Reporting live from sunny, chilly Waltham, MA where 50+ B2B marketers sit rapt as SiriusDecisions Research Directors Pat McAnally and Christina McKeon walk through the challenges, goals, and best practices of operationalizing buyer personas.
Top Challenges Related to Buyer Personas
The room was polled for their top priorities related to personas, and many common themes emerged:
- “We’ve got personas and are interested in learning how to operationalize personas with sales”
- “We have role-based profiling, we need to make the transition into personas.”
- “We’ve had personas for years but I’m not convinced we’re using them well.”
- “I just refreshed our buyer personas and want to use them more effectively.”
- “I’m familiar with persona development, but want to understand how to practically apply and use personas, not just create them.”
- “We hear a lot about personas, but we need a strategy for deploying them.”
- “I feel like we’ve invested in them but I’m not quite sure what we’re getting out of them.”
- “We need to overcome some skepticism and resistance from other parts of the business.”
In our recent Understanding B2B Buyers Industry Benchmark Study, the top challenge related to buyer personas was putting them to use internally.
The Role and Importance of Personas
“Buyer personas are a key activity for marketing at the very beginning of the innovation lifecycle.”
“If you’re not being audience-centric, then you’re being product centric. It’s like taking a selfie. People don’t care about your product until they figure out how it connects to their problem.”
“83% of companies are moving towards a more audience-centric approach.”
“The #1 challenge for organizations is developing content that speaks to the buying audience. Difficult to do when you don’t know who the buying audience is.”
Christina compared portfolio marketers to Rodney Dangerfield, who both unfortunately struggle to see the respect they deserve. One of the biggest pain points of CMOs is that nobody internally understands the buyer. Our own research supports this fact, with only 8.2% of respondents reporting confidence that at least 75% of their company knew/understood their personas.
Christina highlighted the fact that deploying personas across the organization can position portfolio marketers as the internal expert on the customer, increasing their internal visibility and maybe delivering the elusive respect they deserve.
Justifying the Investment in Personas
Christina also shared some fantastic impact statements at various organizations who have measured the impact of personas in terms of marketing and sales metrics.
- Various clients have seen results such as a 28% higher campaign response rate, 2-3 month shorter sales cycle, and 25% increase in marketing influenced revenue
- PegaSystems saw a 20% increase in pipeline value, 100% increase in sales qualified leads year over year, 50% increase in conversion, and 5X more contacts mapped to a persona and responding to campaigns.
- Adobe saw a 10% increase in email orders, a decrease of 78% in time to market, 59% increase in web visitors and 53% increase in web revenue.
We’re presenting a live webinar on 2/24 with Pat McAnally and agency Get Lift on the topic of operationalizing personas, register here.
Pat recommends getting personas out of PDFs and binders on the shelf, and into the day to day workflows of your various sales and marketing constituents.
- The role of portfolio marketing should own persona creation, defining the target segment, buyer need, and building out context to share insights with other teams
- Marketing operations professionals play a large role in ensuring effective inbound and outbound interactions by matching persona-based attributes with individual contacts. Pat recommends these functions map contacts to persona by known attributes, and for unknown contacts, use behavior to determine persona segments.
- Campaign strategists should use personas to guide campaign development and use what’s top of mind (challenges and initiatives) with target audiences to build effective campaigns.
- Digital marketers can play a large role in the relevance of web content as it relates to personas, ensuring that prospective buyers can find the right content at the right time. Pat recommends using web content optimization tools to accelerate the buying process by aligning to persona, increase SEO results by using keywords associated with persona challenges, and by identifying prospective buyers through site behavior and dynamic content.
- Corporate marketing benefits with personas by using them to create a more integrated experience for buyers in their content architecture, event and media venue selections, and in managing influencers and partner agencies.
- Personas in sales enablement are a powerful use case to give sales visibility into what buyers need and how to connect with them. They can also use feedback from their counterparts in sales to validate persona insights.
- Customer marketers leverage personas to understand post-purchase needs, defining additional customer roles and understanding lifecycle touchpoints.
- Channel marketing can benefit from training partners with knowledge and insights about target buyers, not just the product features you’re promoting.
- Product management should be involved and contribute their insights to persona development. In product planning, personas can then ensure the needs of both buyer and user personas are considered.
Measuring Persona-based Performance
Christina recommends measuring not how busy we are as marketers (how many persona interviews were conducted), but what the true impact on the business is (the real effects against business goals). To get to this point, there are metrics to understand along the way that can be measured to help optimize the process.
Related, download Cintell’s new persona optimization framework.
Impact metrics: Revenue, time-to-market, growth, retention, market share
Output: Persona deployment, MQLs, SQLs
Activity: Persona research, persona development, email/event
Readiness: Persona completeness, campaign alignment, content requirements, MAP configuration, digital architecture, contacts database, sales training, sales adoption, sales technology
What Can We Do?
Pat and Christina stressed the importance of training and refinement as it relates to accelerating the adoption and impact of personas.
- Help internal stakeholders understand buyers by incorporating team enablement best practices, designing an onboarding program that facilitates different learning styles.
- Build a feedback loop to allow for the refinement of personas to ensure they don’t become stale and outdated, using listening posts (win/loss interviews and standard reporting), internal feedback, and analysis through a cadence for persona updates.
- Look at personas in three steps: adopt, operationalize, and optimize.
Personas represent one of the largest challenges, but also biggest opportunity for B2B organizations to transform how they go to market, connect with buyers, and deliver relevant content and experiences.
Bummed you missed the event? Don’t fret. Join us on Wednesday, February 24th in a free, live event with SiriusDecisions and Get Lift Agency. Register now.