How effective are you at using personas to guide your B2B messaging and content creation? This guest post from Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions can help you evaluate your B2B buyer persona effectiveness score and pinpoint areas that need improvement.

Does your buyer persona have what it takes to contribute effectively to content relevance that delivers increased marketing performance?

According to the Benchmark Study on Understanding B2B Buyer Personas released by Cintell, less than 30 percent of B2B marketers who exceeded their goals said they were very effective at using personas. It’s worth noting that companies that meet or exceed their revenue goals are 2.4x as likely to be effective or very effective at using personas than those who miss their goals.

The same study found that B2B marketers who exceed their revenue goals also use their personas for multiple purposes. The top three include using personas for messaging, demand generation, and sales training.

Another study, B2P’s The Power and Potential of Personas 2016 [PDF], found that the number of marketers reporting their personas as only somewhat effective has risen to 63 percent from 49 percent the year before. It’s telling that 86 percent of personas rated as ineffective were based purely on internal assumptions, without any external research or interviews.

B2B buyer personas are a tool that should inform content marketing strategy, help you produce engaging content that resonates with a specific audience, and increase momentum in the buying process. If your personas don’t help your company achieve these objectives, then there’s work to be done to improve them.

This said, randomly trying to improve the effectiveness of personas wastes time and energy. By answering the questions in each section below, based on a SWOT approach, you’ll be able to pinpoint where to focus your attention. Improving your personas will deliver dividends to the ROI you’ll reap from your investment in developing them.

Determine Your Buyer Persona Effectiveness Score

Strengths indicate that your buyer persona has the basics it needs to inform an effective content marketing strategy across the continuum of the buying process.

Rank the following Strength statements with a score of 1 (not true), 3 (could be better), or 5 (well done).

B2B Buyer Persona Strengths 1 3 5
Includes a narrative that helps step into the persona’s issues and situation
Maps questions, needs, and drivers at each stage of the buying process
Identifies obstacles that could impede buying at each stage of the buying process
Portrays the persona’s relationships and influence on the buying committee
Identifies channel and content topic and format preferences
Subtotal for each column
Total score


Weaknesses 
identify areas of improvement to help you capitalize on the Strengths and Opportunities provided by your buyer personas.

Rank the following Weakness statements with a score of 1 (agree), 3 (somewhat agree), or 5 (disagree).

B2B Buyer Persona Weaknesses 1 3 5
Includes demographic/lifestyle info that is ineffective at informing content design
Objectives, problems, and needs are too high-level to point to any specific application
Leans more heavily toward title than role
Doesn’t address the persona’s status quo or current situation
Has a number of similarities to other buyer personas you’ve built—not unique
Subtotal for each column
Total score


Opportunities 
are indicative of advanced techniques that can be applied to enhance the Strengths of your buyer personas.

Rank the following Opportunity statements with a score of 1 (not doing), 3 (sort of doing), or 5 (am doing).

B2B Buyer Persona Opportunities 1 3 5
Identifies ways to help the persona resolve conflicts with others to move forward
Points to tone and style that will improve content resonance
Helps you shift context with content as the persona progresses through buying stages
Enables you to create consistency of experience in execution across channels
Informs the development of a content strategy across the entire buying process
Subtotal for each column
Total score


Threats
 
are warning signs that indicate actions are needed to make the most of buyer persona constructs.

Rank the following Threat statements with a score of 1 (agree), 3 (somewhat agree), or 5 (disagree).

B2B Buyer Persona Threats 1 3 5
We haven’t been successful socializing buyer personas across the organization
We didn’t use external research or customer interviews to create our personas
We don’t use buyer personas in our company beyond our marketing team
We haven’t updated our personas in more than one year
Different functions have created their own personas independent of ours
Subtotal for each column
Total score

A score of 25 for each section indicates that your B2B buyer personas are effectively developed and that you’re using them to best effect. Take a look at any 3s in each section. Improving those will cause the fastest impact on how your personas affect your marketing programs. However, addressing any 1s will result in better effectiveness. If the total score for your buyer persona across all sections is less than 87, your buyer personas are performing well below their true potential.

Look at the relationships between the areas where your buyer personas excel and where they are lacking. For example, if your personas ranked a 3 for socializing them across the enterprise and a 1 for a lack of external research and customer interviews in the Threats section, doing that work will help you improve the acceptance of personas within other functions. The work will also likely help you identify potential areas of bias or assumptions that have limited their performance as a useful tool for your team, as well as for others.

Although the B2P study found that 49 percent of marketers created buyer personas in-house, with no expense, the 51 percent who did invest in buyer persona development spent $18,000 per persona, on average. That’s a lot to spend to not get the full benefits buyer personas can bring. For those who built personas in-house, there may be a few things you haven’t thought of that you’ll find helpful by scoring your personas.

This blog originally appeared in the Marketing Interactions blog.

Want to find out how content can help you make the most of your personas? Let’s talk.