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In our recent post we shared five prerequisites for Marketing Automation. The first prerequisite on the list is to create strong buyer personas. Since most businesses aren’t psychologists, they may not have the knowledge and skills to build meaningful buyer personas – so we thought it would be helpful to provide a roadmap.

To create really effective lead generation campaigns, you should start with buyer personas. In fact, a good tip comes from the book Launch by Mike Stelzner of the Social Media Examiner, who calls these “Person Personas,” because the emphasis must be on people and not on the transaction. (Amen, Mike.)

Without deep buyer (people) personas, you simply cannot create meaningful demand generation. In fact, lead management and lead nurturing are both powered by personas. And you won’t see the results you want from your investment in marketing automation software without them.

Personas are needed to tell you where to launch your campaigns, what topics to cover, what content you need, etc. For instance, what messages should you use in your email marketing campaigns for a specific demographic? Personas give you the answer.

But when I ask business leaders for “personas” during an engagement, they almost always give me titles and industries, such as “We sell to heads of Human Resources, Chief Financial Officers and CIOs.

Those are NOT personas. Those are just people identifiers. They lack the depth of information to build great content.

This is not a new concept by any means. In fact, software developers have used this technique as part of the concept of agile development where you create personas of who’s going to actually use the software you create. What are they interested in, what do they do in their off time, etc., so you can try and predict how they will interact with your software and ensure you’ve got the right usability model in place as well as the most important feature set.

Agile software development is not fundamentally different than agile marketing! To help you create personas in your marketing campaigns, let me share five tips for great personas.

1. Start with ideal customer profiles.
To start developing personas, start with the ideal buyers of the products and services your company sells. We’re not looking for the type of businesses; we’re looking for people. Who’s the best customer for you? Think of what problems you solve. What outcomes do these businesses bring to the people who seek them out?

2. Identify titles and industries.
Now that you know what people to target, think about the job titles that buy your products and services. Is it a VP of Manufacturing or Human Resources? What about IT? Who else is involved?

Your salespeople will know. Go ask them. Really. This is one of the best opportunities to bring sales know-how into the marketing mix and really start bridging that famous sales & marketing misalignment. The more involved you get them now, the better your personas and the better and faster the follow-up.

3. Ask all the questions. (Thanks to Ten Ton Marketing for these questions.)

  • What’s this person’s role in the buying process? Decision maker, champion, or influencer?
  • What work issues keep this person up at night?
  • What motivates this person to take action?
  • How familiar is s/he with the solution you offer?
  • What sources does this person turn to for information and daily news?
  • How does the prospect go about making business decisions?
  • What types of organizations does this person belong to and what events does he or she attend?
  • Does this person seek advice from colleagues, industry peers, and/or unbiased third parties? If so, where?
  • How is he or she dealing with the problem today?
  • What phrases does the prospect use to describe the issues he or she is facing?
  • Does this person prefer high-level details or a deep dive into a topic?
  • What prevents this type of buyer from choosing us?

4. Leverage all contact points.

To get answers to these questions, get information from all the places you can. Talk to people who deal with customers, like support and sales.

  • Ask questions on Linkedin and Twitter.
  • Create a survey in a tool like SurveyMonkey and have inside sales call to complete it.
  • Participate in blogs and online communities.
  • Ask questions and keep asking—till you get a 360 degree view.
  • And most importantly, conduct direct interviews of buyers to uncover the real reasons behind their purchase decisions.

5. Revise it every few months.

Don’t think one and done. Personas are an endless quest for perfection.  You’ll continually learn more and more. So periodically revisit your personas and make them better and better. Set bi-monthly meetings to review.

What do you think? We love comments and people who share our content.

A buyer persona is a detailed profile of the buyer that a company hopes to persuade to choose its products, services, or solutions – and help guide marketers to make essential marketing decisions.

Buyer personas are a fundamental aspect of B2B marketing and it has never been more critical for marketers to understand them on a deeper level. Buyers today are making purchase decisions much earlier in the buying process in an anonymous way, prior to any type of email marketing or other lead generation efforts. They are being influenced by social media and other external sources before even engaging in the buying process.

