By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise.  Recent Guests: Jim KeenanJoanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.

We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

We were thrilled this last time to be able to our own Josh Baez, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing about The Perfect Persona:  How to increase prospect engagement, response and conversion.  Game of Thrones is also involved…. Listen in or read our conversation below:

 

Matt:  Hey, it is the end of August, as we record this, this is the last day of August. If you are a sales professional, please, listen to this podcast tomorrow. If you’re listening to us live, I love it. Thank you very much, but, go close some deals. Get some deals across the line for the month. We’ll be here for you tomorrow. Thank you everyone for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio today.

We are here live on the lead management radio network every Thursday at 2:30 eastern, 11:30 Pacific. If you’re listening us from podcast, appreciate you subscribing, and appreciate you listening in. You can find us on iTunes and the Google Play store.

Every week we are featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing, sharing some best practices and insights on what’s working in today’s market. I am very excited, Paul. Today, usually we have a call in guest from somewhere around the world, today, my guest is literally two feet away from me. We’re going to talk personas today, and the power of personas, and the importance of personas. With me, literally in the Heinz Marketing Studio, this is a world-class studio.

Paul:  It’s big. It’s big. I’ve been there.

Matt:  Yeah, it’s got microphones and everything. In the studio with me today, I have Josh Baez, who is on our marketing team, and is working it.

Josh Baez:  Woah!

Matt:  There you go! Excited to have you here Josh. Thanks for joining us.

Josh Baez:  Thank you for having me on your program, Matthew.

Matt:  Thank you so much! I want to talk about personas, and I’m excited to have Josh with us today. He and his team are doing demand gen programs and building pipeline for a lot of companies in various industries around B2B. I spend a lot of time building personas and centering a lot of effort in personas. Josh, talk a little bit about why personas are so important and what the approach is you guys typically take to that.

Josh Baez:  Yeah. I think that the important thing to remember about personas is that it kind of helps you develop an empathetic view of who you’re selling to. I think that that’s the most important part. Not only with marketing, but just, being a person in general. You need to have empathy if you want to really engage the world in any kind of meaningful way.

I think that when you start to develop personas, you’re able to put yourself into the buyer’s shoes. By doing that, you’re able to see the world from their point of view. What are their pains? What are they dealing with? What are their goals here? What does your solution do to help that?

Matt:  We’re talking about personas and how important these are. I think a lot of people just know what they want to sell. They know what their product does. They don’t think about that through the eyes of their target audience. Talk a little bit about how those personas need to start with what’s needed. Start with the prospects perspective, and how one persona isn’t necessarily enough in a complex B2B selling opportunity.

Josh Baez:  To address your first point, when it comes to creating personas, I think that the best thing you can probably do is interview the people that you’re selling to now. That’s something that we try to do whenever we’re helping clients develop personas. We interview the customers. We ask them, “What are you using the platform for and how is this impacting your business? What were you doing before this even happened? What kind of pains were you suffering before then?”

You’re able to get insight from them in that way. The importance of having multiple personas is, you’re able to identify the multiple people that are in today’s new buying committee. We did a recent report with Snap App of one of our partners. We were able to identify that today’s buying committee is made up of all kinds of people, all kinds of different generations. It’s now made up of the millennials, Gen-X, baby boomers, but, within all of those cohorts, you’ve got even more insight into the different levels of people as you get into their roles.

Matt:  You reference millennials. I think it’s one of many examples of the kind of criteria that you want to be aware of as you’re developing personas. Josh and team just finished some pretty ground-breaking research on generational impact on buying journey. It looks at some pretty stark differences with millennials and how they engage, and where they engage, and what channels they follow. We just finished that. We’re publishing it shortly, with Snap App.

If you’re listening and interested, definitely send us a note on Twitter or through email and we’ll be happy to get you a copy of that as well. I think it speaks to the complexity of what those personas need to have in them and why they’re so important to engage. A lot of people think of personas as something that impacts content, and that certainly is true. Talk about why personas are important to have for your sales strategy, and for the sales team as well.

Josh Baez:  Right, well, the worst thing that can happen is when marketing sends leads to sales that aren’t ready to close or that sales, they don’t really know how best to follow-up with a lead, because, they don’t know what marketing has touched them with before. I think that by sharing these persona details with the rest of your teams, you’re able to get more visibility from them. You’re able to align your efforts. You’re able to communicate with them in consistent ways that really speaks to the complexity of the problems that they’re facing.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Josh Baez, who is part of the Heinz Marketing Team and is a veteran of personas across multiple industries and multiple products. Not only with the work that we’ve seen that comes to us from new clients, but in the industry, you’ve seen a variety of different types of personas. You’ve seen good personas. You’ve seen bad personas. What are thing that separate the good from the bad? I think, in terms of operational personas as well, it’s one thing to have depth of detail, it’s another thing to make it something that is a living, breathing document. Something that people can actually use. Talk a little bit about that.

