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By now we believe that any competent marketer should use personas, but we still face a crucial question:

Do those personas help us go to market any better? Do they improve our targeting, differentiation, message delivery, message response, prospect conversion, or shorten the sales cycle?

In sum, do personas really matter? The answer, of course, is … it depends. I’m going to tell you what it depends on and how you can learn the stories about six real personas that packed a punch for their managers―well, marketers.

Eight Places Personas Have Made a Difference

We have applied Prospect Personas to improve the impact of ongoing marketing efforts as well as to prepare marketers to enter markets that are new or evolving. We have applied them to the following eight specific scenarios.

Increasing Your Market Impact

  1. Marketing Effectiveness―to increase the impact of the marketing you are already doing through better targeting, messaging, and differentiation.
  2. Purchase Cycle Acceleration―to simplify and speed your sales cycle by better aligning your sales process with your prospects’ buying process
  3. Differentiationto increase and sharpen communication of the points of difference most important to your prospects
  4. Sales Engagementto better equip the sales team with insights about who to target and how to help them buy more effectively

Empowering Expansion / Evolution

  1. Market Introductionfor the effective launch of a new product or disruptive technology
  2. Market Expansionfor an existing product entering a new market
  3. Market Evolutionfor an existing product competing in a market changed by a new technology, competitor, or buying process
  4. Vertical Marketingfor an existing product looking to penetrate a particular industry more effectively

Six Persona Examples

All this is nice theory without real-life examples of personas in action. That is why we have gathered a half-dozen examples of personas we have created that have made a big difference in the life of the companies that commissioned them (the second half-dozen is in the oven for release soon).

Each of these companies already knew a lot about their product and their markets before they decided to invest in understanding their prospect better. Each would claim to have reaped a high “return on insight” (a particular kind of ROI) from their investment of time and money to understand their prospects and the prospect journey.

In fact, I believe the goal of all persona development work is to create a competitive marketing advantage. Accordingly, to protect their confidentiality, we have not identified the clients in these cases. However, included are stories from a wide range of companies and industries:

  • Some of the largest multinationals on the planet for whom not succeeding was not acceptable
  • Some remarkably small companies who really wanted to get the most impact from their limited resources
  • Some mid-tier companies looking to compete smarter against large competitors with greater resources
  • Some huge but stagnant markets along with some small, fast-growth

How They Did It

One small but large point about this story … the impact on the business came not from simply “doing” a persona, but from how they did it … and did with it.

  • They conducted real research with real prospects―they did not sit in a conference. They challenged their assumptions―even though they seemed well-founded―and applied new learning to yield new outcomes.
  • They applied what they learned to their targeting, messaging, go-to-market strategy, and sales enablement … and built on those key insights as their continuing strategy, not just a transient campaign idea.