A buyer persona, according to the Buyer Persona Institute, "tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options to address a problem that your company resolves."
Related: The Science of Building Buyer Personas (Infographic)
The value of creating buyer "personas" for B2B marketing and sales has been well documented. Research shows that websites created with the help of buyer personas are two to five times more effective than others. Personas sharpen the picture you have of your customers so you can better understand their needs and act as a value-added partner to them.
However, you can’t just create your buyer personas and expect them to transform your business on their own. You have to employ dynamic strategies for using them in ways that will inform your marketing and sales techniques and help you engage with your customers on a deeper level.
Outline procedures for updating personas with new data.
The first thing you need to understand is, you are never really finished creating your buyer personas. As you continue to gather larger samples of data, and your business grows, you may discover new categorizations or updated circumstances for certain groups. For your personas to be as effective as possible, you must have set procedures for refreshing them at scheduled intervals.
Once you’ve updated your roster of personas by incorporating new data, you have to teach your sales and marketing reps to make sure they are using the most updated versions of your personas for every interaction. A big part of data quality control is verifying that every team member knows how and where to access the most up-to-date information available.
Standardize your format and storage policies.
The information found in your buyer personas represents a powerful tool in your company’s arsenal, which is why strict data management standards must be applied, just as they should be for any library of valuable and sensitive data. This means that all personas should be created using the same format so they can easily be read and internalized by any employee who needs access to them.
When updates are made, they should be noted and logged so all changes can be traced back to a specific time and person in the event of any questions. Additionally, it is vital that all of this information be stored in regimented areas. This enables every relevant party to know where to find the information they need.
Related: How Creating Buyer Personas will Double Your Marketing Results in 2017
Place extra emphasis on engaging with prospects as individuals.
Buyer personas can be incredibly valuable because they are based on real data and you can use them to condense a vast amount of data into a story that can be read and interpreted quickly. The downside to this is that if you aren’t careful, your sales reps may begin to see their leads and prospects simply as archetypes on a stat sheet, rather than distinct individuals with singular needs, habits and emotions.
Get out in front of this potential pitfall by hosting sessions in your buyer-persona training that reinforce best practices for empathetic listening and attention to detail. Buyer personas are an important guideline that can help give your sales reps quick answers to frequent questions, but never forget that salespeople build relationships with clients, not templates.
Use personas to guide your content creation.
Since your personas are designed to give you an idea of what kinds of things your ideal buyer will respond to, it makes perfect sense to use this information when you are creating content that will be used to encourage responses. Not only will content created specially for specific personas be more likely to spur a response, but the information contained within will also guide you in developing pieces that are more valuable for the intended audience.
You can and should use this strategy when you are creating email marketing material, blog posts, video content, ebooks and other items. Even certain landing pages can be crafted to speak specifically to individuals who fit into a persona category. Your buyer personas will influence the way your content is structured, the questions your pieces attempt to answer and the type of language you use.
Using your personas to influence your content creation is one form of personalization, which is a valuable strategy because such a strategy can lead to a 20 percent increase in opportunities when it's used as part of nurturing your leads.
Track how you're using your personas.
Don’t stop once you’ve put in the work to create a solid set of buyer personas; you also have to diligently track how they are used and what results you achieve.
Related: All About Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why You Need Them and How to Make Them Effective
Observe how the information is affecting your relationship with your leads, prospects and customers across a variety of touchpoints, including sales calls, content interaction and customer experience scores. Then, you can use your insights to hone your personas over time.