B2B companies are increasingly relying on highly targeted and personalized messaging to reach prospective buyers. To accomplish this, progressive marketers are developing more detailed buyer personas to gain deeper insight into their target audiences and boost responses from their lead nurturing campaigns.
Demand Gen Report’s Lead Nurturing Benchmarking Study shows that 66% of B2B marketers are challenged with developing targeted content by buyer interest and stage in the sales funnel.
When the decision has been made to build a buyer persona for a particular target audience, many B2B marketers dive head-first using as much data as possible. However, this approach does not maximize accuracy, according to Tonya Vinas, Senior Editor at Content4Demand.
Vinas added: “B2B marketers are designing buyer personas correctly when they use the insight at the beginning of the persona-development process to identify questions they need to ask in further research. This is because personas are most valuable when they provide new or deeper insight and are broadly specific enough to guide content development.”
While job titles can help marketers determine the decision makers within a target account, they don’t help marketers understand the intent behind the purchase.
“Buyer personas are turning more into buyer profiles,” said Adele Revella, President of the Buyer Persona Institute. “They lack the insights as to how, when and why these buyers are making that decision. The consequence is that the buyer persona is focused on the data that's readily available, not always the data that is the most valuable.”
Accurate metrics help bring value to buyer personas, but whether or not a particular metric brings value to a buyer persona depends on the company and the goal for the persona. Analyzing current clients and measuring the process that led to them to buying is a great start for collecting metrics that can help marketers answer the question of how, when and why.
“Generally, though, all business problems and solutions connect back to revenue and profits,” said Vinas. “Use this rule of thumb to prioritize which data to pay attention to — the closer it is to these, the more meaningful it will be.”
Looking Beyond Marketing Automation To Develop Personas
As B2B marketers become more data-driven, they should rely on a mix of marketing automation and their individual interactions with prospects to formulate personas.
“Many companies put automation systems in place, then don't understand how to use it,” said Tony Zambito, an authority on buyer personas. “It's important to first understand the qualitative information, understand the context of how buyers are making their decisions.”
Trial and error can help improve buyer personas accuracy, according to Zambito. “Understanding this context is crucial, because then it makes any and all quantitative data make sense. Marketing falls into a trap when heavily emphasizing on forecasting and automation, need to focus on what they already have and continue.”
Leveraging Predictive Analytics To Uncover Buying Intent
The goal of buyer personas is to help B2B marketers prove buying intent among their top prospects. However, personas can also help companies identify new prospects with the help of predictive analytics.
Predictive intelligence can not only help companies identify exactly where their prospects are in the buying journey, but also whether or not these prospects are ready to buy or just beginning their research.
“By tying together descriptive data about the ideal buyer and activity data from marketing automation and the B2B web (blogs, communities, etc.), marketers can predict what companies will buy, when they will buy, how much they will buy, and in what time frame,” said Alison Murdock, Head of Marketing at 6Sense.
When marketers are more strategic and personalized with their outreach, the result is a significant boosts in MQL-SQL conversions, close-rates, and ultimately, revenues, Murdock said.
“Predictive intelligence leverages time-sensitive intent data external to the marketer’s organization’s sphere of influence. Though harder to capture, this type of data is critical to understanding where a buyer is in the sales cycle and who is involved in a purchase decision.”
Predictive analytics can also help uncover insights or details that may have been missed during initial persona research, according to Brian Kardon, CMO at Lattice Engines. “There are thousands of buying signals outside of what you are able to track within your marketing automation and CRM platforms. Predictive analytics can help uncover the right patterns of traits that indicate when a customer or prospect is most likely to buy or even uncover traits of prospects or customers with the greatest revenue potential.”
Kardon also noted that continuous testing must take place in order for buyer personas to stay consistently accurate. “You have to remember that a single data point isn’t a trend. As with any type of persona document, you’ll want to test it to see if it really sticks and understand that if it doesn’t, it can be a little fluid.”