Earlier this year, Frost & Sullivan conducted an Executive Benchmark Assessment that asked 250 B2B marketers to provide information about their marketing processes. What they learned shores up just how critical it is for marketers to develop personas they can use to help them improve the outcomes of their marketing programs.
Here are a couple of sobering statistics:
- Less than 25% say the demand they generate satisfies their sales teams.
- Only 33% have an effective lead nurturing process.
- Barely 53% said they have sufficient content to support multiple messages.
These results are an obvious indication that marketers do not know their prospects well enough to engage them across the course of their buying process to sales readiness. Personas can change that.
"A persona takes a segment of your company's aggregate customer profile and fleshes it out with detailed information that represents real prospects in specific circumstances."
- eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale
When I work with clients, I ask them to tell me about their target markets and who they consider to be their ideal leads. What I usually learn is a few titles, company size, and a range of industries that the client targets. When I try to drill down and get more specific details, by asking marketers to tell me about their leads' roles and responsibilities, the responses are far too broad to be meaningful.
For example, our leads are CIOs in companies with more than 500 employees in the financial services industry who are responsible for the data center.
That limited knowledge is a start. But it's not enough to help you create compelling content. How would you even know where to begin? This is why companies have such a hard time generating content about anything other than their products and solutions. That's what they know.
Take a look at the types of things you need to learn about your prospects:
- What problem(s) are they trying to solve that your products address? You need to boil this down to the core problem. "Improving the data center" is not good enough. Think about the "why" behind the problem/priority the prospect is working to address.
- What is motivating them to solve the problem? [career advancement, company objectives, an increasing number of remote workers, business continuity, compliance regulations, etc.]
- What obstacles could be standing in their way? [CFO, legacy infrastructure, fear of change, etc.]
- Who influences their decision? This can be co-workers, superiors, end users and even other vendors or processes that may be impacted by the implementation of a new solution. Influencers can also include peers external to their company-and usually does.
Do you see how when you apply this type of discovery and research to a specific problem, it narrows the field of possibilities for you to address. This makes it easier to develop content that provides information prospects will recognize as valuable and engage with to learn more.
In order to fully flesh out your persona, you need to really get to know about your prospects' roles and responsibilities, as well as their industries. A prospect's role is what they do for the company in comparison to their responsibilities which are the outcomes they must achieve.
Remember the description up above of the CIO responsible for the data center? Well, that's not quite on target. The CIO doesn't necessarily run the data center, but has staff covering that role. What the CIO may be responsible for is the alignment of IT services to business objectives. Improving the data center may be one way of achieving that outcome.
If you were to send this CIO content about a solution that improves the data center by using virtualization to reduce the number of servers the company uses, resulting in cost savings, your content may go unnoticed. However, if you address the ways in which virtualization impacts the delivery of IT services to business users, you may get his attention.
Do you see the difference?
This is why it's imperative to get to know your prospects really well. In an environment of information overwhelm and digital self-education that keeps vendors at arm's length, your content must rise above the noise by attracting prospects' attention and keeping it through recognizable relevance and value.
Is persona development in your plans for marketing in 2011?