Josh Baez:  I think that the different between a good persona and a bad persona really comes down to, what story does it tell? I’ve seen a lot of personas that companies will build out with information about their home life, about their family life, about their kids, about what interests them, they’re activities that they do after work, I think that that information is good to kind of ground it. At the same time, that’s not information that any team can really utilize to better sell the product that they’re selling, unless it directly relates to it. I think that making sure that the information that you have with the personas is information that’s usable, but also helps to develop a little bit more empathy with the person.

Matt:  I think empathy is critical, right? I mean, empathy is a big part of this. I think, before you’re able to sell what you want to sell, before you’re able to get someone interested in your product, you have to get them interested in the problem. You have to get someone interested in solving a problem they may or may not know that exists. That’s a big part of personas.

I think another challenge people have when it comes to personas, is that it’s intimidating. I think people think, “Well, I know my customer. I have enough institutional knowledge to be able to get this right. I don’t really want to spend that much time doing this.”

How do you get started with personas if people aren’t used to doing personas today or aren’t used to spending the time and effort to make this happen? What are some ways to get started?

Josh Baez:  Yeah, so like I said before, interviewing your customers is crucial. It’s really important to get that customer feedback on how they’re using it and what kinds of needs and issues they’re having with. You’re able to learn, essentially, what their goals are, with the product.

Then, you also get insight from your sales team, since they’re really the ones who are interfacing one-on-one directly with the people that they’re selling to. I think that they’ll have a lot of information to give. You know, what’s worked for them in the past. What’s something that they’ve noticed that marketing maybe hasn’t been able to pick up on because there’s kind of a wall between marketing and the lead with email and things that aren’t, essentially, one-on-one sales calls. I think that the sales team also plays a critical role in persona development.

Matt:  I’m glad you brought that up, because, I was just talking about input to personas. I think a lot of companies have a lot of institutional knowledge around their customers and who should be a part of that. How else can you leverage for those customer-facing teams, whether it’s sales, customer service, account management, how do you best leverage them to input?

Then, once you’ve developed that persona, I imagine that it’s best to make it sort of a dynamic thing moving forward. Your personas change. The buying behavior changes. What are the best ways to leverage some of those customer-facing teams to gather that information and incorporate that into personas? Is there a cadence that makes sense? Is there a collection process that you’ve seen work particularly well? Especially for organizations that maybe don’t have a ton of resources and need to do this efficiently.

Josh Baez:  Yeah, I think that, of course, you can have sort of a cadence set up where you schedule meetings with different people and with different customers and with the different people that you’re trying to sell to. At the same time, I think that a lot of people these days, they’re so afraid of not looking professional, that it actually hinders them from just doing the simple thing, which is just reaching out and asking.

I think that, a lot of the times, we’re so concerned with keeping up this business persona, no pun intended, just making sure they’re like, “Oh, I want to make sure that I look really smart in front of this person. I want to make sure that I don’t look like an idiot by asking these really obvious questions.”

At the same time, these are questions that you have, and if you have them, there are probably other people that also have them. So, I don’t think that asking questions is a big issue here.

Matt:  Well, let’s talk a little bit about the questions you ask. I think, in some cases, you don’t always want to ask a customer an obvious question you should know the answer to. You also don’t want to assume you know the answer to the question either, right? Where do you strike that balance?

I guess, this is related to the way that your inside sales prospects might engage with people. You create some content, you create an asset or offer for particular persona. That lead goes to a sales team. How do you use those personas now to create qualifying questions that the sales organization can ask, yet gather new information that helps them to sell and helps them to qualify, but, also makes best use of the prospect’s time?

Josh Baez:  Obviously, you want to make sure that the prospect is respected and that you’re not wasting their time when you make these personas. I think that, ultimately, it all comes down to, how can you make this better for the prospect? I think that, it all comes down to them. If you can really put yourself in their shoes, you’re able to not only sell more effectively, but you’re able to make the message more impactful. You’re able to make your content more meaningful. You’re able to tell a broader story that is more relevant for them.

Matt:  You having fun on Sales Pipeline Radio?

Paul:  Love it man! This is great!

Matt:  This is great! I’m so excited to have Josh on Sales Pipeline Radio. As you know, Paul, I just wing this pretty much every week. I mean, Josh is sitting here, Josh has extensive notes. He’s prepared. I think he spent the last 48 hours like he’s cramming for finals.

Josh Baez:  Last two years.

Matt:  And it shows. Last two years. He knew two years ago, he was going to be on Sales Pipeline Radio today.

