New 2016 Marketing Industry Benchmark Study Reveals How B2B Organizations Understand Buyers, Create and Maintain Personas and Put Insights to Use

BenchmarkReport-2016-CoverBOSTON – December 15, 2015 – Today, SaaS customer intelligence company Cintell, creators of the SmartPersonaTM Customer Intelligence Platform, announced the availability of the 2016 Benchmark Study on Understanding B2B Buyers. The study found that organizations that exceed revenue and lead goals are more effective at creating, using, and consistently maintaining personas than companies that miss lead and revenue targets. In fact, companies that exceed lead and revenue goals are 2.2X more likely to have and document personas than companies that miss these targets.

Though the concept of a persona, a fictional character used to understand a particular audience segment, has existed for years, this study sought to uncover why organizations fail to create, update, maintain or apply persona intelligence in meaningful ways, rendering them ineffective. Insights were compiled from an industry-wide survey of business-to-business organizations to uncover how high-performing companies build buyer personas, operationalize buying insights and refine intelligence on an ongoing basis.

The study was conducted by Cintell in partnership with the Marketing Advisory Network, MarketingProfs, ResearchScape, Target Marketing Magazine, ResearchScape and DM News. Companies of all sizes across North America were represented in the 137 responses that were collected via an online survey during November 2015. Performance metrics are based on aggregate data, and no individual companies are identified.

Other key findings related to creating personas include:

  • Companies that exceed lead and revenue goals are 2.3X more likely to research the drivers and motivations of their buyers, 1.6X more likely to understand the fears and challenges of their buyers, and 2X more likely to include the buying preferences of their personas than companies who miss these goals.
  • Only 52.6% of companies surveyed could account for the full buying committee with their personas.
  • 70% of companies that miss revenue and lead goals do not conduct qualitative persona interviews.
  • Companies that exceed lead and revenue goals were 3.8X more likely to have an accountable resource internally dedicated to personas.

Key findings related to using personas include:

  • Only 8.2% of those surveyed felt that at least 75% of their organization could confidently name their personas and key attributes, revealing an enormous opportunity to help internal stakeholders understand buyers to be more relevant and customer-centric.
  • Only 21.2% of respondents reported their personas are stored in a format other than static PDF or printed document.
  • The most popular use of personas is by the content marketing team to guide messaging and tone of voice. Among companies that exceed revenue goals, the other two most popular use-cases for personas was for sales training and demand generation to inform campaign decisions.

Key findings related to maintaining personas include:

  • Companies that exceed lead and revenue goals are 7.4X more likely to have updated their personas in the last 6 months than those who have missed these goals.
  • 1% of companies who exceed revenue goals report themselves to be consistently effective at maintaining personas to reflect changes in the world of their buyers, whether regulatory (new laws) economic, technology-driven, and more.

“We set out to examine, for the first time, what sets high-performing organizations apart from their peers when it comes to understanding their buyers. The study dug deeply into the strategy used to not only create personas, but also put that insight to use,” said Cintell co-founder and CMO Katie Martell. “As business leaders seek to improve the impact of marketing and sales spend in 2016, this new study reveals powerful truths about a fundamental and often misunderstood element of their strategy – understanding the buyers they serve. I’m thrilled to share this anonymized data as a benchmark for our customers and the larger marketing community.”

“Garnering buyer insights remains one of the most difficult jobs for modern day marketers,” said Samantha Stone, founder of the Marketing Advisory Network. “Luckily, there are proven methodologies for conducting and using qualitative and quantitative persona research to uncover these insights. Teamed with Cintell, the Marketing Advisory Network led this persona benchmark study to uncover what’s working for the most effective marketers. The results provide a clear roadmap for implementing best practices in 2016.”

The full report with additional data can be downloaded here.