Account Personas Illuminate The B2B ABM Decision Process

Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

Corporate decision-making is messy, confounded by perceptions, expectations and personalities, with individual and professional motivations that often conflict. The more we understand about the process and the people, especially within Account Based Marketing (ABM), the better the odds of a sale.

Therefore, let me introduce you to the concept of Account Personas.

Symphony or Cacophony

Are you attuned to the complexity of voices involved? They may be in harmony or they may be atonal. Are you ahead or behind the beat?

Marketing’s job is to form a consensus to win the account. However, statistics suggest that too often, we are not sufficiently in synch — 60% of B2B engagements end in no decision.

“Accounts” are best viewed as aggregations of disparate individuals rather than as unified entities. Each is a mosaic. They operate as an eclectic committee that needs to be won over persona by persona.

While we typically segment accounts by external characteristics like size or industry, this does not reflect the most important internal issue — what is the power path by which this account can be won. Which persona is the lead on this account? Who is the key opposition? On what basis will the group select a winner, if they can?

Account Persona Case History

Let me tell you a story about a really smart technology company with disruptive technology for the enterprise. They have come up with a longer lasting, more powerful, smaller, cleaner way to store and retrieve energy, in counterpoint to batteries, which can be noxious, are large and occasionally fail. Did I mention that this technology is new and thus has not been tested over time? And, because we are early in its lifecycle, it’s also expensive.

The Road to Success

The company engaged in generating both Prospect Personas and an overall Account Persona to gain an indepth understanding of the decision making process in each targeted account.

Here’s what the Account Persona revealed about a telecommunications company — in all its beauty:

  • The CEO only cares that he has a signed agreement regarding how many micro-seconds it will take for all of his critical data to be back online if there’s an outage and the IT infrastructure goes down. Doesn’t care how it gets done. Has a say in the final purchase decision.
  • The CFO is open to the concept of buying an expensive, superior technology to decrease cost of ownership, but is under short-term pressure to push down costs. She is wary of being on the bleeding edge of technology. Gets vendor info through purchasing. She signs the check.
  • The CIO is very experienced. He lives and breathes data recovery. Losing power is his worst nightmare, and he’s survived a few. Batteries have always saved him. This makes him unlikely to “cross the chasm”.
    His peer network is his primary source of information on innovation (engineers are his second). He also learns online, at executive-level events and from the trades, which he skims online in the office and reads at home on paper. If interested, he assigns indepth research to his assistant. He’s involved with key vendors, leery of others. He makes the purchase recommendation.
    When exposed to the technology, his remark was “unproven”. He was specific about the testing and results that might eventually get him to try the technology, if not change his mind.
  • Engineers are voracious, gobbling bits of information from their favored websites, communities, and social media. Always curious, looking for new ideas, innovative technologies that do things more elegantly — better, cleaner and faster. If an idea intrigues, they research (and they were very specific regarding the information they require), valuing anonymity until convinced. They feel a responsibility is to champion such innovation to the CIO.
    When exposed to the technology they were impressed but cautioned that the data center’s batteries were unlikely to be ousted anytime soon. Instead, they brainstormed, what about use in remote installations, like switching stations on top of mountains, where they are critical to operations and maintenance is almost impossible.
  • Purchasing is responsible for vendor evaluation — both initially and ongoing — and their recommendation is part of the decision making process. They get their information from trade shows, vendor presentations and online research. They have an uneasy relationship with Engineering.
    The Account Persona, and the individual Prospect Personas, equipped our innovating technology company for success:
  • The corporate consideration journey was revealed — how, when, and why the influencers and decision makers acted individually and interactively
  • The most likely path to a sale was revealed and, in fact, endorsed by the influencers.

ABM Success Hinges on the Individuality of Each Account

Beyond size or industry, each account has its own unique orchestration and power map. No matter how much we segment by external characteristics, they do not capture the reality of what it takes to win the account.

The Account Persona gives us an unprecedented, and rich view inside the corporate curtain, helping marketing to create messaging that becomes a competitive differentiator, streamlines the consideration process, and coordinates with Sales to increase conversion and revenue.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor (and Free Resources)

It’s the challenge of ABM that led us to create Account Personas and Account Journeys. The Account Persona looks at the most typical plays within an account and maps who plays what role. The Account Journey tracks who is active at which stages, their concerns, and what they are looking to accomplish.

Now for some free resources to help you in your ABM efforts:

Benchmark your personas with a free copy of our annual proprietary research, The Power and Potential of Personas. This is the only cross-industry study on the effectiveness of B2B buyer personas.

Personas with Punch is the newest ebook from B2P Partners. It is designed to equip and encourage B2B marketers with real stories of six companies where personas made a real difference for marketers, the companies, and their bottom line.

Got a challenge managing all this? Need to orchestrate all the players to perform as one? We have a baton and score waiting for you.

About the Author | Scott Hornstein

International author, lecturer and consultant, Scott Hornstein has worked with clients in all phases of marketing strategy, research, and implementation. b2p partners helps B2B companies significantly improve the performance of their prospecting efforts by moving beyond a product orientation to a prospect focus.