January 19, 2016

Marketers: Make 2016 the Year You Create and Use Buyer Personas to Drive Sales

If you been considering creating buyer personas for your brand but just haven’t gotten around to it yet, or maybe you have one buried deep in a file somewhere? Well, it’s time to dust it off. Why? Because buyer personas are now proven to help marketers more effectively target their customer base. In fact, Cintell recently released a 2016 benchmark study, titled “Understanding B2B Buyers”, that provides compelling new research emphasizing the growing need for organizations to optimize buyer personas.

 Buyer personas are specific archetypes of people in an organization’s target audience based on market research as well as actual data, such as demographics, behavior patterns, preferences and goals, among others, collected directly from individual customers. The characteristics identified across the group are gathered to create a single entity that represents the organization’s ideal customer. The persona is then given a name and intended to be thought of as an individual who actually exists.

Cintell’s study, based on survey responses from business and marketing executives in North America, found that organizations that exceed lead and revenue goals are more likely to have personas as those companies that miss these same goals. They are also more likely to formally document personas than companies who underperform in these areas. In fact, 71 percent of companies that exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas, compared to 37 percent who simply meet goals and 26 percent who miss them.

So now that you understand why buyer personas are important for your brand, it’s time to implement them. Here are three steps to successfully create and maintain a more effective buyer persona:

Understand your customers beyond simple demographics: There is an abundance of resources for marketers to leverage when researching their personas and, according to the study, more is decidedly better. High-performing companies were found to use a variety of methods to compile insights about their buyers, while their underperforming counterparts reported using fewer sources of data. The top five sources that the most successful companies employed include:

  1. Qualitative interviews with both customers and non-customers (82.4 percent)
  2. Executive team interviews (70.6 percent)
  3. Sales people interviews(58.8 percent)
  4. CRM/MA data (52.9 percent)
  5. Customer success team interview (52.9 percent)

The survey also suggests that, while demographics are important, to effectively create a buyer persona, it’s essential to go beyond the statistics and build a profile that includes data derived from delving inside your customers’ minds, to discover their motivations, hobbies, buying preferences, challenges, goals and more.

Consistently maintain personas: Personas can become stale and obsolete, so it’s important to continually update them. Cintell’s survey found that almost 65 percent of companies that revised their personas within the last six months beat out the competition when it came to exceeding revenue and sales goals, with over 47 percent reporting they consistently maintain their personas. Making sure that someone is accountable by assigning a point person on your team to be responsible for developing and sustaining a persona’s profile is an effective way to ensure the persona’s information will remain up to date.

Educate all team members on the importance of buyer personas: What good is it to invest all of that time and money into researching your buyer personas to only leave them buried in the bottom of a file draw somewhere? Fewer than 30 percent of those surveyed could confidently report that at least half their organizations would be able to name their personas and key attributes. So, to avoid this quagmire, be sure to distribute the information in a practical format so that personas will actually be used by your marketing team. Also, make sure to train all team members on how to leverage the personas, and to fully understand their value in your marketing efforts.

Remember to focus on elements of your buyer personas’ stories that are relevant to your marketing goals rather than including every piece of data you can find. Also, hectic marketing departments already stretched to the limit can enlist third-party content strategists to craft buyer persona guides that are concise, accurate and easily digestible. This will help organizations stay on point and ensure that customers remain at the center of all marketing initiatives.

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