Our friends at NetProspex (a D&B company) have published the 2016 Marketing Data Benchmark Report, a tradition that lives on from when both Apparao and myself worked at the organization in the past. The report is an analysis of a massive annual study that surveyed 695 million records in B2B companies’ databases and spoke with more than 500 marketers to assess the state of data driven marketing and data quality.

As it relates to buyer personas, the study uncovered some key insights as to how marketers are using their database today with buyer personas. The study found that a marketer’s database is used for a variety of critical functions, including developing target buyer personas and identifying intended audiences for programmatic ad buying. However, from our experience working with B2B organizations and conducting research of our own in this space, Cintell has some differing findings related to the proper ingredients for a buyer persona.

Today, many companies are using their existing contact database to formulate personas. While clustering a customer database is a helpful starting place, high-performing organizations are seeing real business value from researching deeper information about their audience that covers more than demographic or firmographic details. It is likely a matter of maturity in the persona optimization process – for some organizations, this is a helpful starting place. Others who have a dedicated resource to personas, KPIs to support the creation and maintenance of them, and a plan for operationalizing personas throughout the business may be in a different boat.

Download the persona optimization framework.

When asked about their use of demographic and firmographic data, 62% of respondents in the NetProspex study reported using this information for persona-based marketing, in particular to drive content creation.

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Source: NetProspex

58% of companies also utilize this information to model best customers and identify best audience segments.

When asked what information was included in buyer personas, respondents overwhelmingly use job title as the main ingredient. This is consistent with a large number of organizations who today take a role-based approach to segmentation. It should be noted, however, that this can limit some organizations into over-generalizing their persona segments purely based on role. 

For example, the Director of IT at a large enterprise organization is very different than one in a smaller organization, or one in a slower-moving industry. Within one title, you may have multiple groups with an entirely different purchase process, set of criteria, authority, motivation, and preference for buying a given solution. They have entirely different needs and should be treated as such.

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Source: NetProspex

In our own study, we found that companies who exceed lead and revenue goals are 3.4X more likely to segment their database by persona-related fields other than demographic criteria.

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We also found that 94% of companies who exceeded lead and revenue goals also included data about drivers & motivators in their personas in addition to the basics of demographics and firmographics.

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One of the major challenges noted in every annual edition of the NetProspex Benchmark Report is the frightening state of data completeness for marketers. Even the most basic clustering of a customer database can not be achieved if it is missing critical information such as revenue or company size. Marketers must prioritize data quality – it is either your secret weapon or your Kryptonite.

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Your database is the foundation for all marketing activities. As it relates to buyer personas, marketers should consider segmenting their contacts by persona utilizing a variety of attributes beyond job title.

Cintell offers an integration to Marketo, Eloqua, and Salesforce to help companies segment information in these systems by more than 10 persona-related attributes in their Cintell SmartPersonas. We can also segment an existing .CSV file to instantly assess and report on the health of your database as it relates to persona coverage. Get a demo today.