10 Commandments of B2B Marketing Personas
A classic tool, the marketing persona is overdue for a modern overhaul. My friend Peg Miller recently wrote excellent advice on how to cure persona-itis and other persona management challenges. She inspired me to reflect on what modern personas should do. So, if you’re a product marketing expert and wondering how to manage personas, here’s my advice.
A modern marketing persona is a marriage of old and new.
What’s tried and true about marketing personas
1. Use persona maps to formalize tribal knowledge.
If you don’t know what your sales, marketing, and product managers (aka your tribe) think they know, you can’t test those insights against market reality. Map your personas and find out what customer-facing employees learn from prospects and customers daily. Persona maps are an especially good way to confirm who sales really sells to.
2. Get real with personas.
Beware of the echo chamber. If you target personas on gut instinct or with tribal input only, be ready for a roller coaster ride. Marketing will be at the mercy of the most vocal voices in your company. You’ll find yourself guessing at why you win or lose deals. So, go out and conduct persona interviews at a minimum. Better still, conduct actual primary market research. If you’re investing big bucks in product development or marketing programs to reach your buyers, it’s well worth the cost.
3. Humanize personas.
The very word “persona” sounds like awkward marketing jargon. So you have to make this real for your colleagues. How? Conduct persona interviews. Record these sessions with their permission. Then use quotes, the recordings, and summaries to offer critical insight to your sales teams and other stakeholders. This is what makes your data and insights real. Your marketing will be better when you have both qualitative and quantitative insights.
4. Don’t let persona creation stall strategy.
I’ve seen some marketers pause planning and execution to conduct complex persona mapping. We applaud the due diligence, but don’t hit pause while you profile buyers. Persona research should make your current efforts smarter. Plan ahead for best results in designing go to market plans based on persona insights. If you reach planning season without fresh persona insights, you can still quickly map what the tribe thinks as a stop-gap effort.
What’s nice and new about marketing personas
5. Go digital with personas.
Everyone has ways to learn about new trends and needs. These most certainly include digital “watering holes.” Your B2B content, online marketing, and digital tactics must reach buyers across relevant digital channels as well as traditional channels. Most B2B marketers get this. The trick is to truly understand and explore how digital marketing and sales enablement are completely intertwined.
6. Make personas pragmatic.
The only goal of mapping personas is to drive real work. Your persona maps should include real titles of professionals–by role and rank. This helps demand gen teams target specific people. After all, we market to people. Also, you should audit your CRM and Marketing Automation databases for the “hit rate” of the persona titles you mapped. How many of your target titles are already customers and prospects? If you can’t see them in your databases, you’re not reaching the buyers you want.
7. Create full funnel content plans for personas.
You can’t create meaningful content marketing plans without knowing your buyers. In my book, that’s the #1 reason why content marketing fails. Once you map exactly who you’re targeting, audit what content you have for these buyers. Be a very tough grader for this work. Does your content really talk to executives? How do you know? Once you have a content heat map for these buyers, you can create and fill the “gap map” of content for your marketing and sales funnel.
8. Engage in execution of persona targeting.
Armed with your persona map, research, content plans, and targeting lists—you’re off to the races. But wait, there’s more! Do you know what’s really working on your front lines? Do your campaigns drive high quality leads in your target buyer pool? Is your sales team meeting with target buyers? Stay close to the execution so that you support, coach, and learn from your tribe as they execute.
9. Measure success of persona marketing.
As with everything in sales and marketing, measure your success. How many more target buyers bought your product? Are targeted buyers converting better or faster throughout your marketing and sales funnel? Set a baseline and measure it.
10. Evolve personas actively.
Persona development can’t be an academic exercise. Effective marketing teams use data, input from the tribe, and experience to keep up with buyers. If your marketing isn’t reaching them, it’s time to update your insights or targeting. If your marketing works, what’s next? How can you optimize the customer experience? In short, your work is never done. So, think of it as an always-on activity, and have fun mastering deeper insights into your buyers.