Using a 'decision maker 'persona - in a business case

Why a ‘decision maker persona’?

The use of ‘marketing or buyer personas’ are commonplace in the customer service and marketing world.

I’ve started to put a ‘buyer persona’ together for my business so I’ve been exploring the thinking behind mapping a ‘persona’ .

I’d like to encourage you to think about the value of a ‘decision maker persona’ in your business case, grant or bid proposals as I think it has great merit.

What is a ‘persona’?

A ‘persona’ in marketing or customer services is generally a fictional representation of your ideal customer that assists you in envisaging who you are pitching to when preparing content, products or marketing.

It’s worth noting that the original idea and definition of ‘buyer persona’ had its foundation in research rather than a ‘fictional’ ideas or images. Much of the focus of a ‘buyer persona’ is on researching buying behaviors and from the developing the persona.

The reading I’ve done in this area has made me reflect on the use of ‘personas’ in other areas of business – my approach is less based in research and more in profiling but still has a level of rigour that might benefit businesses as they prepared bids, business cases and proposals for ‘known’ customers.

Recently in preparing a business case for a customer I recognised the value in spending time considering the ‘decision maker persona’ and I’d urge others to spend the time doing likewise.

I know that a ‘decision maker persona’ will be less fictional than a ‘buyers persona’ and that it might not be so easy to identify the ‘decision maker’ because often they are shielded so you don’t try to influence them.

There are ways around this and a ‘decision maker persona’ is less about the individual and more about what is important for the business = what will help them meet their goals.

Why bother with a ‘decision maker persona’?Questions to ask yourself when developing your business case

Often we develop a private view about the ‘decision maker persona’ when we work on a bid, business case of business proposal but I’ve never see this documented and shared with all involved in the development of the proposals.

We are urged to second guess objections and hurdles, which is another way of asking us to consider how others might react to our presentations.

Wouldn’t it be better to consider and develop a rounded view of the ‘decision maker persona’ to build as a team and share with all involved in preparing your proposals?

A shared view of the ‘decision maker persona’ would be as beneficial as that of a ‘buyer persona’.

7 benefits of developing a ‘decision maker persona’

Like a ‘buyer persona’ a ‘decision maker persona’ could return multiple benefits to the business and the team working on the proposal, these include

  1. Providing a shared understanding of the decision maker’s challenges, pain points and higher order goals for their program or business.
  2. Identifying key priorities or interests that need to be addressed in order to present a targeted approach to the proposal’s content.
  3. Allowing for a deeper understanding of their ‘needs’ and potentially stimulates the opportunity  for innovative ideas or products to be developed in your proposal that genuinely meet their needs.
  4. Providing a ‘checklist’ to ensure that the business proposal teams comprehensively addresses all issues in the proposal.
  5. Establishing the pitch and language of your proposal so that it matches the ‘decision maker persona’ needs, interests and biases.
  6. Enables you to effectively demonstrate your understanding and commitment to them and their goals/business. Also shows that you have a deep appreciation of their needs
  7. Strengthening your competitive position vis-a-vis other businesses presenting proposals.

How to develop a ‘decision maker persona’

This is the hard bit, as it is with a ‘buyers persona’. It does require some research but not of a quantitative or statistical nature.

You first need to understand the vision and goals of the ‘decision maker’ and their organisation.  I’ve used the term ‘decision maker’ fairly loosely here because on many occasions we have to work at developing this at a organisational level. This is because in many cases the actual decision makers remain anonymous.

Research their strategic plan, annual reports or any other sources of information that will give you insights into their priorities and thinking. Drill down into their web page and uncover morsels about their business and priorities.

Next find out what you can about them as individuals – if the end decision maker is known to you – this won’t always be clear. Have they made presentations, are they colleagues of yours or someone you know? Try to find out as much about their interests, drivers and motivations.

It is worthwhile also reviewing what they have funded or approved in recent times – this will give you a flavour of their thinking and priorities.

Infographic on key steps to brainstormingFrom all of this you can start to put together key statements of their goals and vision. I always find that using a brainstorm approach is useful and the best use of your time.


A framework for your ‘decision maker persona’

The types of key headings you might like to use for your persona could include

  • Background (company or individual)
  • Demographic – predominate age, gender of employees and values (strategic plan might give some insights)
  • Know facts – previous approvals, grants, presentations, quotes, priority issues
  • Goals and challenges – look to their strategic plan, annual reports, PESTLE analysis and industry insights
  • Common objections they might have to your proposal
  • Decision criteria – look to tender documents or EOI if available otherwise reflect on known facts, goals and challenges and common objections above.

Then start to craft

  • key messages or focus of your proposal
  • your elevator pitch for the business case – this would be more helpful for you and your team to stay focussed but might prove useful if invited to present your proposal!

Please feel free to download my Template Build a ‘decision maker’ persona for your business case

I urge you to try this approach and let me know if you’ve found it helpful. Good luck.