs, newspapers, trade publications, formal educational opportunities, or mentors? Which ones, specifically?

Thomas has compiled a lot of data and research into B2B buyers for manufacturers and industrial companies — bookmark How To Meet The Needs Of B2B Buyers to save and read later!

Create Distinct Persona Categories

As you research, you'll likely have more than one “type” of person you'll want to reach; therefore, it’s smart to create separate, customized buyer personas for distinct groups — engineers, MROs, procurement managers, and whatever other segments of the industry population are appropriate. Take the time to understand these buyers, how they differ, and what they have in common.

Successful persona segmenting will ensure your digital marketing efforts reach the right people at the right time, allowing you to connect with qualified buyers without wasting precious resources. A Google Display Network ad may have one image to target procurement managers in Washington and another image to target procurement managers in the Midwest.

Build Campaigns Based On Your Persona Research

Now it's time to begin your first industrial marketing campaign — or reevaluate your current ones depending on which stage of industrial digital marketing you're in.

You’ve put a face to your buyer and you’ve also strengthened your ability to create real value for your clients. Not only will you be better equipped to attract the visitors, leads, and customers you really want, you’ll also be better prepared to serve them according to their specific needs and goals. 

Although your targets have been defined, you may still need to develop your personas based on how buyer habits change — and they change pretty often. Remember, the more you know about your target audience, the more effectively you can draw them to you without wasting anyone’s time (or your budget).

Adjust your collateral and messaging to ensure you’re speaking directly to each distinct group and maximizing the impact of your communications. Attract buyers through paid advertising with content you know they need to make their job easier, like how-to eBooks or guides — we've listed out some other content marketing examples here to get you started.

If you're still challenged along the way, don't worry — many manufacturers and industrial companies are. Creating quality content that generates more leads is a lot of work, and we can help. Sign up for our free Digital Health Check to get an assessment with one of our experts to see where you stand and what you can improve on.

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