When transitioning into the account-based marketing (ABM) mindset, one of the critical changes is thinking in terms of accounts instead of leads. You’re not just marketing and selling to whichever individual downloads your content or interacts with your website, you have to be thinking about the entire account -- the whole team of people on the other side involved in the eventual decision.
To be able to understand and wrap your head around the multiple people that you want to engage within a target account, it’s essential to think about personas. These are the types of key stakeholders that you expect to be involved in the deal.
To create great personas that will help both your marketing and sales teams be successful, you must understand how to do two things: 1) identify your multiple personas and 2) develop each of their profiles.
Identifying Marketing Personas
Identifying personas is figuring out who the audience is for your marketing. Typically, this is the same as identifying what types of people are involved in the deal.
In all deals, there are three functions: a researcher, a user, and a decision-maker. In B2C deals, each of these components are often done by the same person or household. You shop for sunglasses, you decide to buy the sunglasses, and you wear the sunglasses. In B2B deals, on the other hand, there are often multiple people involved in executing the three functions. This is why account-based marketing is essential for many B2B marketers.
However, just because there are three functions doesn’t mean that every account will have exactly three people involved in the deal. In smaller organizations the researcher and the user are often the same person. In contrast, there could also be dozens of users (e.g. the entire sales team) or, in the case of selling to a large enterprise, there could be several levels of decision-makers that need to give the go-ahead.
A great way to start identifying your personas is to talk to your existing customers. Think about their journey, from first contact to closed deal, and try to identify who you had to educate and convince. Who was your internal champion? See if they have a few minutes to chat about their process and what was involved on their end.
Once you talk to a few customers, you’ll start to identify trends in how your customers and prospects work. Do they all have to get an executive-level colleague involved? What’s the job title and level of your primary user? Who initially found you? Do you impact someone’s role who isn’t the primary user? These types of questions will get you started. From there, it should be pretty clear who your personas should be.
Additionally, with a multi-touch attribution solution, you can back up your qualitative research with data. Looking at the buyer journey for you customers and accounts in the pipeline, you can see where in the journey certain contacts interacted with your marketing and how much influence they had on the deal. What job titles are common for the first touch? Who is reaching out to get a demo? Who is involved in the demo? Who is signing the contract? These questions can be answered with multi-touch attribution and data in your CRM.
Of course, this also requires lead-to-account mapping, the process of tying each of the individual’s interactions to the account. The data can then be coalesced into an accurate representation of the account’s journey, not a collection individuals’ separate and partial journeys.
We’ve gone through this process ourselves. We also periodically check back in with the data to make sure that the personas we’ve identified are still appropriate. As your product develops and the industry matures, you may find that your personas need updating. At Bizible, we currently use four personas. You may have one or two fewer or a couple more. How many you have depends on your unique situation.
Developing Persona Profiles
Now that you know how to identify your key personas, the next step is to develop their profiles so that they are useful. In-person meetings or phone calls are the best way to get the information necessary to develop your personas. Here’s the type of information that you’ll want in order to be able to leverage your personas for effective ABM.
Who are they?
Think job title. How much experience do they have? What skills do they have?
Where are they?
What does their day look like? Where are they learning about new products or how to do their job better? Are they on certain websites? Are they involved in groups or networks -- online and offline?
This information, in addition to information about who they are, is critical for key ABM channels like ad targeting, partner marketing, PR, sponsorships, etc. For example, the information about what blogs they read should inform where you put in your guest blogging efforts or where you pitch your buzzy content and research.
What are their pain points that need to be solved?
What are the challenges of their job that are related (even tangentially) to your product? Can you remove a pain point or help them grow faster?
What are their deliverables and KPIs? Do you directly or indirectly impact their KPIs? How?
With answers to these questions, you remind yourself that your marketing is about solving their problems, not touting your product’s features. This goes a long way in creating greater empathy in your marketing.
How much do they know?
If you’re a product in an established industry, do they know about you or your competitors? How much do they know? Do they know a lot about certain features, but are unaware of your secondary or new features?
If you’re in a relatively new industry, do they know about your industry? Do they know about you? Do they understand how your industry is different from similar industries?
If in your research you find that your personas don’t know that much about your industry or have a lot of misperceptions, it doesn’t make sense to create a bunch of marketing that is deep in the weeds. Or, if you find that your personas are highly knowledgeable, you may not need to create as much high-level marketing that goes over basic concepts.
Make them real
Finally, we also believe that it’s important to make the personas feel as real as possible. As much as you can, try to use real quotes that are representative of how your personas think. Quotes, examples, data, etc. ground your personas and can remind the team that they are marketing and selling to real people.
Now that you know how to identify and develop personas that are tailor-made for your ABM efforts, the next step is to get buy-in and align with your sales team. You can read more about that here. If you’re already tight with Sales and want more information about how to measure your ABM efforts to make sure you’re hitting the right personas, check out our guide to ABM measurement below.