It may be hard to find the time to create and maintain buyer personas, but some powerful new research from Cintell suggests it’s more than worth your while. If you’re a marketer who’s set their personas on the back burner, you should need to turn up the heat:
Marketers with documented personas are twice as likely to exceed their goals:
Bottom line, good personas make it easier to understand the needs and buying habits of real customers, they focus your entire team on meeting common objectives, and they make it easier to identify content marketing opportunities. And if there’s any question of causation vs. correlation, maybe maintianing personas just means you have your act together.
Based on survey responses from business and marketing executives in North America, Cintell’s survey also found that companies using up-to-date personas crush the competition when it comes to exceeding revenue and demand-gen goals:
Frequency of persona updates:
Now that we all agree personas are awesome, here are some keys steps Cintell identified for creating personas that are insightful and actionable.
1. Articulate the value of personas to all team members.
You can do your research, develop insights, and even pen the perfect name for your personas, but it won’t matter if your team or your cross-functional partners don’t buy in. Selling the value of personas is something you should be doing from the outset. Some of other big issues with developing buyer personas include things like validating the insights you’ve uncovered and training teams to use personas — both of which also relate directly to making sure people you work with know how valuable personas are.
Top challenges for building and using personas:
What’s another way to make sure personas get used? Stop relegating them to PDF purgatory, Cintell advises. Only 21 percent of companies do anything with personas besides putting them in a pdf or printing them out. Put information in a usable format that your team will actually dive into will help you stay out of performance limbo.
Our recommendation? Go big:
2. Use lots of data points develop (and validate) personas.
Once your team is on board, the next step should be to go crazy with data collection. You’ll have to put some elbow grease into it, but understanding your customers beyond simple demographics will reap serious dividends, Cintell finds.
Companies that exceed their marketing goals are more likely to:
- Conduct customer and non-customer qualitative interviews (82%)
- Review CRM data (53%)
- Interview the executive team (71%)
- Interview salespeople (59%)
3. Go beyond demographics to understand the buyer experience.
When you interview customers and potential customers, be sure to ask the right questions. Again, demographic information is valuable, but only as the starting point in a comprehensive conversation.
The most effective persona-builders develop profiles that get inside customers’ heads by looking at things like their motivations, challenges, role in the buying process and more.
4. Look at how purchase decisions are made.
For B2B marketers — especially at the enterprise level — the sale is often made to an entire team, not just one person. Your research needs to account for everyone in the “buying committee” who impacts the process.
When you make a sale, does it involve the CEO, the head of IT, someone on the procurement team, and a team lead? The exact committee is different for every product and every account, but if you don’t cover all these people with your personas, you’re not in very good company. 70% of companies who can’t identify the buying committee they sell to miss their revenue goals.
5. Make a few key people accountable for personas.
Bottom line, personas simply won’t get done unless someone makes them a priority. You need a point person on your team who is responsible for developing personas and keeping them up to date. If accountability is spread around, personas are likely to fall through the cracks, which means poor performance probably isn’t far off:
If you’re ready to take your personas to the next level, be sure to check out the complete benchmark study from Cintell.
Nate Birt is a multimedia journalist, social media enthusiast and copy editor with experience at a variety of print and digital publications, and a Contributing Editor to the Visually Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @natebirt.