The Difference Between B2B Leads and Personas

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B2B marketers have relied on lead definitions to define their marketing programs for years. Some definitions are more complete than others. The biggest disconnect for companies is that a marketer's definition of a lead can often be quite different than how sales defines what they need to accept a lead as qualified for follow-up.

This said, a company's lead definition in this form has nothing to do with customers or prospects. It relies on mostly demographic information that we've culled to decide whether or not we want to pursue the lead as an opportunity for customer acquisition.

A lead definition generally includes things like:



  • Job title
  • Company size (revenues, employees)
  • Industry
  • Geographic location
  • Technology environment
  • Number of locations
  • BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline)

These are all things that are important to us. A lead definition is a bridge between marketing and sales. It's what we use to justify that we're in pursuit of the right targets.

A persona, is the flip side. A persona uses the lead definition as the foundation for the research and development of a composite "character" representative of a segment of our prospects in real-life circumstances. A persona is a bridge between your company and your prospects and customers. 

A persona can include things like:

  • Role
  • Responsibilities
  • Threats
  • Priorities
  • Influencers
  • Motivations

In case you're unsure of a few distinctions, here's an abbreviated example:

Title: Director of Change Management



Role: Developing processes for the roll-out of new solutions across the enterprise.

Responsibility: Achieving a minimum of 75% end user adoption rate within 3 months of implementation of new solutions.

Threats: Disruption of work flows can jeopardize project deadlines resulting in deferred revenues and lower employee morale. Our top competitor is undertaking a major initiative to improve productivity and we'll lose market share if we don't keep up. Our mobile workforce is growing and we've got to get them better access to information and colleagues so they can do their jobs as if they're in the office.

Priorities: Need to ensure the company has the tools and processes for sustainable growth. In order to meet the CEO's strategic agenda, productivity must increase by at least 35% without adding headcount.

Influencers: Line of business managers whose staff will be affected and end users resistant to change. Executives focused on specific productivity initiatives. The CTO who must implement the solution with resources already stretched thin.

Motivations: Desire to work for a company on the cutting edge. Others who have successfully accomplished an enterprise-wide roll out have been promoted. If our company stock increases by X points, my net worth increases exponentially, reducing my time to retirement. A similar company has achieved goals like ours. It can be done. But, I also need to make sure it can be accomplished in our specific environment and circumstances. No risk, no reward. But I need to make sure it's a controllable risk.



Can you see the difference? A lead definition can help you identify the prospects you'd like to pursue. A persona can help you connect with those prospects on a personally relevant basis.

You need both.

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