For marketing leaders tasked with acquiring new customers this is the most valuable exercise you will perform all year.  This exercise is a standard component of the SBI Lead Generation playbook for our clients and I want to share it with you. 


Dive in head first to enhance your 2013 Marketing Plan.  (Sales leaders — if you want more leads in 2013, forward this blog post to your peer in marketing.)


World-class marketing teams have adopted Buyer Persona development to produce better messaging and content.   But this is only half the equation.   Identifying where to place the message is also vital to success.  The next evolution for your marketing team is to map the Persona Ecosystem.


What is a Persona Ecosystem?

If you remember back to high school biology, an ecosystem is defined as a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their environment.  The benefit of an ecosystem view is to understand interelations.  In marketing, a Persona Ecosystem is the environment of interactions that a prospect lives within.  The collective environment of thought leaders, influencers, communication channels and possible touch-points that surround a prospect makes up their ecosystem. 


If interested, gain access to the Free Persona Ecosystem template by clicking here.


As you map the complex interelations, you will chart out a dynamic environment. Below is a simplified example to portray the concept.


Persona Ecosystem   Example


Your target audience is being ‘hunted’ by a number of competitors.   Marketers who best understand the ecosystem of the prospect have a higher likelihood of success.   Benefits of developing a Persona Ecosystem include:


  • Greater context of market forces
  • Insight into the sources influencing the prospect
  • Connect the dots between influencers and messaging options
  • Clarify partnering opportunities
  • Align multiple Personas within a single buying decision
  • Drive messaging where the prospect is already naturally engaged
  • Enhance brainstorming efforts by visualizing connection points


What is the risk of planning without a Persona Ecosystem?

Without an understanding of the Ecosystem, marketers have a high risk of missing key market dynamics.   Marketing plans may lack relational context of the environment that a prospect lives within.  The result can be a bland, ‘me-too’ marketing plan that is just a logo swap away from your competitor. Invest one hour in developing your Persona Ecosystem to differentiate and out-maneuver your competitors. 


5 Steps to Develop a Persona Ecosystem


Download the Free Persona Ecosystem template.


Persona Ecosystem


Step 1: Identify the Market

Begin by establishing a market segment for your focus.  This may involve segmenting by company size, vertical, fast growth, etc.  Start with a tight focus to keep things simple, and then test the expansion to broaden the view.  This gives you focus to accurately portray the prospect’s view.


For example, begin with your sweet spot such as Enterprise-level corporations 10,000 employees+.  Perform this exercise and then test the Ecosystem for accuracy to the mid-market, and so on. 


Step 2: Establish Your Target Personas

Establish a true outward-in view of your Persona’s ecosystem by placing your target audience at the center of your world.   SBI executed Persona engagements typically include 6-10 Personas.  Most complex decisions are made in a group decision.  This involves multiple roles, each key role requiring a Persona;


  • Ultimate Decision Maker – Final approval of the decision.  Only person who can say No when everyone else says Yes.
  • User Prospect – Buyer(s) who will be using the solution.
  • Technical Prospect – Buyer(s) involved in evaluating the solution (Purchasing, IT, etc.).
  • Key Influencers – Anyone with considered input into the buying decision.


This configuration gives you clarity on dynamics of the interactions within the target company.  Marketers struggle with how to execute against multiple Personas.  With this insight, your marketing team can visualize how to build campaigns when you have multiple Personas. 


Step 3: Insert Third Party Influencers

Plot the natural voices in the market that a prospect interacts with or looks to for guidance.  This includes analysts such as Forrester, peer groups, member associations, regional/national conferences, and established industry thought leaders.  This should also include respected publications and websites.


Perform this part of the exercise in an exhaustive manner to fully understand the dynamics surrounding the ecosystem.   This gives you a tangible view to brainstorm new messaging ideas. 


Step 4: Plot Touch-points

Now that the prospect and key influencers are mapped, plot your company’s potential touch-points with the Persona.   This may include your company website, sales staff, marketing Lead Development Representatives from your Lead Generation program, customer service, technical support, etc.  This should also include partners and resellers if you sell through channel.


Once plotted, your marketing team can begin to visualize opportunities to drive new interactions and evaluate marketing support materials at each level.  


Step 5: Map Potential Demand Generation Opportunities

At this point you have an Ecosystem of your Persona with the surrounding influences in the market.  Your company’s presence is plotted.  Begin mapping how you are going to orchestrate inbound and outbound marketing, including content marketing. 


Begin this step by mapping your existing planned activities.  This can be your existing 2013 marketing plan, or simply your previous year’s execution.  Map it in a specific color to differentiate existing ‘planned’ tactics vs. net new ideas. Take special care to map in the tactics between your customer touch-points and those of the Personas (i.e. nurture campaigns, 1:1 nurturing, sales support materials, etc.).


Brainstorm new ideas.  Map these with a different color to differentiate from existing.  You will find your team’s creativity is juiced by being able to visualize the market.  Map new opportunities to get your message out.  Investigate ideas on how to place valuable content from your Content Marketing efforts within the Persona Ecosystem. 


Execution of Ideas

The brainstorming activity involved in step 5 will produce more ideas than are possible to execute.  Evaluate existing and new ideas using a ranking approach.  Rank each idea by its potential impact on the Persona vs. the feasibility to execute.    Enrich your 2013 marketing plan with the new ideas and insights that are derived from the exercise. 


Developing a Persona Ecosystem is the easiest and most fruitful exercise you will undertake for your 2013 planning efforts.