154: The B2B Persona Problem
In the age of 1:1 personalization, it might be considered heresy to suggest that persona-based marketing is a false idol. But hey, we’re renegades, so of course we’re going to challenge convention. The idea of personas is not necessarily bad. You can never know enough about your target audiences especially when facing 11-person buying committees as is the case with so many enterprise sales efforts. But there is a big difference between 1:1 personalization and personas, which are often an amalgamation of clichés by job title– like all CFOs are risk averse and all IT people are data-driven. Sure, many CFOs tend to be risk averse and many IT people like numbers. Now what? Does that mean you present you product as the least risky to the CFO and the most data-rich to the IT person? In a word, no.
As it turns out the different story for different targets approach simply doesn’t work when you’re selling large solutions to large companies and Gartner’s Brent Adamson has the research to prove it. Marketers have heard that they need a separate persona for every slice of their target audience. But at what point are they diluting their brand or outright wasting money by over-segmenting their marketing? To answer these important questions, we interviewed our CEO, Drew Neisser, to further build on the podcast interview. See more below!
Q: Why do many marketers think more personas is better? Doesn’t one or two personas signal tighter product-market fit?
Drew: Creating personas starts with the best of intentions — gaining a better understanding of one’s best prospects is rarely a bad idea. Add in the reality that B2B buying committees at large enterprises can exceed 11 distinct roles, it’s easy to see why marketers have doubled down on creating a broad range of personas. The problem isn’t with the creation of these detailed profiles, they can be of some benefit, helping salespeople better understand the generalized needs of their targets. But even in this case, there are better sales intelligence tools out there that zero in on the individual level. For example, the app xIQ provides instant and remarkably accurate profiles on individuals based on publicly available data.
Q: So, personas aren’t the problem, it’s how they are being used?
Drew: Correct. Multiple personas often translate into multiple creative iterations of content and advertising across multiple channels. Again, this seems like a good idea since who wouldn’t want to be hit with the most relevant message? But in reality, customizing your brand message across these target personas actually leads to a muddled perspective on your product/service when the buying committee convenes. Gartner research shows that the splintered approach actually decreases the odds of closing the deal by 2.2x. Ultimately, CMOs and their content teams are far better off creating marketing that all ties back to a tightly focused brand story while creating tools that address the individualized needs of the key decision-makers. CFOs are always going to want to understand the ROI of your product/service so you’ll always want to have an ROI calculator of some sort for these folks — just make sure to frame the results in the context of your overall story.
For the rest of the interview, and more information on persona marketing check out our recent post, Why Persona Marketing May Not be Working for You.