Creating customer personas is an essential part of any B2B product management, marketing and messaging strategy. Personas provide a deep understanding of the target audience, their pain points, goals, behaviors, and motivations. They serve as a reference point for making decisions about content creation, product development, sales strategies, and marketing campaigns.
However, despite its popularity, persona programs often fail to deliver the expected results. In this blog, I will explore why this approach often falls short and what steps you can take to ensure you are optimizing your personas to drive tangible results.
Personas are not just a simple list of demographics or segmentation data. Done well, they are a representation of a composite of your ideal customer’s buyers, influencers and decision makers, based on real data and research into your existing and target customers. When done correctly, personas can help companies to create a personalized, human-centric approach to customer engagement.
Successfully implemented persona programs can have a real impact on your marketing results and product experience. For example:
- Personalized email campaigns have a higher open rate compared to generic email campaigns. According to a study by Epsilon, personalized emails have an open rate of 28.5%, compared to a generic email open rate of 20.9%.
- Personalized content is more likely to be shared. A study by MarketingProfs found that content that was personalized was 40% more likely to be shared on social media.
- Personalized product recommendations lead to increased sales. A study by Dynamic Yield found that personalized product recommendations increased sales by up to 15%.
Understanding Why Personas Typically Fail to Deliver
Relying on demographics or third party sourced data alone will not result in pain points that can motivate stakeholders and drive potential buyer engagement or deliver personalized offerings. Here are the top 5 reasons we see persona programs failing.
- Limited Data
The success of persona marketing programs is largely dependent on the data used to create them. Unfortunately, most companies lack sufficient data to create accurate personas. According to a survey by Ascend2, only 34% of marketers have enough data to create effective personas.
- Inaccurate Assumptions
Creating personas often involves making assumptions about the target audience’s interests, preferences, and behaviors. Unfortunately, these assumptions are not always accurate, leading to ineffective marketing strategies. In a survey by Cintell, 63% of respondents reported that their personas were based on assumptions rather than data.
- Lack of Alignment
Effective persona marketing requires alignment between different teams within an organization, including marketing, sales, and customer service. However, a study by Demand Metric found that only 38% of companies have a documented alignment between their personas and sales teams.
- Failure to Update
Personas should be updated regularly to reflect changes in the target audience’s behavior and preferences. However, according to the same Demand Metric study, only 39% of companies update their personas once a year or less.
- Failure to Use
Finally, even when companies have accurate and up-to-date personas, they often fail to use them effectively. A survey by ITSMA found that only 44% of B2B marketers use personas to guide their marketing strategies.
Unfortunately, many organizations fall short when it comes to leveraging the true value of personas. This is often because they adopt a disconnected or half-measured approach to persona creation and implementation. For example, they may create personas but not use them consistently in their marketing campaigns or product development.
Maximizing Persona Return and ROI
To maximize the value of personas, it is crucial to take a holistic approach. This means that personas should be integrated into all aspects of the business, from product development to sales and marketing. This ensures that all teams are working from the same understanding of the target audience and can create a consistent, customer-centric approach to engagement.
Here are some best practices for how teams can more effectively create and leverage personas across the organization, not just in marketing efforts.
- Involve Customers in the Persona Creation Process
To ensure that personas are based on accurate data, it’s essential to involve customers in the persona creation process. According to a survey by UserTesting, 64% of customers say that a company’s understanding of their needs influences their loyalty. By involving customers in the persona creation process, product management teams can gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs and preferences.
- Use Personas to Inform Product Strategy
Personas can be a valuable tool for informing product strategy. By understanding the needs and preferences of different customer segments, product management teams can make informed decisions about which features to prioritize and which markets to target. In fact, according to a survey by Pragmatic Institute, companies that use personas in their product development process are 2.2 times more likely to exceed their revenue goals.
- Incorporate Personas into Agile Product Processes
Personas can also be incorporated into agile product processes to ensure that customer needs are always front and center. For example, product management teams can use personas to inform user stories and prioritize features based on customer needs. According to a survey by the Agile Alliance, companies that incorporate customer feedback into their agile development process are 34% more likely to have a high-performing product.
- Regularly Update Personas
Finally, it’s essential to regularly update personas to reflect changes in customer behavior and preferences. According to a survey by InVision, 73% of companies update their personas at least once a year. By keeping personas up to date, product management teams can ensure that their product strategies are always aligned with customer needs.
Creating well-defined customer personas is a critical component of a successful B2B marketing and messaging strategy. However, to truly leverage the value of personas, they must be integrated across the entire organization, and not just used in isolated campaigns or projects. By taking a holistic approach to personas, businesses can deliver consistent customer engagement and aligned offerings, resulting in more effective marketing and improved customer relationships.