If you haven’t read the Understanding B2B Buyers 2016 Benchmark Study, you may not know that companies who exceed revenue and lead goals are more effective at creating, using, and consistently maintaining personas than those who miss their targets.

(Or maybe you knew that already, because organizations from SiriusDecisions to Aberdeen Group to Forrester have all studied, at length, the impact and importance of buyer personas to fostering and achieving customer-centricity in marketing organizations.)

But getting to a state of persona nirvana is easier said than done. There are many steps along the way – after you’ve created personas – that can mean the difference between a high-performing persona strategy and a failed one.

From our research study with over 150 B2B organizations, we identified some habits of high-performing organizations, the ones who have it figured out. With this research, we developed a framework for buyer persona optimization to help marketers like you benchmark your persona strategy.

Here are 17 things the top performers do really well.

Core attributes

1. They have at least one internal resource accountable for owning personas with a related KPI

2. They make personas fully accessible across all lines of business, and use them as a mandatory part of the planning process, new offer launches, sales conversations, and campaign development

3. They allocate specific budget dedicated to persona research, technology, maintenance and training annually

4. Persona training is integrated into new hire orientation and offered at a regular cadence across the organization

5. There is executive sponsorship from the CEO. Although the CMO is the primary sponsor, each member of the executive committee has assigned leaders on their team to ensure personas are used throughout the organization.

Creating personas

6. A regular cadence of qualitative interviews dedicated to persona research are conducted with both customers and non-customers

7. Survey tools are used to identify and validate persona research for both customer and non-customer communities

8. In addition to internal CRM data insights, extensive external data sources are used to augment internal data, this may include personality attributes, professional details, social indicators, education level, income, and more.

9. Both competitive and industry trend research is conducted at least quarterly

10. The full customer community is represented by persona for user, champion, economic, buyer and influencers. This could mean four or more personas.

11. Personas are full of deep insights including demographic information, role in the buying process, buying preferences, hobbies and interests, organizational goals and priorities, drivers and motivations, fears and challenges, associations, content topic preferences, KPI/success metrics, and personality traits.

Using personas

12. Personas are used across the entire business including in sales training, messaging, product development, customer support, executive decision making, designer inspiration, demand generation and external agency briefings.

13. Personas are used for comprehensive database mapping using progressive profiling, demographic information and content signals

14. 90% or more of the customer database is mapped by persona and 50% of the prospect database has an identified persona associated with each record

Maintaining personas

15. Personas are systematically updated at least once every 6 months and as part of any new growth initiative

16. Personas are made easily accessible via online collaboration tools that are kept current, along with on-demand training modules

17. In addition to internal CRM data insights, extensive external data sources are utilized to augment internal data.

If you’re ready to take your personas to the next level, we hope the persona optimization framework will help you to understand the various components of a high-performing persona strategy, the areas for improvement, and a structure to guide you towards full optimization.