We’ve all seen them, and maybe have even been impressed by them: persona development projects that result in beautiful representations designed to make us feel like we know our buyers as well as we know our friends, with familiar names and smiling faces looking out at us from slide decks and posters all over the office. At one company where I worked, we even created a Facebook profile for each persona that we could all “friend” and keep up with for a view into their daily lives.

woman with arms crossed against wood wallThis may be more the case for consumer buyer personas, but many B2B portfolio marketers also feel inspired to create similar personas. In the B2B arena, how personal do your personas need to be? Is the effort worth it? Here are a few considerations:

  • Balance the need to make personas accessible and interesting with the imperative that they provide a material improvement to the way you craft your messages and deliver them in the market. You need to be able to share your personas across the marketing and sales organization, so at a minimum you want an attractive and easily digestible slide deck that is easy to share and captures the salient information for each persona on one slide. Persona information should reside in a portal that all relevant teams can access and be presented so that the viewer will remember a few key things about each persona, like their role in the buying process, their primary needs and watering holes. Keep in mind that if you go too far in making them clever or attractive, you and your stakeholders may lose sight of the key information.
  • Be personal, but only in a way that applies to business decision-making. Part of understanding your buyers means understanding their challenges, initiatives and needs. Dig deep to understand the challenges your buyers face, their business initiatives, how they are measured and rewarded at work, and how helping their organization grow can help them grow their careers. Some of these needs are emotional, and that’s okay. Every B2B buyer is a person, after all, so in addition to addressing organizational needs don’t shy away from addressing functional and individual needs.
  • That said, be careful when naming and attaching images to personas. The thing to remember with B2B personas is that they are based on job roles. So even if you know that certain job roles skew male or female, younger or older, personifying the role in that way creates a vision for your marketing partners that can be hard to shake. You want them focused on the needs of the job role – not gender, age, ethnicity, etc. If you choose to use personal names, choose gender-neutral names, or simply stick to job descriptions such as marketing leader or call center supervisor. You can certainly let your creative side shine by creating clever titles that describe the persona you’re targeting, like Fearless Leader for a visionary CEO (if visionary is an important trait of the persona) or Data Genius for a marketing analytics role. You want to hear everyone on your team talking about your personas – in their demand gen and sales enablement plans, in the hallway and at the coffee station – so giving them a simple yet meaningful name has its advantages.

Invest time in talking to buyers and doing research to develop a deep understanding that will drive strong value propositions and help your demand and content teams clearly understand the target audience – what do these individuals care about, where do they typically research and gather information, and what role do they play in the buying process. Remember that personas, like people, are living concepts and need to be updated and validated continuously, so don’t make them so complicated that you can’t update them at least once a year. Don’t just develop personas for personas’ sake

As with all projects, start with the end in mind, and go build those personas! If you’re a subscriber to SiriusDecisions’ Portfolio Marketing advisory service, you can read more about building actionable personas in our research brief “Activating Persona and Buyer Insights for Demand Creation Programs”. If you’re not a subscriber, contact us to learn more.