- Operationalizing personas can be a challenge for b-to-b organizations
- Personas must be accessible, widely used and consistently updated
- Using technology to build a persona repository is one of the keys to success
B-to-b buyer personas are like characters in Hollywood movies. When they’re created and deployed correctly, you can use them to build interest and create emotional connections with your buyers.
Personas aren’t easy, though. As I discussed during my presentation at SiriusDecisions’ Technology Exchange, a true transformation to customer-centricity requires not only creating great personas, but also ensuring that they are accessible, widely used and consistently updated.
When I created Oracle Persona Central, our internal hub for information on all things persona-related, I knew I needed a system that would work on a global scale, offering consistency and ease of use to everyone who worked with it.
Fortunately, technology can help as you operationalize your personas. Based on my experience with Persona Central, I recommend the following best practices:
Normalize and segment your data. Sort through the data in your sales force automation system, marketing automation platform and other systems to identify who your key personas are. Examine marketing campaign results and sales pipeline data to see which personas are responding to your campaigns and who were attached to sales opportunities and what buying centers they were in. Data must then be normalized and standardized, taking into account variations in job titles, and then segmented into personas in order to be actionable.
Create a unified repository. This repository must serve as a single source of truth for everyone who has access to personas, so you can update and manage them centrally. At Oracle, we used BootStrap, a popular open source web development framework, to build a repository containing 49 personas with a clean, simple, modern user interface. Ensure the repository is easy to use and accessible without requiring VPN access. Consider using responsive design so that sales reps and others accessing personas on the run can do so on the device of their choice.
Consider different internal constituents. For global companies in particular, make sure your personas are as relevant as possible for a range of constituents. At Oracle, for example, we received initial feedback that our personas were too North America-centric. We incorporated filters within each persona to provide constituents with different views and lenses within the same persona, accounting for variations in geography and industry. This personalization, in turn, allows persona content to be better tailored to buyer needs.
Organize persona information logically. The layout of your personas is part art and part science. Be careful not to cram too much information on each persona. While five bullet points isn’t enough to give constituents enough information to truly develop customer insights, the personas must be readable and digestible. Key customer insights should be presented at the top, “above the fold.” Provide an executive summary for busy readers, and use the language and phrasing that are best suited to the needs of your audiences.
Bring your personas to life. Ultimately, your personas are words on screen or paper, so consider bringing them to life by incorporating and embedding videos of real customers talking about their business challenges. Also, consider embedding oversized quotes into your personas to enliven them.
Implement a procedure for updates. In b-to-b marketing, everything changes constantly: content, industry challenges, personnel and technology. Personas that are out of date are of little use. Determine who will be responsible for providing ongoing updates to the personas, and what systems and data this team will use to identify what needs to be changed – and ensure that constituents receive the updates.
At the end of the day, your personas need to be relevant and accurate in order to create value for your organization. It can be tough work, but it’s doable – especially if you harness the power of your existing technology to build and manage a persona repository.