The Marketing Strategist:

Revisiting Buyer Personas

July 22, 2015

Here at ITSMA we’ve been very busy lately on a growing number of buyer persona projects. As gratifying as it is to know that our members think personas are as important as we do, it’s intriguing to see how many companies have already been using various kinds of buyer profiles that have been relabeled buyer personas. The difficulty, of course, is Hertz’s “not exactly” principle. If what you’re using are not exactly buyer personas, they’re not exactly going to do what buyer personas can to drive value propositions, content development, and messaging.

B2B marketers have been doing some sort of buyer profiling for years: ideal buyer descriptions, profiles based on sales feedback, role profiles, and profiles derived from demographic research, to name a few. While these kinds of profiles have a use, they lack the crucial primary research—buyer interviews—that gives such powerful insight into what triggers buyers to make a purchase and how they define success.

Ultimately, what sets buyer personas apart from other types of profiles is that they are based directly on interviews with actual buyers, ideally your own customers and a few of your competitors’. This straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth insight into buyers’ motivations and priorities offers the best means for determining like groups of buyers. It also gives you a solid foundation—one that readily stands up to critical testing—for defining buyer-centric value propositions. It’s much easier to resist any temptation to fall back into a product-centric approach when you have direct buyer input.

It’s also much easier to develop the content and thought leadership you need to engage with potential buyers when you have this clear view of what matters most to them during the buying process—and how that varies from one group’s persona to another. By understanding their priorities and preferences, you are in a good position to determine the most appropriate content and channels for each persona at the various buying process stages.

If you’re getting a sinking feeling that you’ve been going about buyer personas all wrong, fear not. Just about every organization that we know of that is using buyer personas effectively has started out with a set of profiles that weren’t exactly buyer personas. In fact, this is often a helpful prelude to building genuine buyer personas. If you have already exhausted all other sources of buyer information, it’s much easier to sell the idea of primary buyer research to your internal stakeholders. All the better if the outcome of the project has direct benefit to them (read: more compelling value propositions and better qualified leads).

Now’s the time to take the bold next step and get on the buyer research bandwagon. If you’re not sure how to get started or you don’t have the skills and resources to make it happen, check out our buyer persona research and contact us. ITSMA can help.


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