As the market shifts, much of what you thought was true about your buyer personas and ICPs may be different. This change may be in degrees. Or it may be big enough to require a GTM restructure.
I’m not just talking about the economy or supply chain issues, or new technology evolution. I’m also talking about generational growth, pandemics, and changing customer preferences. All of these are causes for re-evaluation.
The shifts can be subtle, such as:
- Buyers you used to engage on Twitter are now on TikTok
- Dark social is limiting your visibility and insights that used to flow from trackable data
- More buyers are now Millennials or Gen X more so than Boomers
- A new role now has a major influence on buying decisions for what you sell
- The person/role you used to primarily engage with is now removed from the evaluation process, only stepping in at decision time
Or they can be bigger events that bring unexpected changes, such as:
- A pandemic
- Supply chain bottlenecks
- A booming channel that’s suddenly dormant
- Inflation that reallocates spending
- Threat of a recession that puts budgets on hold and/or causes layoffs eliminating roles you target, reshuffling hierarchies and responsibilities
These events in your target markets can quickly make your messaging irrelevant, rendering your marketing programs and sales plays ineffective. The increasing speed with which this happens should put us all on notice. What worked yesterday may not work today.
As today’s relentless march of change continues, this is no time to rely on the “way you’ve always done it.”
Your buyers and customers are not. So, choosing not to shift your view as their perspectives, needs, and preferences change, is choosing to watch the effectiveness of your marketing programs diminish as they become more irrelevant over time.
A Few Reasons an Update to Buyer Personas is Wise
Only 16% of B2B marketers rate their current lead nurturing initiatives as excellent, per the 2022 Lead Nurturing & Acceleration Benchmark Survey. Timing of touches and developing targeted content for each buyer stage/interest are the top two issues at 49% and 48% respectively. Declining response rates figure in at 33%.
This is an indication that marketers are not telling the right stories. Perhaps because the buyers they think they know are not the same as they were in the past.
On the buyer side, 73% of technology buyers who have yet to implement those solutions indicate high regret, according to Gartner. Further, the downsides of regret are many, including slower buy cycles, frustrated teams, and lower retention or growth for those accounts.
But an even bigger indication that your buyer personas may need a refresh is that Gartner also found that 67% of people involved in technology buying decisions are not in IT. So, if your main buyer personas have always been tech roles, you may be missing the mark with today’s marketing and sales outreach.
There are also the often-discussed changes, including how far along in the process buyers get before involving a vendor. The rising rate of deals that originate from a referral (65%), rather than buyers discovering your solution on their own.
Buying committees are getting bigger. The number of interactions during a purchase is now up to 27—including sales interactions. Fifty percent (or more) B2B complex deals end in no decision.
I could continue with this, but you get the point.
How to Refresh Your Buyer Personas
For those of you who know you’re targeting the right roles but are seeing a decline in engagement and response, refreshing personas can be streamlined by asking the right questions.
Some examples of questions to ask customers who’ve come on board in the last year include:
- Situational – what environmental/work conditions caused a shift in approach? Were there new roles/influencers involved in making the decision? Why? Did you encounter obstacles you weren’t expecting during the buying process?
- Technology – are you using new technology that changed the way you looked at solving the problem?
- Industry – what shifts in your industry made solving the problem more urgent? Do your customers have different goals or perspectives about the value they want from you?
- Goals – how have your company’s business objectives shifted, and did they impact how you considered solving this problem?
- Value – what outcomes have you achieved or are looking for in the short term? How about the longer term? (Depending on the status of implementation)
- Hindsight/Regret – what do you wish you would have known before buying? Is there anything you could have been more prepared for during implementation?
These are just a few examples of questions you can ask to get a current read on your existing personas.
If you’re not sure you’re targeting the right buyer personas, start by asking your sales reps to identify everyone involved in won deals – even if they didn’t interact personally with them. For lost deals, find out not just why the deal wasn’t won, but who may have been missing from the conversation.
Then, ask your customers the situational questions above and try to validate what you’ve heard. Once you have a new list of roles to target, go interview them to build fresh personas. Focus on what they needed to learn, what preconceived notions they dispelled during the process, their perspectives on the problem, and the outcomes (value scenarios) they expect from solving it.
Also, ask them what they found most valuable in their interactions with your company during the process—from the content they viewed to their conversations with your sales reps. Ask what else you could have provided to increase clarity and simplify their buying process.
After you’ve finished your customer interviews, then pull in the data about your best performing content related to won deals. The topics it covered. How it was accessed. When in the process it was viewed. The ebbs and flows of engagement.
Include Your Ideal Customer Profiles in the Refresh
Buyer personas don’t function in a vacuum. Each of them should be related to an account that fits an ICP. Just as there are pivots on personas as related to the size of the company and vertical and use case, your ICP will vary given your GTM strategy.
Today’s market presents a perfect time to re-evaluate your ICPs and refresh how you view them and even if you’ll continue to pursue them—at least in the near term. Given resource constraints, it’s prudent to take a hard look.
Some things to look at:
- Which industries face more impact from current market trends?
- Layoffs that indicate resource constraints (Or possible opportunities for what you sell?)
- Supply chain costs given inflation that impacts their GTM
- Consumer preferences that may impact revenue
- Given the above, can you identify new markets that can take advantage of these trends?
- Do they use technology that will help them adapt?
- What do the latest 10k filings indicate for a group of accounts in this ICP?
- Can you identify new objectives that indicate a shift needed in your messaging?
These are just a few ideas about how to refresh your ICPs to identify shifts you may need to make in your GTM strategy. While these shifts may be minor, you may also find new opportunities or indications that some ICPs should be put on hold for at least the short term until market trends shift again.
It’s worth noting that this review is also a good way to get a read on which accounts may need more action to help them continue to find value from working with your company so you can shift your retention programs to avoid unplanned churn.
Change is a Constant—For You and Your Buyers and Customers
Just in case it hasn’t become obvious, change is relentless and rapid. It’s not going to stop, so neither can we rest on “the way we’ve always done things.” Keeping pace with our buyers and customers is a constant mandate. Doing so strategically by revisiting buyer personas and ICPs will help keep the chaos at bay.
By re-evaluating the foundational components of your GTM strategy, you’ll enable both marketing and sales to address changing needs and wants, keeping the relevance level high and building trust as your audiences will continue to know you “get” them.
Incorporating what you learn into your messaging and content will help you create successful buyer-driven experiences that pay off in the achievement of company objectives.
Do you really want to leave that to chance?
Doug Kessler says
Love this. Personas too easily become shelfware. And most marketing teams actually forget their ICP and end up marketing to all bipeds. The world changes. Your personas should too.
Ardath Albee says
Shelfware is a great way to put it. Personas not only need to be updated but they need to be used. Well-built personas provide a wealth of relevant information that can transform the effectiveness of GTM strategies in execution. Not that I’m showing a bias or anything… 🙂