At SiriusDecisions EMEA Summit 2014, held last month in London, a major theme was the transformation of B2B sales, marketing and product functions necessary to address the changes brought about by the Web, technology and changing buyer behaviors.
SummitIn an earlier blog post, I wrote that unlike a “change,” a “transformation” is fundamental and signifies a permanent alteration to our behaviors and understanding of why we perform the actions we do. As companies attempt to better understand buyer behaviors and motivations, we have witnessed a tremendous increase in the use of buyer personas to drive effective improvements for not only marketing, but also product and sales. 

During Summit, three SiriusDecisions clients presented their own stories of transformation through the use of buyer personas.

Andy Barraclough, PegaSystems’ Senior Director of Marketing, Europe, explained that the organization’s progress in using personas for its campaign messaging was based on pragmatic principles. Starting with three horizontal personas as a pilot and collecting basic information, Pega staff members were then able to hone their approach and validate their results by interviewing existing customers. Over time, Pega increased the number of horizontal personas and added some vertical personas aligned with key opportunity areas. Andy and his team operationalized and expanded their persona work by:

  • Mapping existing database contacts to persona type
  • Increasing the knowledge about each persona to understand sources of information, social media usage and key influencers
  • Conducting a content audit by persona across the various stages of the buying cycle
Being prepared to create new personas or rationalize existing personas if needed
The results of the persona work not only had a direct impact on the number of respondents to marketing communications (which rose from 7 percent in 2013 to 35 percent in 2014) but also provided a 100 percent increase in sales qualified leads  and a consequent 20 percent increase in reported pipeline opportunities and pipeline value.

Our second persona case study was presented by Lawrence Mitchell, Global Marketing Director at Reed Business Information (RBI). Faced with the all-too-common problem of a misaligned customer focus among the product, sales and marketing functions, Lawrence and his team conducted a large-scale research and internal education initiative to bring the buyer to life.

Customer interviews uncovered the true buying process, workflows and pain points. Internal cross-functional workshops were held, and a variety of visualization tools were helped bring buyer persona knowledge into the organization. The marketing function immediately gained an ability to develop targeted messages that spoke to the target audience in the right tone. However, the impact was felt not only in marketing, but as, as planned, within the product function. Product decisions became more informed, thanks to improved product architecture guidance, improved design briefs, improved recruiting of personnel for testing, and new product opportunities that were identified through the connection of previously disconnected buyer workflows and pain points. 

RBI reports that leveraging persona insights – alongside other actions that enabled them to deliver targeted efforts – resulted in a 70 percent year-over-year increase in revenue – impressive by any standard.

Finally, we turn to Simon Morris, Director of Demand Marketing EMEA at Adobe, who showed how effective use of buyer personas helped Adobe’s marketing team offer the sales team a greater level of support with respect to persona penetration within key accounts.

Before the persona work, key accounts were mainly identified based on opportunity-related criteria. However, in conjunction with other actions (e.g. predictive revenue modeling) using seven key personas enabled Adobe to identify more suitable contacts within a given key account and, based on persona identification, evaluate and suggest further companies that should be included within the key account list. Furthermore, deep persona insights drove Adobe’s messaging and nurturing strategy.

Through these efforts, Adobe saw a 175 percent increase in email open rates and a 350 percent increase in form submits. This led to a 2.5X increase in the number of marketing qualified leads passed to sales and more than a 50 percent increase in the number of sales accepted leads.

Based on these three fascinating real-life persona case studies, my advice to marketers is to leverage personas to build more effective messaging and treat them as the starting point of your campaign efforts. This will require validation that your personas are accurate by testing them with customers and sellers. Finally, after creating personas, don’t let them collect dust on the shelf – keep them up-to-date!

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