This article is taken from a panel discussion that took place at the Developer Marketing Summit in July 2021. Catch up with all the sessions on OnDemand.
In this panel session, key topics were discussed by a panel of product marketing professionals, including:
- Jayne Pooley, Director of Global Marketing at Keyloop
- Ankit Shah, Director of Solutions Marketing at Quickbase
- Martin Bakal, Product Marketing Director at OpenLegacy
- Sam Richard, VP of Growth Team at OpenView
The quartet focused on a variety of topics, such as:
- How the developer customer demographic is different from a typical B2B customer
- Differentiation between user and buyer personas
- Incorporating personas into your marketing strategy
- Encouraging cross-functional adoption of personas
- Refining buyer personas
About our panelists
Jayne Pooley: I'm Jayne Pooley. I'm based just outside London in a place called Windsor. I work for a company called Keyloop, which is focused predominantly on creating technology to make everything about buying and owning a car better.
I’ve just been promoted to Company Marketing Director, but before that, I was Product Marketing Director. I've worked in multiple disciplines across marketing over the last 20-plus years, so I’ve gained a wealth of experience in looking at personas and utilizing them across the buying journey.
Ankit Shah: I'm Ankit Shah; I lead our Solutions Marketing practice at Quickbase. My background is in computer engineering, but I'm super passionate about understanding customer needs and developing solutions, so this topic is near and dear to me.
For those that don't know, Quickbase provides a no-code operational agility platform that enables organizations to improve their operations through real-time insights and automation across complex processes and disparate systems. It’s an exciting time to be here.
Martin Bakal: I'm Martin Bakal, Product Marketing Director for OpenLegacy. I've been working with developers and development teams for a long time in various roles across several companies.
At OpenLegacy, we generate APIs from legacy systems in no-code, low-code, and full-code formats. All of this is done in close collaboration with application designers and developers.
Sam Richard: And I'm Sam Richard; I’m moderating this panel. I work at OpenView Venture Partners as the Senior Director of Growth. I specialize in product-led growth, and I focus heavily on developer marketing and developer-focused tooling.
How is the developer customer demographic different from your typical B2B customer?
Sam Richard: How is the developer customer demographic different from the usual B2B audience, and has this demographic changed over time?
Martin Bakal: I've been in different industries that’ve all focused on developers over the years. Back in the day, it was much more about generating code and developing tools to do that.
Over the years, as no-code and low-code have come in, that’s changed. Our customers aren’t all developers anymore – we cater to designers too, who maybe don't know as much about code and don't have to work with it as much. Expecting them to understand code and have to write it would slow everything down.
We've also seen a shift towards people. Our customers want us to understand their business and the business needs that they're building for, and be more involved in that process.
So we've seen a change, but our customers are still technical people – they have to understand how to design and build something, and that makes them different from a consumer of a mobile app or something like that.
Sam Richard: This is probably especially applicable at QuickBase because it's a no-code platform. Ankit, how do you extend your personas to folks who don’t necessarily consider themselves developers?
Ankit Shah: We have a couple of different flavors of a buyer persona, but we're not primarily targeting buyers in IT with technical backgrounds. Because of the platform we offer, our buyer personas are mostly people who work within the business. They’re people that see themselves as problem solvers and have the mindset of improving, digitizing, and automating their processes.
We tend to view these folks as influencers because they’re often the ones that we talk to early on to understand their pain points. More importantly, they have the willingness to solve problems for their team.
Differentiation between user and buyer personas
Sam Richard: One of the things I've covered in my research is how developer-focused software is on the bleeding edge of product-led growth and the try-before-you-buy mentality, which separates the buyer persona from the user persona. Ultimately, you're going to start everyone off as a user if they can trial the product for free.
Martin, have you experienced any sort of differentiation between user and buyer personas as you've gotten more granular?
Martin Bakal: Yes, very much so. However, it’s been challenging because we’re in the process of releasing our low-code/no-code product.
Before that, we had a full-code on-prem product with a full PoC. Even with that product, you could see the differences in the user persona versus the buyer persona because either the designer or the developer was using the platform during our PoCs. And then the enterprise architects and CTOs involved in the process were more like the buyer persona.
Now we have a product where you complete a trial in the cloud. This is more focused on those no-code/low-code people, and I think we're gonna see even more of a differentiation.
The person who tries the product won’t necessarily be the person who's going to buy it – our buyer persona is more likely to be a CXO, an Architect, or a Development Manager.
All this means you have to sell the usability of the product to the user, and then you have to sell the fact that it fits into their architecture and it’s gonna help them modernize their organization to the buyer. You have to balance both those things.
Incorporating personas into your marketing strategy
Sam Richard: How are you incorporating these personas into your marketing strategy? If you’re distinguishing between the buyer and the user, what does that look like from a tactical perspective?
Jayne Pooley: My team and I are working on building the right tools for our personas throughout the sales funnel. In a previous company, that's exactly what we put in place – we not only built both buyer and user personas, but we mapped them to the product portfolio and grouped them accordingly.
We grouped them based on their industries as well, so we could talk about their challenges and why certain solutions would be best suited for them. We didn't just understand the personas’ motivations, goals, and challenges: we positioned them in terms of the outcomes our products and solutions could provide.
That formed the basis of a strong sales toolkit. Up until that point, sales were used to going in and selling to one type of buyer persona. We were challenging them to speak to more people, and some of those people were more technically orientated. This toolkit enabled them to do that.
