Do you know Sam the Sales Guy, Ann from Accounting, and Mike in Manufacturing? To improve
your sales and marketing efforts, you need to get to know these people intimately – after you
Sam, Ann, and Mike aren’t real people. They are the names of personas who represent real
people. Personas are fictional characters who are a composite of real-world people and who
illustrate the values, goals, and behaviors of your typical ideal clients.
These “fake people” can make or break your sales and marketing success.
When I started in the Microsoft Dynamics (Great Plains) channel back in 2000, I was super excited to really get to understand this industry and thrilled when my company sent me to my first marketing training class led by Mac MacIntosh. Mac is a great trainer, and I learned a lot – but I was disappointed when the class didn’t really cover anything about the sensibilities and challenges of the people who buy Microsoft Dynamics.
Over time I realized that neither Mac nor Microsoft – nor anyone else – can create YOUR ideal client profile and then just hand it to you. To attract the right customers, the personas you create must be unique to your organization. The number of personas you need depends on the size of your organization and the diversity of your customer base.
A persona profile goes much deeper than demographic information. In addition to organizational size, title, and geography, a well-researched persona profile answers the following key questions:
- What is their role?
- How is their success measured?
- What are their daily challenges?
- What are their sensibilities?
- Where/how do they learn information?
Once you’ve defined a persona, it’s a marketing best practice to cap it off with a name and a picture so that your personas have more personality and are more memorable.
Why Persona Development is Important
Personas have been a marketing concept for a long time, but they’ve never been quite as important as they are now for the following eight reasons:
- You’re not in charge any more. Inbound marketing is about attraction, not interruption. As buyers have become more self-reliant for solution research, you may find more than half of the sales process happens before you are even aware that the sales process has begun. Your job as a marketing and sales organization is to enable prospects through the Buyer’s Journey. Since our goal is to get them to buy Microsoft Dynamics, let’s call it the #DynJourney. There are three stages to the #DynJourney: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. Your job is to develop and deliver the right information to the right persona at the right #DynJourney stage.
- The people involved in the #DynJourney change throughout the evaluation process. If you sell HR solutions, your contract signers might include the CFO or the CEO, but those aren’t the people who are most acutely aware of the need. Your Awareness content might need to be aimed at the HR manager, and your Decision content aimed at the CFO. By knowing your personas, you’ll know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.
- Your prospects are not “just like you.” Often the person selling and marketing is nothing like the persona being sold to. Your marketing person might be extremely creative, spontaneous, fun, and attracted to bright colors, inspirational quotes, and new ideas. The ideal target client might not “get metaphors.” They might be introverted, love knowing what’s expected, and you might imagine they wear khaki pants and a blue polo shirt to work every single day. Your job as a marketer is to live in their world, use their terminology, and appeal to their sensibilities to facilitate their #DynJourney.
- Your prospects and customers are not “just like each other.” Several of my clients are active in multiple industries, from banking to construction. While the easy way out is to focus on the software (what we do/what we sell), they get BY FAR the most traction by crafting content specifically focused on the industry personas as they proceed through their #DynJourney. Although being personalized and focused is substantially more work for the marketing team, that focus is what generates results.
- It’s easier to communicate across the entire organization. Just like the tech industry has mastered the art of the TLA (three letter acronym), personas can become a shortcut to aid insider communication. If you say, “This prospect is a Mike” or even track personas in your CRM system, everyone from marketing to sales to consulting will have a sense of the best ways to communicate your company message with this particular persona. As an added plus, personas help educate departments who don’t have regular direct contact with customers. Unfortunately, this often includes the marketing departments charged with creating the marketing messaging.
- Your #DynJourney content can tell a story that appeals to the persona’s sensibilities. Far too
many of the blog posts and social media content I see are still too “seller-oriented.” Your website pages are perfect places to talk about your features and benefits. Your blog and social media entries should touch on the buyer persona’s challenges and values, be relevant, and perhaps even tie into current events. Tell a story that resonates. How can you make their day better? How can you help them achieve their goals, even going beyond what your company/solution does?
- You gather clues on how to become an insider. Join their communities. Are you active and visible in the places where they are engaged (online or in person)? How can you show that you are part of their circle? Buyer Personas give you a clear understanding of where their virtual water coolers are and the types of information they like to share.
- You know who NOT to go after. Some companies create “negative personas.” Negative personas are people you don’t want as customers because they’ll burn out your consulting team, give you a bad reputation, or are too difficult to accommodate. These customers may be too big or too small, or have too long of a sales process. Knowing these personas will allow you to squelch those deals quickly so you don’t burn time.
Personas are not a new concept, but their relevance has increased as inbound marketing has become more prevalent. With more than 200 million blog posts posted every day, the ONLY way to stand out is to be relevant. Relevancy comes by knowing who you are talking to and how you can help.
Adrianne Machina is the owner of Tornado Marketing, a marketing consultant firm helping Microsoft Dynamics Partners develop the strategy and messaging to attract their ideal clients. You can download a persona development tool for free at www.tornado-marketing.com/dynamics-personas. For a marketing assessment, contact Adrianne at Amachina@tornadomktg.com or 608-213-0377.