Role-Based Profiles Are NOT Buyer Personas

Many marketers short-cut the process and make due with role-based profiles, not research-based buyer personas that reflect real insight.

Julie Schwartz

by Julie Schwartz

May 2, 2017

buyer personas

Buyer personas are powerful tools. With well-crafted personas, marketers can create impactful, customer-centric value propositions and more relevant and differentiating content. These, in turn, help drive deeper engagement with prospects, higher quality leads, higher conversion rates, and shorter sales cycles.

Unfortunately, many marketers struggle to operationalize their buyer personas because their personas are actually just role-based profiles that are heavy on demographics and pain points, but light on insight into actual buying behavior.

A new ITSMA Update, Crafting Buyer Personas, Not Profiles, examines the challenges inherent in buyer persona development and offers advice on how to avoid the pitfalls. This excerpt details the difference between profiles and personas and identifies three key questions to ask at the outset of a persona development project.

The most useful buyer personas come from qualitative research with real solution buyers. Unfortunately, many marketers take shortcuts when it comes to research. They gather input from sales. They scour analyst reports and industry surveys. They gather data from their CRM systems. Then they use a template to create reports highlighting responsibilities, pain points, reporting relationships, and trusted sources of information.

All of this second-hand data is useful for creating a role-based profile but not an effective buyer persona.

Buyer profiles are just the starting point for buyer personas. The most useful personas take profiles to the next level with more useful purchase decision-specific insights.

Buyer profiles vs. buyer personas

Buyer Profiles Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are solution-specific, describe the decision process, and are differentiating. The best personas provide profound customer insights from qualitative research. You need to talk directly to your buyers.

We don’t want to leave the impression that sales input is not needed for buyer personas. It most certainly is! However, relying mainly on sales input typically leads to collecting and packaging information already on hand with no new insights into buying behavior and the decision process. Further, building personas using internal sources perpetuates the inside-out marketing approach that personas are designed to counteract.

Knowing the difference between a buyer profile and a buyer persona, and getting both sales and marketing on the same page, are the first steps in implementing a buyer persona marketing initiative that delivers results. How do you know if you have a buyer persona and not a profile? Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Does it pertain to a specific solution decision process rather than a job role?
  2. Does it describe when, how, and why decisions are made?
  3. Are there proprietary insights that will enable us to make marketing decisions that will give us a competitive advantage?

If you can answer “yes” to all three questions, then congratulations. You’ve done your research, and you’re well on your way to crafting truly effective buyer personas.

For the complete ITSMA Update, check out Crafting Buyer Personas, Not Profiles: Leveraging Buyer Personas-Part One. This Update, the first of a three-part series, is available at no charge to ITSMA members (password required) and for sale to everyone else.

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buyer personas

Role-Based Profiles Are NOT Buyer Personas

Many marketers short-cut the process and make due with role-based profiles, not research-based buyer personas that reflect real insight.