Paul:  It was his dream. It was his dream.

Matt:  This is bucket list stuff here, Paul. Speaking of bucket list, we’re going to have to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more persona talk, with Josh Baez from Heinz Marketing. This is Matt Heinz, you’re listening to Sales Pipeline Radio.

*Break*

Matt:  Hey, it is the last day of August, but we have a ton of great content planned for you in September. Next week, we are going to be doing this show live from beautiful Cleveland, Ohio at the content marketing world event.

Our guest next week is going to be Daniel McGinn. He is the author of “Psyched Up: How the Science of Mental Preparation Can Help You Succeed.” The following week we’ve got Anthony Iannarino, one of the most interesting and most provocative voices in sales strategy today. His new book is “The Lost Art of Closing.” We’re going to talk about what it means to get deals across the line and what sales and marketing can do together on this.

Speaking of content and getting deals across the line. I think we’ve had a number of clients this week, Josh, we’re talking to Josh Baez, who’s on our marketing team here at Heinz Marketing. Excited to have him on the radio program.

A lot of clients this week are marketing clients, are thinking, “What do I do to help sales get across the line? What do I do to help a sales team when it’s really sort of in the final strokes?”

A lot of what we’ve come up with is it’s really sort of bespoke, custom, precise content. How can you use those personas? How can you go back to some of those insights at the beginning of the buying journey to really help get deals closed in the final stages?

Josh Baez:  We’ve been talking a lot about empathy and about persona building and how empathy plays a crucial role in that. When it comes to bringing deals across the line, I think that what marketing can really do is communicate not only with the people that they’re working with, but, also work to ensure that what they’re communicating to a prospect is actually relevant.

Say you’re creating a white paper for someone, and it’s all about their needs based on research that you’ve done. That all can be great, but, if the angle of that white paper doesn’t align with the ultimate goals of your prospect, for whatever reason, be it generational differences, goals in mind for what they’re focused on now, then, I think that no matter what you’re producing, people aren’t going to read it unless they can clearly see the connection between them and the asset.

Matt:  Yeah, I think that’s right. Do you think that the producers of Game of Thrones have personas? I mean, clearly it’s based off of the books, right? Of course, now, the last couple seasons, we are way off the reservation. So, you’ve got the producers now writing their own stuff. But, let’s apply this to some real-life scenarios.

I mean, how important are personas to doing a show like Game of Thrones? How important is it that producers stick to those personas over time?

Josh Baez:  I think that the Game of Thrones producers, they obviously know their audience, what they want to see is drama, but, they want to see it done well. They don’t want your Sex in the Cities, they want something that’s real. They want something that’s bloody and brutal. I think that by understanding that, they can really deliver something that the fans will love.

Obviously, being a TV show, it’s not something that will appeal to every one every single time. But, for the most part, I think that having a clear understanding of who your audience is can ultimately just give positive benefit to it.

Matt:  Well, knowing who your audience is. Then, also knowing who you’re selling to, right? I mean, in HBO’s case, they are not just selling to you and I, who are watching this show, and who are getting enjoyment out of it. In many shows, they’re also selling to advertisers.

Josh Baez:  Right.

Matt:  I mean, you’re trying to reach a certain demographic. That’s a big part of the persona development, is not only knowing whether the content’s going to hit its mark. But, also ensuring that you understand the model for how that content is going to get monetized, as well.

Josh Baez:  Right, and I mean, that kind of leads me to start thinking about trailers for movies and stuff. Let’s give an example, a movie called, “Suicide Squad,” that was a DC Comics property. They marketed it as something that would be fun, really light-hearted, really kind of dark humor, but, ultimately, just a fun romp. When the audience came into the theater, it turned out to be really, really serious. It was marketed completely differently than what people were expecting. I think that expectation setting at the beginning is a crucial part of ensuring that you’re getting a positive response from your audience.

Matt:  I mean, it was also marketed as a good movie, right? Which also seemed to be a part of the bait and switch. Paul, did you have a comment on our-

Paul:  I did, and it mirrors what somebody tweeted in here. We’re both thinking the same thing. Like with the example you just gave, what if the persona turns out to be different than the one you envisioned? You thought it was this person that you were playing to. You thought you knew your customer and everything about them, and it turns out to be somebody totally different is watching this thing.

Matt:  Well, that happens a lot. That happens in a lot of contexts, right? Where, especially, you build the product that you think is for one audience, and all of the sudden, a totally different audience reacts to it. We were talking earlier about the need to adjust your personas accordingly.

Josh Baez:  Definitely.

Matt:  It may not be a small, incremental adjustment. They may be a big-ass pivot that you make to try to achieve that. Just, back to Game of Thrones, just because!

