Want More Sales? Breathe Oxygen into Your Buyer Personas

Blog136_BuyerPersonaOxygen_1-1There was a lot of interest in last week’s blog on buyer personas.

I had some good conversations with companies on this topic. What I found out from many of these conversations was that people don’t know what to do with buyer personas.

They’ve gone through the exercise and decided it was enough to write up the persona.

It isn’t.

If buyer personas don’t lead to action, and those actions don’t generate more business for your company, you aren’t using them to your advantage. Let’s talk about how to do it.

I have seen a lot of buyer personas sitting on shelves gathering dust. It takes a couple of days of preparation and two days in working sessions to develop them; then companies don’t use them?  What’s going on here?

After doing a deeper dive into this, I became certain that companies don’t know what to do with personas. They don’t know how to activate them. Without guidance, they just don’t know how to turn them into useful messaging, sales process and content marketing strategies.

A whopping 85 percent of B2B organizations aren’t using buyer personas effectively, according to research from ITSMA.


Why Personas Fail

Katie Martell, co-founder and CMO of Cintell, shares eight reasons why buyer personas typically fail.

  1. They’re too shallow: Sometimes they’re mistaken for a segmentation strategy. “IT directors” is not a persona, said Martell. “People are more than a title. There’s an individual behind those titles.”

  1. PDF purgatory: Often, buyer personas are created, and then put into a pdf, preserved in amber for all time. Effective buyer personas are a living breathing entity; that can change as the buyers themselves change. And they do change.

  1. Out of date: Your buyers change every day. Regulations in your buyers’ world change every day. Business climates change. Personas can reflect that reality—if they are updated regularly.

  1. No outside input: Buyer personas are often created by companies solely with internal resources. This approach means they reflect the company’s own assumptions and biases. The most effective buyer personas have input from outside sources and research.

  1. No collaboration or buy-in between departments: Sales and marketing must work together to create a true picture of the customer, says Martell. Build trust in the organization and remember that everyone has common goals.

  1. No one acts alone in B2B: Buyer personas often don’t consider the big picture and recognize that there are multiple influencers in every B2B buying decision, particularly for technology.

  1. They’re not relevant: To be effective, buyer personas must contain information that’s relevant to your enterprise. Figure out what goes into a great persona for your particular product or service. How do they think? What are their preferences?

  2. They don’t translate to tactics: Buyer personas need to have a practical application and perceived value. Can you map contact records to personas? Can you tag content to personas, or use personas to inspire content? Yes, you can.

I don’t know if people think that all they need to do is complete one, and that would instantly improve their sale performance. From the personas I reviewed, more people come up with a customer/client profile, and not a buyer persona. Remember, a buyer persona is a fictionalized character that represents a segment of your audience, complete with how s/he thinks and buys. Here’s a great guide on what to include.

Blog136_BuyerPersonaOxygen_1-3What companies need is to understand how their customers/clients/prospects buy. Sirius Decisions’ research cites that 60 percent of companies ADMIT they do not understand their buyers.  “The rest are in denial,” says Martell.

It’s what you don’t know that matters. You’ve got to find it out.

After doing some research for a current client, we found out that the very attributes of his products and services, the ones   he thought were unique and differentiating, his targeted buyers didn’t care about.

Wow. This finding was quite a surprise to the client.

The product advantages he loved to talk about didn’t interest the very people to whom he’s selling.

Too many organizations, especially those that lead conversations with their solution, frame their own vision of the solution for the prospect─a major disconnect.

It’s hard for us to tell clients what we hear from their targeted prospects after doing interviews. We hear prospects say things like, “These solutions are all the same,” or “We see little differentiation between their competitors.” It’s hard to break this news when they believe their solutions are better and different from their competition.

It’s hard to accept the truth, especially when a company feels it is head and shoulders ahead of the competition.

The good news: Going through the exercise to create a relevant buyer personas will help your organization develop a sales and marketing process aligned with how prospects want to buy, rather than how you want to sell.

Once done, you should use the buyer persona to stay focused “squarely on the customer.” Why?

Because customer-centric companies are, says Martell:

  • Three times more profitable;

  • Twice as fast in getting new products to market;

  • With 10-20 percent better customer satisfaction.

Buyer Personas on OXYGEN

Remember when oxygen bars were the latest fad a few years back? I didn’t try one, but I spoke to folks who did and the free-flow of oxygen made then feel energetic, clear-headed (not light-headed) and healthier.

It’s the same with your buyer personas. When you breathe oxygen into them with solid research and specificity; when you interview external and internal sources to learn more; when you use personas as the sales-giving tools that they are, they bring fresh air and perspective into the organization.

Soon, these oxygen-rich personas will start to do some of the heavy lifting of marketing and give you:

  • Content strategies to support sales

  • Ideas for your blog posts to engage the customer

  • A platform for a “voice of the customer” program

  • An alignment tool to merge marketing and sales in harmony

  • A measurement tool against which to gauge sales effectiveness

Blog136_BuyerPersonaOxygen_1-4Best of all, you’ll own an in-depth knowledge map to understand your buyer. What can be better?   The more you know, the better your company will sell.  It’s powerfully simple. Though not easy.

So find your inner discipline, break out from the mediocrity of the 85 percent of companies that aren’t using buyer personas effectively. Get busy and pull up at seat at the oxygen bar. Your buyer personas need to take a deep breath.

See you on the upside,


For more information on how to simplify the complex sale, go to www.pleinairestrategies.com Or call William L. MacDonald in San Diego at PleinAire Strategies LLC at 760.340.4277 or 213.598.4700

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