B2B Lead Definitions vs. Personas – There is a Difference


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Much of the conversation about marketing and sales alignment is based on the mandate that both sides must agree to what constitutes an ideal lead. I agree that this is a necessary step to enable marketing to develop high-quality leads that sales will accept and pursue, but it's only a starting point for marketers.

A B2B lead definition assigns key factors that must exist in order for it to qualify for transition to sales. But, a lead definition on its own is not enough of a foundation for marketing to build a marketing strategy around that's designed to produce that result.

For that, B2B marketers need to develop buyer personas.

Take a look at the difference between the two:

A B2B lead definition generally consists of specific demographics plus some—or all—of the BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline) attributes.

An example could be summarized like this:

  • Title: IT Director
  • Company Size: Revenues of more than $100M or more than 1,000 employees
  • Industry: High Tech, Manufacturing, Healthcare with more than one location
  • Budget: exists and approved
  • Authority: must be the decision maker
  • Need: Data Center Expansion, Data Center Relocation, Data Center Virtualization
  • Timeline: within one year

Given the information above, how would you design a marketing program to attract, engage and qualify leads? Well, the short answer is that you'd have to learn a lot more.

Enter buyer personas.

"A persona takes a segment of your company's aggregate customer profile and fleshes it out with detailed information that represents real prospects in specific circumstances." [eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale]

In addition to the lead definition, a persona may include:

  • Status Quo: What situation is your prospect facing right now that your offerings address? How did it originate and what obstacles is it putting in the way of business success?
  • Strategic Business and Career Goals: What role does your prospect play in the achievement of business objectives? What are they responsible for? What do they want to achieve from a professional (career) perspective? 
  • Preferences and Aversions: Do they favor taking advantage of an opportunity or mitigating a risk? What motivates and influences them?
  • Competitive Considerations: Will your solution put them abreast of their competitors or help them pull ahead? What are the upcoming industry trends that could impact objectives if they do/don't solve the issue?
  • Influencers and Stakeholders: Who will they listen to? Who do they have to convince? How will you be able to impact this dialogue with both internal and external influencers?

Personas can get much more involved, but hopefully you see the difference between a lead definition and a persona. A persona can help you define the story you need to tell this market segment over time. A lead definition is a check list for sales acceptance.

This is not an either/or situation. You need both. The beauty of it is that they both provide information marketers need to do their jobs better.

Once you have a persona to use to develop your content marketing storyline, take a look at the lead definition and try to determine the content you develop can help you complete the checklist for a qualified lead. For example, if you create 2 content assets, one detailing one situation and the other discussing an alternative situation, which one they read may determine their primary interest.  You might also want to consider that a persona can also help to guide inside sales calls that you use to verify the qualification status of leads. 

Both of these tools can help to make your marketing programs pay off. Why wouldn't you use them?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


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