In some of the sales enablement training and workshops, we did with sales, we introduced personas. We started by giving them a persona they knew and loved and had long-standing relationships with; of course, they related to that right away. Then we gave them a scenario where they had to prepare a sales pitch as if they were talking to a customer for the first time about this product.
After they put that together, we then introduced two new personas that they'd never come across before, but they had confidence that the personas were correct because of the first persona that they knew so well.
Effectively, what that meant is they had to adapt how they positioned and sold using the material that marketing had produced, from sales slides to product sheets. That took off, and it’s something I'm looking to bring into my new organization.
I think once you've got the salespeople invested in those personas, you've got the basis of a strong methodology to go out and address the needs of those customers. Then you can start to gather feedback, so you're constantly refining those personas as you go.
This means you can build much more targeted marketing campaigns. You've got that mapping and alignment to the portfolio and you understand your market’s industries and challenges, so you can be much more specific. It’s a much stronger way, particularly from a B2B perspective, to address customer needs.
Encouraging cross-functional adoption of personas
Sam Richard: One of the biggest problems I hear from up-and-coming folks who are specializing in personas and product marketing is getting these personas adopted across the board with the rest of the organization. What are some of the tactics you’ve used to socialize these personas and make sure you're not in a silo on your own?
Martin Bakal: You can be in a silo on your own if you're not careful. I try, first of all, to show the personas to the salespeople, especially new hires, and have regular meetings with them. Then I train people on it, particularly sales and marketing, and I make sure it germinates from there.
Whenever we’re running a marketing campaign, I also make sure we go after a specific persona and try to build that into the campaign, so people know about it. Luckily, in my company, we've done things as a group around personas before, so that thought process is already there.
Sam Richard: Ankit, I know QuickBase is huge. How are you getting buy-in? Is it more systematic, or do you feel like you're lobbying different parts of the organization?
Ankit Shah: One of the great things I saw a couple of years ago when we were going through a transformation at our org, is that we developed a much better point of view on our buyer persona, starting at the leadership level. We got a much clearer alignment between sales, marketing, and product by refining our buyer personas.
We have to think about how to activate what we learn from that. It's not just about getting in front of sales and talking about the buyer persona; it’s about making sure that we're activating that information in sellers’ email sequences and battlecards.
I think that's where it’s important to have a conversation with the head of sales and tell them how you can translate the insights you’re developing on buyer personas into actual tools for their sales reps to use.
Oftentimes, personas are very theoretical. It’s like, “Hey, we've developed these buyer personas,” and then sellers are like, “Okay, how do I operationalize that?”
So we started at the top and started explaining what our insights mean for all the different teams. Once that knowledge is there, it starts trickling down, then we can start refining our buyer personas and creating a sellers’ toolkit, a toolkit for product, and a toolkit for marketing.
That's the process that we established, and I would say we've learned a ton from it. Some parts have gone well, and some parts need reinforcement, which is always the case in any organization.
Refining buyer personas
Sam Richard: Do you feel like personas are something that you're one and done with, or do you feel like it's iterative? And if so, how often do you iterate?
Jayne Pooley: All the time and I’ve got a tip for keeping your personas up to date: in any form of communication with customers, if you have any golden questions that you want to ask, ask them – that’ll help you continuously refine those personas.
I know from experience that since the pandemic, buyers’ behaviors have changed. Their perceptions, ways of working, goals, and challenges have shifted, so the description I had of those personas two years ago wouldn't hold true now.
You have to move with the times, which is also why it's important to keep an eye on the industries that your customers live, breathe, and work in, particularly B2B customers.
If you’re in B2C, you need to be looking at consumer trends that could influence a change in behaviors and have a knock-on effect on the success of your products and solutions.
Ankit Shah: I agree with Jayne’s point – it's not a one-and-done thing. We just started developing this practice where once we’ve built our personas and activated them through our sales, marketing, and go-to-market functions, we incorporate some feedback mechanisms.
We’re gathering feedback from our sellers, our marketing programs, and broader market and customer research, then triangulating that feedback to identify any changes in our buyer personas. From there, we’re refreshing those personas and our sellers’ tools. We’ve also got to activate those insights in Salesforce and with marketing teams.
So to us, it's very much an iterative process. Right now, we're being very aspirational and doing all that every quarter.
Sam Richard: Before we wrap up, can each of you provide one key takeaway for PMA members on developer personas, segmentation, and demographics?
Jayne Pooley: Bring your personas to life; make them as realistic as possible. If you have to go to the extreme of creating user persona rooms in your office so that people can walk into that room and feel that persona, then do it. You need to make them feel real.
Ankit Shah: We did that – we printed these massive posters and put them throughout our office when we were starting to activate our personas. It’s awesome if you can do it because then they’re top of mind for the rest of the Go-to-Market team.
For me, the biggest takeaway is that you need to communicate internally to achieve alignment between sales, marketing, and product when you’re developing these personas. There has to be that strong handshake upfront.
You also need to talk about how each team can leverage this information. If you don't do that, your personas will just be theoretical. That’s my biggest takeaway.
Martin Bakal: I’d just like to encourage everyone to keep in mind that there are always multiple personas, even within a single segment. Now, we can keep it simple for each one; we came up with the love language for what they care about, but understand that it's a complex set of paradigms.
Even if we say “developer”, that doesn't mean anything by itself. You have to pick the paradigms inside of that to make it work.
Sam Richard: Thank you all for participating and for dropping some awesome knowledge. I appreciate it.