The One Thing Missing from Virtually Every B2B Marketing Persona

The majority of B2B marketers use personas, but very few get them right. In this article, we’ll look at the five dimensions that every marketing persona requires and the one essential element that’s almost always missing.

Marketing automation lets us reach more prospects than ever before. But without a clear understanding of their needs, fears, and aspirations, we’re just going to end up irritating them on a larger scale. That’s hardly ideal.

Marketing personas are an invaluable tool that helps us ensure that our marketing activities stay relevant and meaningful no matter how wide our funnel gets.

But personas come in all shapes and sizes, and many of them are simply not up to supporting marketing activities. In fact, an ITSMA survey from 2014 found that only 15% of marketers are using personas effectively.

Are you one of the 85% of marketers who has a sneaking suspicion that your marketing personas aren’t delivering their full value? Then read on, because I’ll be covering the five key dimensions of a well-rounded, insightful persona, plus the extra element that even the best marketing personas often lack.

Dimension 1: Triggers

Every marketer wants to time their activities perfectly so that they can reach viable prospects at the exact moment that they begin seeking a solution to their problem. Does your marketing persona identify that moment and tell you what triggers the prospect’s search for a solution?

A specific pain point could spark the search for a solution, such as a process inefficiency or an unacceptable level of departmental or organizational risk. It could result from the prospect transitioning to a new role, or an industry reacting to a regulatory change. Inevitably, there is something that triggers the search for a new way of doing things, and being able to predict that something enables you to proactively reach out to prospects whose situation fits that profile.

When we know a prospect’s triggers, we know how to identify the people who will be receptive to hearing from us and benefit most from our solution. #marketingpersonasClick To Tweet

Dimension 2: Expectations

What results does your prospect expect to see from your solution? When you understand the ideal state they want to reach in terms of specific operational or personal/professional results, you can craft your marketing messages to reflect those expectations.

For example, does the prospect expect to reduce costs on a specific work activity? Or are they more interested in improving results? Do they see your solution as a way to enhance their reputation in their organization?.

When we know a prospect’s expectations, we know how to address the risks and accentuate the rewards that buyers perceive in our solutions. #marketingpersonasClick To Tweet

Dimension 3: Barriers

Your prospect brings a specific set of hopes and aspirations to the table, but they also need to overcome fears, hesitations, and plain old inertia in order to commit to a solution.

They may have purchased a similar solution in the past only to discover that no one used it because it was too complex. Perhaps they worry about the security risks the solution could open them up to. Or maybe they’re confused by all the different options on the market, which leads them to put off the decision until they have more time and energy to dig into the information (which is, of course, never).

When we know a prospect’s barriers, we know how to address and dispel negative experiences and perceptions that act as roadblocks. #marketingpersonasClick To Tweet

Dimension 4: Priorities

While you may be excited about a brand-new feature your brilliant developers just perfected, your prospect may care about it less—or not at all. 

Maybe your prospect prioritizes responsiveness and customer service more than bells and whistles. Or maybe ensuring that the solution integrates with their ERP is all they need to put your solution on the short list. No matter what type of solution you promote, it’s likely to have many features and benefits: knowing which one’s matter most to your prospect enables you to simplify and hone the message.

When we know a prospect’s priorities, we know how to identify the attributes that the #persona actually cares about and prioritizes.Click To Tweet

Dimension 5: Influences

The customer journey doesn’t happen in a bubble. As prospects research their options, they are continually collecting input from trusted sources.

Those sources can be both internal and external. Internally, the prospect may need to get sign off from IT or the head of finance before purchasing. In terms of external influences, they may pay close attention to what analysts such as Gartner or Forrester have to say, or they may prioritize the opinions of prominent names in their specific industry. Alternatively, they may be more inclined to listen to ordinary people on peer review sites such as Capterra or G2 Crowd.

When we know a prospect’s key influences, we know how to leverage those influential channels to strengthen and accelerate the #buyerjourney. #marketingpersonasClick To Tweet

And the 1 Missing Persona Element…

These five key dimensions of a marketing persona help you effectively communicate with a prospect in the active stages of buying (the mid to late stages of the funnel), but they don’t help you connect with them earlier in the customer journey.

At the early stages, your prospect is unlikely to be ready to hear about your company and its solutions. And no matter how perfectly your messaging aligns with the 5 key dimensions, that perfect message will still fall flat if the prospect isn’t ready to hear it.

That’s why it’s so important to research the 6th key persona dimension: Perceptions.

Perceptions capture the broader context of your prospect’s world—not just how they evaluated your solutions, but how they see their world.

Identifying your prospect’s perceptions is important because before your prospect becomes an active buyer seeking a solution, they are simply a business professional. They’re not focused on specific products or services, they’re focused on staying up to date in their field, catching up on relevant business trends, pursuing a path to self-improvement, building recognition for their skills and experience, and enhancing their professional prospects.

Do you know how to reach them when they’re in this very early stage in the funnel—before they are interested in your company or the solutions you offer? Building a profile of the prospects perceptions lets you identify the topics and ideas that are top-of-mind so that you can insert yourself into the conversation sooner.

Let’s take the example of a company that sells project-management software. Long before the prospect is ready to consider investing in a software solution, they may be interested in learning about different project-management techniques and best practices (“agile” vs. “Six Sigma,” for example). As a result, long before you use the first five persona dimensions to craft effective marketing messages, you need to identify that sixth dimension to determine how you can reach your prospects with content that is relevant and valuable to them at the very beginning of their journey.

When we know a prospect’s perceptions, we know how to place our solution in a wider context that is relevant and meaningful to the buyer. #marketingpersonasClick To Tweet

Create More Effective Marketing Personas

Personas are the foundation of a customer-centric approach to marketing and sales. But not every persona is robust enough to give marketers what they need to craft personalized customer experiences.

If you’re interested in learning how to create better personas, download The Definitive Guide to Marketing Personas, an ebook that shows you how to research, interview, and structure an effective persona.


About the Author

Hayden Jackson

Hayden is DemandLab's Director of Content Strategy. She has 20 years of in-house and agency experience in marketing communications and content marketing. Her areas of focus include content strategy, content creation, and content performance. She helps clients deliver content experiences that engage the company's target audiences and align with its business goals.

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