Pigs Posing As Buyer Personas: Four Ways To Finger Fakes

Pigs Posing As Buyer Personas: Four Ways To Finger Fakes

The Latest in Marketing Fashion

In marketing circles these days, it has become “fashionable” to include buyer or prospect “personas” as part of your marketing toolkit.  And for good reason-these life-like descriptions of your prospects as individual people can help you hone sharper content marketing messages, deliver them more effectively, and unite your team.

Piggy Buyer Personas

But there’s a hitch.  All those grand promises depend on the quality of the work that went into your buyer personas and the polish that comes out.  And we have found that it’s easy to dress up a pile of data as a persona, but that doesn’t make it a real persona.  You know the barnyard metaphor.

Can I Get Some Respect?

Our research on the state of personas reveals that marketers’ top frustration with personas is the lack of respect they command inside their company (What about that report on the state of personas?  You can get one here).  But we also discovered that there are good reasons some personas are viewed poorly while other personas are smart, powerful, and even inspiring! Here are the top four elements our work has identified as making the difference.

How to Tell if You’re Dealing with “The Real Deal”

These are the questions that distinguish between “poser” buyer personas and those with pure pedigrees. 

1.  Prospect buyer persona or ‘pizza’ persona:  Where did your persona come from? 

When you see a persona, it’s perfectly legitimate to ask how it was developed.  In fact, you should.  In our survey on the state of personas, we found that fully 38% of marketers admitted their personas were not created with any external persona research.  Not surprisingly, these were also found to be the ones that failed to gain respect or bring new insights.
Lots of personas were just developed around a pizza by a group of well-intentioned but poorly-informed marketing people in a room trying to check off another box. Politely thank them and move on.
The best personas are the outcome of dedicated, in-depth, individual exploratory interviews conducted by experienced, unbiased interviewers who seek only to understand who your prospects are and how they make decisions. 

2.  Picture with a point:  Does your persona help you focus on the most important insight about your  prospects?

 The best personas identify the single core truth about your prospects that you need to know to win them.  As a result, these personas not only describe your prospects as real people, but they also prescribe how to connect with them through targeting, messaging, and positioning.  We call this the Key Prospect Insight.  It’s your leaping point for creating the key message that guides all your marketing efforts. 

3.  Snapshot or video:  Does the buyer persona describe behaviors in the multiple stages of the decision process?

If it doesn’t show what’s happening at each stage of the decision process, you won’t know who to target at each phase or where they look for input at each stage.  You also won’t know how to match your company selling process with the prospect’s decision process. 

4.  Every picture tells a story:  Does the buyer persona tell you why you lose prospects as well as how you win them?

 While it’s not unusual for marketers to interview their customers, the best personas come from interviewing prospects you’ve lost as well as ones you’ve won (your customers).  After all, those are the people you are trying to win!  This way, great buyer persona research is also a great source of win-loss learning-which makes it a win-win for you.

Are Buyer Personas Worth the Effort?

 Now that you know how to avoid ineffective personas, keep in mind how much of a difference real personas can make.

  • They have always energized companies we have worked with by uncovering surprising insights about prospects we didn’t even know we didn’t know.
  • They have focused companies on the most important truths about their prospects.
  • And this has ended up inspiring their messaging, increasing marketing effectiveness, and exciting their sales force.
*For a free copy of our research, The Power and Potential of Persona, please click HERE.
 
Originally posted on the MENG blog.

Wayne founded B2P Partners to make B2B marketing more powerful by making it more personal. His passion is to help companies and individuals more effectively and enjoyably serve the people who are their clients. 
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