I have been working in the engineering software industry since 2009. One pain point hindering a proper B2B sales and marketing alignment was always omnipresent: the lack of diligence around the business critical concept of persona (buyer or user). The concept of CPO; Chief Personas Officer; could totally solve the usual lack of alignment between sales vs. marketing vs. product vs. CLIENT.

As explained on the Hubspot blog, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. I don’t want to re-explain the whole concept of buyer persona, but what you need to know is that, if well-executed, the exercise of defining buyer/user persona will just:

  • Make your marketing actions more targeted and significantly more powerful,
  • Raise the marketing credibility to an acceptable level for the sales department (God knows this problem of credibility is an issue),
  • Make your customers feel listened to and considered,
  • Become the cornerstone of your CRM approach,
  • Stop evaluating “by rule of thumb” what the customer/prospect wants to read, under which format, etc.

Why will I be focusing on this concept today?

A lot of marketers (believe me) have no idea of the customer/prospect pain points. They organize trade show, draft email campaigns, plan social media campaigns but have no idea of what the prospect/customer actually needs. It is a particularly big problem in the engineering world, where the targeted personas are among the most rational and busy people that I have met in my professional life. They want something concrete, on par with their reality, or they will just turn down your offer and never read about you again.

Chief Personas Officer would work at the corner of sales & marketing, reporting to the VP of sales & marketing and be in touch with product management, product marketing, sales and corporate marketing. This would be a solution for many reasons:

  • It would compensate the fact that not all marketers have a engineering/technical background. Not understanding the product technically is ok if you have a perfect knowledge of the customer/prospect pain points, expectations, profile, etc.
  • It would ensure a permanent and multi-offer personas ecosystem, centralized by one person, and validated by the VP of Sales & Marketing, which would ensure the long-term accuracy of those buyer and user personas,
  • The CPO would be involved in the marketing programs-creation, making sure that we are not wasting our efforts in random marketing actions, while sales are secretly thinking (they are not so rude…) that only they understand who the client is and what the client needs,
  • It would maintain the portfolio of personas across the company, and develop exponentially the buyer and user personas documentation. How? By setting up interviews at the client’s side with buyer personas, user personas. In a recent article I wrote for Jeff Davis’ Alignment Blog I explained why and how spending time selflessly listening the customer (and other users) candidly sharing their thoughts on your solutions & services is one of the best things I’ve done for my company, and for me as a B2B marketer,
  • The CPO would directly support the efficiency of Social Selling programs, as a focused and appropriate content marketing approach is the cornerstone of any Social Selling program’s success.

I would bet my left hand that if you implemented this properly, the impact on your Sales & Marketing Alignment will be almost immediate, and you will never hear a sales person say “Marketers are nice guys, but they have no idea what they are talking about…”

How to implement this?

  • You need to hire someone just halfway between marketing and engineering. This will matter when the time will come to get appointments for the client’s. Don’t hire a junior,
  • Get help from an agency specialized in setting up buyer/user personas,
  • Create a proper Personas Program launch in all your BUs, in absolutely all departments. The CEO needs to support this, conceptually and financially. T&L of the CPO will be high, hardly less than 50k€ per year,
  • Product Marketing & Product Management should be deeply involved in the creation of the Personas Program,
  • In year one, focus on Buyer Personas. User Personas can wait for the following year. It is a slightly different approach, and it will be much easier to manage once you will have got the Directors, Managers and other VPs on board your Buyer Personas Program.

Yes, I believe that this concept, if properly applied, can solve 80% of the issues experienced by marketers and make them successful, in particular in a B2B context (credibility, efficiency, agility, productivity). Not to mention that the value brought by the CPO will tangibly reflect on sales and product department’s success.

What do you think of the concept of Chief Personas Officer? Would that sound like a feasible alternative for your company? Would it have a positive and tangible impact to your business’ efficiency and sales & marketing alignment?

[Top image copyright: 1mn30 agency]

Written by Aurélien Gohier