Personas Use of Personas Value of personas

Depths of customer understanding in B2B companies

The Problem with Customer Understanding

Personas are a very powerful tool for customer understanding in B2B sales and marketing. They help understand buyers: their pain points, potential objections, information needs, and so. This information can be used to devise sales strategies and tactics, as well as create social media content that serves the buyer types in their information seeking.

However, the advanced use of personas is much rarer than one would think. Even when personas are created, they’re not actively deployed in B2B settings. There are many reasons, such as not including sales people in the persona creation process, personas being unrealistic, or not based on relevant customer insights (bad methodologies).

To estimate your maturity in adopting personas in your company, here are eight statements to consider. The statements indicate successive progress of maturity (i.e., lower = more mature).

Depth of Customer Understanding in B2B Firms

  1. We have defined the industry or industries we’re part of
  2. We have defined target markets (countries) we want to do business in
  3. We have defined target clients in these countries that we want to do business with
  4. We have defined buyer types within these target clients to reach and learn about
  5. We have actually reached people representing these buyer types and interviewed them
  6. We have formed buyer personas based on these interviews (and/or other data)
  7. We have actually tested these buyer personas using advertising/sales outreach
  8. We are frequently updating these buyer personas based on how well they work and/or to reflect the changes in our buyer types in the market.

The Bottom Line

…the farther down the list, the more companies drop. I estimate maybe less than 10% of B2B companies in Finland (and perhaps worldwide) would qualify for Step 8.

Want to see the usefulness of personas in action?

Salminen, J., Jung, S.G., Chowdhury, S. Şengün, S., and Jansen, B. J.  (2020) Personas and Analytics: A Comparative User Study of Efficiency and Effectiveness for a User Identification Task. ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI’20), Honolulu, HI, USA. 25–30 April, 1-13.

By Joni Salminen

Dr. Joni Salminen works as a Scientist at Qatar Computing Research Institute, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, and as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Turku School of Economics, University of Turku. His research interests are heavily focused on personas, including topics such as automatic persona generation from social media data (YouTube, Facebook, Google Analytics), persona perceptions, biases in data-driven personas, optimal number of personas, etc.