The Marketing Strategist:

What’s Behind the Customer Mask? Buyer Personas Reveal What Motivates Your Customers to Buy

September 8, 2014

by Julie Schwartz and Alan Weaver

Julie SchwartzThe word persona comes from the Latin persona, meaning “mask or character.” In ancient Roman dramas, actors wore large masks to create an illusion that connected the audience with character. It hid the actor’s true identity.

Today, personas are a hot topic that intrigue B2B marketers for many reasons. Buyer and prospect connections are an important and ongoing challenge for successful B2B marketers, and effective connections depend on insights that traditional demographic and segmentation techniques often do not reveal. Marketers are evolving these tactics into more robust buyer persona strategies. Persona strategies also help resource-challenged marketing professionals determine the right targeted messaging, content, and thought leadership quantity and mix.

Personas are detailed composite views, or archetypes, that group customers by key characteristics and behavioral patterns. They reveal the attributes and motives that have stronger predictive value in purchase decisions, technology use, and lifecycle choices. Personas span traditional segments and demographics such as age, gender, income, and education. They are created through in-depth, qualitative interviews with recent buyers.

ITSMA research provides detailed data about buyer persona adoption rates, effectiveness, and benefits. Our survey of 194 B2B marketers showed that 44% are already using personas and an additional 29% plan to do so within the next 12 months. Beyond 12 months, the percentage of B2B marketers expecting to use personas rises to 83%. Why the charge? Improved value propositions, clearer understanding of buyers, and higher conversions and quality of leads topped respondents’ list of persona benefits.

Benefits of Using Buyer Personas

Buyer persona strategies and tactics have steep development and learning curves. Survey respondents cited many hurdles:

  • New skills. In particular, marketers need analysis and interviewing skills to determine the number of necessary personas and to create them.
  • Application. Applying personas effectively is intuitive yet requires experience.
  • Buyer centricity. Marketers need to be able to reconstruct and design new buyer-centric campaigns.
  • Effective use. Marketers need to be able to measure and determine return on investment.

Yet personas may be the key to improving marketing’s effectiveness, further demonstrating its business value, prioritizing resources, and focusing thought leadership efforts.

Read the ITSMA Update Buyer Personas: The New Cornerstone of B2B Marketing to get started or contact Julie Schwartz at jschwartz@itsma.com or +1 (407) 788-8220 if we can help you down the buyer persona path.

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