We know buyer personas as being one-dimensional — a snapshot overview of the people who are involved in the buying process in one way or another.

Buyer personas provide members of your sales, marketing and customer success teams with information that helps them deliver relevant content to prospective customers and educate and convert them through each stage of the customer life cycle. What an approach based on buyer personas does not do is provide a perspective that helps sales and marketing teams interact with buyers based on account type or account-based funnel stage.

There is in an inherent gap and misalignment in that singular approach. Marketing lives in a world of persona-centric metrics, such as leads and marketing-qualified leads (MQL), that are generalized for a wide array of buyers from all account segments that are high in the sales process. Meanwhile, sales is measured by account-based metrics (ABM), such as opportunities and pipeline within the context of a company or account.

Moreover, the ABM approach is based on consensus selling (when you’re selling to a group of people within an account) where there are multiple decision-makers.

The ability to handle consensus selling is important, because the reality is that most transactions involve sales to a group of people. In a 2015 Harvard Business Review article titled “Making the Consensus Sale,” CEB analysts reported that their research showed that an average of 5.4 buyers are involved in every purchase and that any one of those people can derail the purchase.

Related Article: Account-Based Marketing: Digging Into Facts, Uprooting Myths

What’s Needed Beyond a Traditional Persona

A comparison of the elements involved in a typical buyer persona and an ABM buyer persona reveals the differences between the two approaches.

A traditional buyer persona includes the following:

  • Job title.
  • Reporting structure.
  • Role in purchase (end user, key influencer, decision-maker, buyer, etc.) .
  • Objectives and goals.
  • Key performance indicators (KPI).
  • Pain points and challenges.
  • Relevant value proposition and messaging.
  • Common objections.
  • Talking points.

In contrast, an ABM buyer persona includes this additional data:

  • Account “firmographics” (data about the company, including size, industry, revenue etc.).
  • Interest by funnel stage.
  • Account “technographics” (data about the products and technologies the company uses) .
  • Predictive marketing data (content clues, organizational attitudes, fears, motivators and priorities, etc.) .
  • Preferred channels.
  • Propensity to buy.
  • Employee count.
  • Annual revenue.
  • Industry.
  • Geography.

Related Article: Which of the 3 Personalization Types Are You?

Learning Opportunities

How ABM Personas Translate Into the New Demand Unit Waterfall

In 2017, SiriusDecisions unveiled a new member of its Demand Waterfall lineup — the Demand Unit Waterfall — to support the needs of ABM. Essentially, the Demand Unit Waterfall adds these three stages at the top of the funnel: Target Demand, for targeting the total available market (TAM); Active Demand, which narrows the TAM into specific accounts (or segments) based on buying intent; and Engaged Demand, which is the stage at which those targets begin to show interest based on inquiries.

Source: SiriusDecisions

Here’s how your buyer persona data fits within this new customer account status structure’s account and buying group types (or demand units):

  1. MQA target: This aligns with your ideal customer profile (ICP) and target account list requirements.
  2. MQA intent: This can be based on predictive analytic lead-scoring on preferred channels, pain points by topic, buyer role by title and/or other marketing engagement qualification tactics, such as customer referral programs.
  3. MQA interest: Status-mapping all leads to accounts enables you to create an account engagement score.
  4. MQA propensity: This corresponds to status or other sales lead accepted status that establishes a propensity to buy (e.g. meeting booked, budget verified, etc.).
  5. Sales-accepted accounts opportunity and customer: These correspond to account statuses for closed-won opportunities referencing opportunity stages in the playbook so that the engagement scoring can trigger additional content/programming by marketing (like traditional nurturing).

You can duplicate the same structure for upselling and cross-selling.

For marketers, tracking MQA status will be important to understanding what content and messaging will resonate at each stage. That can be worked into the predictive lead-scoring model as well.

Related Article: The Account-Based Marketing One Team Approach: More Than a Catchphrase

Closing the Sales and Marketing Gap and Misalignment in ABM

Ultimately, the goal for marketing is to determine which programs are engaging target buyers and to look for patterns in buying behaviors within accounts. It will also aid in the work required for account segmentation. The first round of ICP and buyer persona definition will be based on ancillary research and qualitative feedback from sales, but it’s critical to test those assumptions and challenge them for efficiency and scale.

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