So, it seems like a more difficult thing to do. If I have a show called like, “Quaker Cross-Stitching,” that might be a fairly narrow…

Paul:  I would watch that show, Quaker Cross-Stitching.

Matt:  If it was done in tiny houses, I’m in. I’m totally in.

Game of Thrones is probably the closest we have today, to the old Family Ties and Cosby Show, and M.A.S.H., and I Love Lucy. The shows that everybody watched.

Josh Baez:  It’s Bill Cosby with dragons.

Paul:  Must watch TV. Must watch TV. Right.

Matt:  Bill Cosby with dragons. I’m not going anywhere near that. This is a family show. When you’ve got something that is kind of ubiquitous like that, do personas still matter? Does it matter for you to have a better understanding of who you’re attracting when you’re attracting such a wide audience?

Josh Baez:  I think that when it comes to something as wide as that, I think that there are definitely ways to ensure that your personas make sense. The only question is, where do you draw the line from one persona to another? I think that that might be an issue that a lot of people … Especially for something that has such a wide offering, it’s a hard distinction to make.

Matt:  Well, and let me bring up another pop-culture example of multiple personas, and in some cases, competing interests in those personas. Let’s take something like, I may be getting my comic book heroes mixed up here. Yeah. Like, the Avengers, right? I like the Avengers movies. They are very entertaining. For me, it’s just like, take my brain off, put it aside, and just watch a really good just action movie. Some people, they know the backstories, they’ve read the comics. For me, it’s just entertainment. For other people, it may be like, “Oh they got this detail wrong,” or “They got this detail wrong.”

Now, you’ve got multiple personas, but, you’ve got almost competing personas.

Josh Baez:  That’s a good point. I think that when it comes to different mediums, you have a different audience for a different medium. In the case of movies, some people prefer comic books, some people prefer movies. I think that there’s a big issue to be had when people start assuming that one medium is supposed to follow one-to-one to another medium.

It’s like when we’re creating content, this white paper isn’t going to be the same as this infographic. It’s going to have the same basis of content, but, they’re not going to be one-to-one. I think that when you start making those assumptions, that, as a buyer, when you start making those assumptions, you’re always going to be disappointed, basically.

Matt:  So, the channel mix might end up changing the way that you weight some of that.

Josh Baez:  Yeah.

Matt:  Like, we’ve seen that cross-generational buyers still spend a lot of time on supplier websites, but, just as a preview of this, the generational research, we see that the millennials are spending less time on supplier websites and spending more time with video, and social, and shorter form content.

Josh Baez:  Yeah.

Matt:  Interesting. This is fascinating. I mean, we could go on for a long time about personas. I know we just got a couple minutes left to go here. We always ask at the end of the program, sort of a question around the Mount Rushmore of sales. If I were to ask you sort of a Mount Rushmore of B2B marketing and a Mount Rushmore of content, who are some of the people that have influenced you? If you say it’s me, then I’m kicking you out of the studio, but is-

Josh Baez:  I guess I’m going to leave here, Matt.

Matt:  Yeah, right, but, who are the people that you’ve read? Who are the people that you’ve paid attention to as you have grown in your career in marketing so far? Who has had an influence on you?

Josh Baez:  Obviously, it’s a cop out to say the people at this job, so, I won’t say that, but, know that that is a given.

Matt:  You can say your manager and your team. I know that they are listening and that’s acceptable.

Josh Baez:  Maria, Rebecca, this one’s for you guys. I also really love just reading about, not specifically ways that B2B marketing can be improved. But, just ways that we, as writers and as people who are consumers of content can be more proactive about how we’re creating something. In all of the blog posts that I write for Heinz, they’re all centered around the human aspect of things.

I think that having a wide range of sources, not just limited to B2B or to whatever industry you’re in, it helps you get a better understanding and a firmer grasp on what’s being said out there today, so that you’re not creating content in a vacuum.

Matt:  Amen to that. I heard you said multiple times over the last 30 minutes, talk about being human and really make things more relatable. I think that’s ultimately the objective and the purpose of a lot of good personas.

If you want to learn more about personas, you can certainly check out more information at heinzmarketing.com. We’ve got some templates and other information on your content strategy, and how you can make those more human. If you liked your conversation and you want to share this content with others on your marketing team, you’ll be able to find a replay of this podcast, as well as every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio on salespipelineradio.com. If you like the nature of what we’re talking about … We don’t get to talk about Game of Thrones every week, we absolutely talk about Suicide Squad every week, every week.

Josh Baez:  Every single week.

Matt:  Every week. At least once-

If you want to hear more conversations all about sales and marketing, definitely find us on the iTunes Store and Google Play. That’s all the time we got for today. Thank you, Josh, for joining us. For my fine producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz, we’ll see you next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.