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The core reason b2b prospecting underperform.
Why prospect personas represent opportunity?

By Scott Hornstein

There’s a very obvious reason b2b prospecting efforts underperform – a reason that we easily and conveniently overlook every day of the week. Let’s take a closer look at our myopia, and how to move forward.

Underperformance is baked in

The overwhelming majority of people working on any given b2b marketing campaign have never seen, met or spoken to a customer, nevertheless a prospect. They may have a basic understanding of the business issues, but they haven’t a clue about the people. They are separated, a gap to a chasm, from the often-conflicted humanity of the individuals that make the decisions.

We are not fishing on the shores of Lake Abundant – it’s harder than ever to differentiate ourselves – to find, nurture and motivate the prospect as the world becomes increasing atomized.
The b2b prospect is the most elusive, with a long consideration journey that takes place, for the most part, prior to any direct engagement. They have almost completely insulated themselves from most marketing messages. So, who are those guys? What do they want? How do we get it to them? Perhaps we should ask.

Getting to the truth

Many companies utilize personas – archetypes or synthesized summaries, which are based on qualitative research with real people in this position about their characteristics, specific information behaviors, attitudes, motivations, and goals. Personas have generated great success in b2c. Here’s an example from Per Tom Spencer, a very experienced marketing executive,

Best Buy had devoted a lot of time and effort to strategize
their customer centricity campaign. They developed personas
to help each store take the goals and bring them right down
to the ground. Overall, this campaign generated a
double-digit improvement in sales.

We think persona’s greatest potential is in b2b prospecting.

B2B is an emotional sell

Personas have one thing that reports and presentations do not. Personality. In the words of Stuart Taylor, SVP of The Nielsen Company “B2B has always been an emotional sell”. This can put the personality on the planning table, and can serve as a point of reference, if not agreement, between marketing and sales.

Understanding a buyer’s persona has helped to identify what is most important and how to successfully deliver services to keep the buyer interested in the future.”

The Power and Potential of Personas

We conduct annual proprietary research among marketing professionals to begin to understand, and benchmark, how companies are using personas, where and how they have been effective. The yearly report is called The Power and Potential of Personas.

As we examine the potential of personas in b2b prospecting, three points jump out:

– Well over half (63%) agree completely or very much that personas
have become a permanent strategic tool for them

– About a third (35%) report that personas are very or extremely effective

– Over a third (37%) report that personas deliver a competitive
advantage.

The biggest frustration with buyer personas is that they are not respected or appreciated (37%). Relatedly, others say they lack strategic impact (13%) or don’t advance prospect understanding (13%).

The reality is that for over half (53%), buyer personas helped them discover important new insights or corrected faulty assumptions.

How and why they work

The finding that there is an incredibly strong link between persona effectiveness and the use of external persona research continues to be strongly supported.

  • Over the last two years, fully 89% of persona that were judged very or extremely effective were based on new external research.
  • Similarly, all 86% of the personas judged “ineffective” were not based on any new external persona research.

I addition to the main decision-makers, personas must also be created for those that influence and recommend.

“The persona work we completed for a client helped them change the way they viewed their customers to a much more nuanced understanding of their customers’ motivations, goals and behaviors and who participates in the evaluation and recommendation process. They are in the process of redesigning their go-to-market process as a result.”

Are personas the marketing silver bullet we’ve been waiting for? How you’re your use of personas benchmark against the industry? Send us an email and request the latest report, Power and Potential of Personas 2017. We’re hard at work analyzing the data.

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