Join guest host Jeff Ogden and special guest Adele Revella, President of the Buyer Persona Institute and author of The Buyer Persona Manifesto in this premier episode of MadMarketingTV as they discuss:

• Why buyer personas matter
• The impact of consumers making decisions earlier in the buying process
• The increasing importance of understanding consumers
• What information is necessary to create quality buyer personas

And don’t forget to join us for our next episode on Thursday, December 1 when Adele Revella returns to MadMarketingTV to provide more insights about how you can use buyer personas to better communicate with your customers.

Get your copy of Adele’s eBook, and access MadMarketing Slides – Episode 1 – Buyer Personas slides.

MadMarketingTV is sponsored by Act-On Software: Marketing Automation for the Fortune 5 Million. Visit http://actonsoftware.com to learn more.

So you just decided to buy marketing automation software to crank up sales leads, track the ROI of your campaigns, and prove just what exactly marketing has been doing to drive the bottom line. Wise choice. Whether you’re an SMB, a regional division of a large enterprise or a multi-national marketing organization, lots of vendors would be happy to sell you that license. But we’re here to say:

“Wait a second. Before you buy marketing automation, there are a few things you need to do first to make sure it is a huge success.” Here are five things you ought to ensure you have in place before you even begin to roll out a new marketing automation software solution.

1. Buyer Personas

Lots of companies say, “We target the CIO or VP of Finance.” But that doesn’t help create quality conversations for your sales team. You need to go far beyond the demographic question and look at the Why? And the What? Why did the CIO or VP of Finance buy? What was it about their critical problem and your solution that created a perfect match? What is it about the personality of the finance person that made it possible for you to create a campaign that spoke directly to their needs, and help put you on the short list? What problems do they need to solve? What’s the impact of the problem? What’s critical to them in selecting a vendor to help them solve those problems? Do they want a long-term relationship or do they just want you to fix their issues and then leave?  The bottom line is that the more you know, the better you’ll market and the better you’ll be able to prep the sales team to sell. Know who you need to deal with, know what makes them tick, and know how to accompany them on their journey so you create success.

2. Agreed Lead Definition

What makes a good lead? The problem most companies have is if you talk to four different people, you’ll get five different definitions. Both marketing and sales must identify and agree on the criteria for qualified opportunities that merit direct follow-up from sales. We suggest getting every stakeholder in a room, agree on expectations and hammer out definitions that everyone can live with. This includes: what is a qualified marketing lead, what is a sales ready lead, or a sales qualified lead. When sales and marketing share a common definition of the criteria for opportunities ready for handoff, each group supports the common goal of closing more business and helping drive more revenue.

3. Value Proposition

Regardless of the size of your business or the type of industry you are in, your company should have a value proposition. A strong value proposition does the following:

  • Creates interest, so that your prospects are intrigued and wish to learn more.
  • Differentiates your offer from your competitors’ offers and creates a strong comparison between you and your competitors.
  • Increases the quantity and quality of your sales leads and makes conversions to a win that much easier.
  • Aligns your business more closely to your customers’ needs.
  • Focuses on the customers’ needs and point of view.
  • Includes fact-based statements that will capture the attention of decision-makers: increased revenues, decreased costs, & improved efficiency.

A strong value proposition speaks directly to your target audience and is a clear statement of the concrete results they will get from purchasing and using your products and/or services. A weak value proposition, on the other hand, is a sales and marketing killer. Your value proposition should distill all the complexity of the value you provide into an easy-to-remember phrase that is not only easy to grasp and retain, but identifies and remedies an unmet need that your customers face. It should relieve their pain.

4. Trigger Events

Trigger events are things that happen on the buyer side that trigger a search for a solution. Trigger events might be something like a divestiture, acquisition, or the promotion of an executive. A good technique is to go back to your existing customers for a Won Sales Analysis. They will likely share the trigger event that drove their decision.

5. Very Tight Target Market

One of the most common mistakes in B2B marketing is to assume that lots and lots of companies are prospective customers. The more tightly you define your market, the more effective you will be. Look at customers. Look at prospects. What do they have in common? They may be from a similar industry, similar titles, similar geography, etc. A tight market will undoubtedly emerge. Targeting a smaller universe lowers costs and improves win rates.

We believe Act-On Software has great software, but our real focus is on your success. Use these five priorities to ensure you are prepared for marketing automation, no matter who you choose. For some practical and actionable advice on utilizing personas to fine tune your marketing efforts, and maximize results please tune in to MadMarketingTV on YouTube.