How to Define Buyer Personas for Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

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This article originally appeared on Terminus and has been republished with permission. Find out how to publish your content with Upwork.

Buyer personas are overviews of the people you engage with directly during the sales process. They are used to guide your sales, marketing, and customer success teams throughout the buyer and customer lifecycle. Think of a buyer persona as a “composite sketch” of your customers.


As much as I love creative writing, buyer personas are not a chance to show off your character building skills. Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many bad B2B buyer personas that start out with something like this:

Erica Engineer

  • Job title: Software Engineer
  • Reports to: Senior Product Manager
  • Age: 31
  • Home life: Married without kids, living in a single family home in Buckhead, an upscale neighborhood in Atlanta
  • Hobbies: Reading sci-fi novels, practicing yoga, traveling, listening to podcasts
  • Favorite websites: Buzzfeed, CNN, Twitter

Then, only after getting all these (fun but mostly irrelevant) details out of the way, the buyer personas finally move on to what matters.

I’m not saying you can’t jazz your personas up a little with clever names and stock photos. Just don’t get bogged down in the details. Does it matter whether Erica Engineer wears tailored suits or Old Navy t-shirts? Not unless you’re selling her clothes. What if your “Erica” ends up being an Eric? Nope. Still, doesn’t matter.

What does matter are her priorities, her buying habits, and how much autonomy she has when it comes to making business decisions. What tools does she use? What industry publications does she read? What are her biggest pain points at work?

As Adele Revella writes for the Content Marketing Institute:

“The biggest mistake marketers make is to profile their buyers instead of their buyers’ decisions. After all, buying is the behavior marketers want to influence, so the first priority for personas is to understand the attitudes, decision criteria, and actions that cause buyers to perceive that one option is better than another.”


Earlier this year, David Dodd published an article that posed an interesting question: Does Account-Based Marketing Make Buyer Personas Unnecessary?

In this new era of B2B marketing and sales, everyone is focused on accounts rather than leads. We make it a point to define our ideal customer profiles so we can find accounts that are good fits for our businesses, and then we put our energy into connecting with those accounts rather than simply generating leads.

So if leads are no longer a central focus, do buyer personas still matter?

image of levels of ABM


The simple answer is yes. David explains:

“Buyer personas are still essential for effective ABM because every buyer at each target account will bring his or her individual perspectives to the buying process, and it’s still important to have marketing messages and marketing content resources that address those individual buyer perspectives. Today, it is possible to learn more about our actual buyers than in the past, but even ‘big data’ won’t consistently reveal the goals, objectives, and motivations of individual buyers.”

If anything, ABM makes understanding your buyer personas more important than ever. That’s because, with the #FlipMyFunnel model for account-based marketing, we need to expand our reach to engage each decision-maker at our target accounts. We can no longer get away with operating as if we’re selling to one individual. Instead, we’re selling to anywhere from three to fifteen people — and it’s our job to market to them all.

awesome job post


This worksheet will help you identify your buyer personas for account-based marketing. Remember, because most B2B purchases are made by a buying committee, you should fill out this worksheet for each of your buyer personas.

The page below is just one of three that we’ve created to assist in your identification process.

One important note: do not fill this worksheet out based on gut instinct or anecdotes alone. In order to develop rich, accurate B2B buyer personas, you’ll need to do a good amount research. SnapApp has compiled some great tips for conducting research into your buyer personas, including:

  • Optimizing your forms to get richer information from prospects and customers
  • Leveraging social listening to gather information about your buyers
  • Conducting good, old-fashioned interviews
image of spreadsheet for ABM


Congratulations — you’ve defined your buyer personas! But your work isn’t done yet; you also need to identify your ideal customer profile (ICP). An ideal customer profile is a description of the company — not the individual buyer or end user — that’s a perfect fit for your solution. Download the Blueprint to Account-Based Marketing to get more actionable worksheets, including one that will guide you as you define your ICP.

This story was submitted by Shauna Ward and does not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork.

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Shauna Ward

by @wardshn

Shauna Ward is a Content Specialist at Terminus: Account-Based Marketing. She believes in the power of storytelling to amplify the voices of impactful brands and… more