6 Steps To Make Persona-Based Marketing Operational

I Grattacieli del business

I Grattacieli del business (Photo credit: Al. Farese)

At one time, we may have been asked to go on a blind date.  Blind dates can be frightening and a cause for much anxiety.  We attempt to picture in our minds what our blind date may look like.  And, we attempt to ask the matchmaker all we can about this person.  We guess and fret on what to wear, what to say, and how to interact with our blind date.

For many in B2B organizations, it can feel like a never-ending series of blind dates with customers and prospects alike.  In today’s evolving digital environments, B2B marketers are challenged with getting to know their buyers.  Pressed with seeking answers to questions such as:

Who is our customer?

What type of information do they prefer?

How do we communicate with prospect buyers and customers?

How do they make buying decisions?

Why are our products and services important to buyers?

When are buyers most likely to buy?

These questions and more face B2B marketing as buyers continue to evolve new buying behaviors affecting purchase decisions.

Getting to Know Your Buyers

Many of today’s B2B Marketing organizations are turning towards Persona-Based Marketing to help them get answers to critical questions.  This approach offers insight and clarity on target buyers.  Allowing B2B marketers to better produce content aimed at attracting more prospects.  Two emerging trends found by SirriusDecisions recently point to the need for a Persona-Based Marketing approach:

  • More Decision Makers: SiriusDecisions found in a recent study the sales cycle has increased by 22% over the past 5 years due to more decision makers involved in the buying process.
  • Self-Directed Buying:  In another recent study conducted by SiriusDecisions, it was found 70% of the buying process in a complex sale was already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live salesperson.

We can argue about the numbers being as high as 70%, for example.  And, it can vary by industry.  One thing very clear though is new digital technology is changing buying behavior.  These two trending developments are resulting in B2B marketing to search for ways to gain insight on buyers and how to better connect with content.

Definition of a Buyer Persona

A persona is a research-based archetypal representation of a specific group of people and their behaviors.  Buyer personas model a representation of an archetypal buyer and their buying behavior. There is nothing fictional about them.  They are and should be based on real qualitative research interviews with real people.  Do not mistake conventional win-loss interviews as a replacement for the necessary techniques needed for qualitative buyer research.  Modeling buyer persona behavior offers insights into how buyers make purchases, the goals driving their buying behaviors, and attitudes, which affect purchase decisions.

Best practicing firms today are using a Persona-Based Marketing approach to zero in their ideal prospects as well as optimize marketing and sales effectiveness.  At issue for most B2B organizations is how to make operational Persona-Based Marketing from an ad-hoc initiative to an operational approach.

Enjoying Success

B2B organizations, which have formalized a Persona-Based Marketing approach, are seeing measurable before and after results.  One Fortune 100 Company invested in a six-month process to deploy Persona-Based Marketing to achieve further growth in a select vertical market.  In addition, this approach assisted in the development of sales enablement tools designed to improve sales performance.  Over an 18-month period, revenue performance improved by 15%, aided by improved lead optimization.

B2B companies can expect to achieve improved lead qualification, higher rates of lead conversions, and shorter sales cycles when implementing a Persona-Based Marketing approach.  Intangibles include improved content marketing effectiveness and lead nurturing programs, which engage prospects with issues of importance to them.

Making Operational

B2B organizations enjoying success with a Persona-Based Marketing approach have done so by incorporating six elements into their marketing operations.  The aim of building these elements into marketing operations is to align strategy and tactic with buyer goals.  The following six elements are recommended for implementing a Persona-Based Marketing approach:

  • Conduct buyer insight research.  Insights about buyers serve as the foundation for Persona-Based Marketing.  Buyer insight research is bolstered by both qualitative and quantitative measures.  B2B companies who enjoyed significant results did not skimp on the use of qualitative research involving on-site buyer interviews to attain the deepest insights.  Using outside research expertise to get the depth needed.
  • Modeling of buyer personas.  The building of buyer personas is an interpretation and synthesis of gathered insights.  Buyer personas depict whom buyers are, their critical goals, elements of key insights, and mapping of how buying behavior leads to a purchase decision.
  • Zero-in on buyer goals.  Understanding buyer goals is the linchpin to successful Persona-Based Marketing.  Goals drive both conscious and non-conscious buying decisions.  Subset to goals is the understanding of how triggers and pain points affect goals.
  • Create topics and offers aligned to goals.  Identifying the right topics and offers to present to prospects can be a painstaking exercise for B2B marketing operations.    Effective marketing operations are aligning their topics and offers to the specific goals of buyers.  These goals are uncovered in insight research as well as modeling of buyer personas.  This includes aligning to the content needs and preferences of buyers at different stages of their purchase decision process.
  • Operational and tactical efficiency.  Informed with buyer goals and preferences, B2B marketing operations are enabled to align production, timing, sequencing, retrieval, and delivery mediums to content marketing efforts.  This often can include aligning distinct content to different buying groups as well as segments.
  • Measurements and metrics are put into place.  Measuring results has been found to correlate to successful Persona-Based Marketing.  Metrics should include those directly related to eventual purchase decisions.  These generally involve three primary areas:
      1. Metrics related to reach, consumption, and sharing
      2. Metrics related to engagement and lead optimization
      3. Metrics related to sales and revenue performance

Sustainable Persona-Based Marketing is not an overnight proposition.  B2B organizations utilizing Persona-Based Marketing often take a long-term view.  Closely monitoring as well as refreshing their knowledge of buyers.

Ensuring Persona-Based Marketing Success

Executive sponsorship is essential to ensuring a level of commitment to see the approach through the full cycle of the elements outlined.  Notably, successful Persona-Based Marketing involves cross-functional team involvement.  Seeking to engage members of sales, service, support, and fulfillment operations in transforming to persona-based perspectives.

This inclusive approach has proven helpful to B2B organization struggling with traditional sales and marketing alignment issues.  Involving sales as a component of insight research.  When sales enablement is seen as a formalize function of marketing, B2B organizations have aligned sales enablement tools and content with buyer goals.  Improving both sales productivity and sales effectiveness.

Phases Help

It is recommended B2B organizations begin to implement Persona-Based Marketing in phases.  Successful firms deploying this approach chose select segments, products, or services to focus on as their first step.  Talent and skill assessment includes options of bringing in third party professional assistance.  Skills related to qualitative insight research methods and efficiency is not readily available in most B2B organizations.

The need for B2B organizations to attract and connect with buyers is an urgent priority during a time of market transformation.  By committing to a Persona-Based Marketing approach, B2B companies can minimize the risk of falling behind the curve of change and lead by bending the curve in their favor.

(Need help with making Persona-Based Marketing operational?  Schedule time with me and a conversation to help you.  I am very interested in getting your thoughts and perspectives on how achieving efficiency with this approach.  Please share widely – your peers and colleagues are trying figure out how to make operational as well.)

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Tony
Article by Tony Zambito
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