“Persona” is a buzzword in marketing right now and the benefits of investing in personas are as diverse as the organizations trying to create them. Personas are a combination of customer, brand, industry and buy cycle insights rolled into a conceptual representation of an organization’s target audience. They put a name and a face on your decision-makers and influencers — “Tom Technical,” “Pat Procurement,” etc.
They are valuable because they remind us that sales — and, thus, marketing — are about human persuasion. When developed properly (don’t take this for granted), personas identify the critical contrast points between different types of buyers and allow you to present information in a way that truly resonates with their concerns.
Going Deeper with Personas
I believe most organizations are not using this approach to its fullest potential. Do personas tell you what to say in your ads? Absolutely. Can you gain a better understanding of how your product is perceived by the market? Of course. Will you generate new ideas for tools and content as you develop personas? Certainly. But there’s a bigger picture here. If you are only concerned about creating more relevant marketing materials, then hire a research organization to execute a quantitative study and call it a day.
The true power of personas lies in going beyond a basic level of understanding about your audience and getting to “buyer connection insights.” These types of insights are based on a research process that delves into the buyer mentality in order to understand meaningful and motivating drivers.
Personas that are built around this type of deeper intelligence can deliver real impact across an organization by:
1. Creating internal momentum for a customer-centric culture
2. Fostering sales and marketing alignment
3. Developing a customer voice built on actionable buyer insights
A Customer-centric Culture
Other than your sales and customer service teams, most of the people in your organization do not have regular “boots-on-the-ground” exposure to the customer. This reality can help propagate a product-centric view rather than a customer-centric view.
From the smallest privately owned organizations to the largest publicly traded conglomerates, companies struggle to move past their products and services and focus on what their customers care about. Let me ask you this: Is your customer buying your product because they have a burning desire for the new features — or are they just looking for a way to meet new government regulations? We tend to forget that in B2B we make products to solve a need, and so we fall back to talking about what we know — products, features and benefits.
Breaking the Cycle
Personas can help you change the focus of your organization by putting a face on your customer’s motivations. For everyone from marketing and sales to HR and product management, personas are digestible, logical and practical. They can help generate momentum for a new perspective, focused on the customer. Once this takes hold and the pieces start to click, the clutter falls to the side. People can’t help but get on board because the old way of thinking starts to look as archaic as sending a fax or carrying a bag phone. When people start to reference the personas when making decisions — “What would Tom Technical think about this?” — you will know that a new approach has taken hold and you will see the results throughout your organization.
In part two of this three-part series, I will discuss how personas help improve marketing and sales alignment. Why is this important? Because marketing plans not aligned with sales strategy are the mark of laziness and waste. Anyone can create a marketing campaign in a vacuum and be convinced that their work is sound. But does that work move product? Does it enable the sales team to do their jobs? Or are you mistaking agreement with alignment? Find out how to differentiate between the two and, in doing so, increase the effectiveness of your feet on the street in the next installment.