Right now there are a lot of misguided, well-meaning marketers working on beautifully crafted, useless personas. Now, I’m not joining the persona naysayers (you know who you are). It’s true that there are a lot of less-than-actionable personas being built, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And, speaking of babies, even though no one likes to hear that theirs is ugly, unlike babies, those personas aren’t going to get any cuter with age. It’s going to take some work.
It’s hard to argue with the concept of trying to understand your customers and prospects to produce demand generation that drives revenue. There are a lot of reasons why personas are valuable:
- Personas build understanding. Not everyone interacts with customers every day, and even those who do may not be able to distill essential elements into something usable. Even if you, personally, know your buyers, can you say the same of every team member who could benefit from that knowledge?
- Personas create focus. You can’t be all things to all people. It’s true that it takes a village now more so than ever to make a purchase, but that buying committee does have a limit, and personas will help you narrow your focus to those audiences.
- Personas drive alignment. If you’ve built solid personas, reviewing their goals and motivations when there is dissension can help to move in the right direction for your buyers. It’s not a question of what you or your boss likes, but what your buyer needs to move along the buyer journey.
So, here’s where execution comes in. If everyone is on board with the concept of personas, the way organizations go about building them varies wildly. There are a few common ways personas often go off the rails.
People confuse personas with the document that captures the essential elements of the persona as the same thing. They’re not. When more effort goes into the presentation layer than the insights they should be built on, it’s easy to understand why some critics dismiss personas as fluff.
Going purely from “your gut” or from exclusively internal research to create personas misses the point. To know what motivates a buyer, ask one. Or better yet, ask 10. Don’t just talk to customers either, unless that’s your exclusive audience. Talk to some prospects and losses if possible. Do some research into what’s going on in their environment to get some context as well.
Too Much Information (TMI)-
Personas should guide action. Would someone three layers removed from you know what decisions to make on content or channels based on your personas? Some personas are valuable from an attitudinal perspective, but don’t have enough of a data component to allow marketers to categorize them or include any information that a prospect could self-identify.
How do you build an actionable, insight-driven persona to guide your demand generation efforts? There are a few key questions to guide your research:
- What are his or her objectives?
- Where are their pain points?
- What would trigger them to enter a buy cycle?
- How long does it take to buy a solution like yours?
- What is their role in the buying process? Are they an influencer or a decision maker? Part of a large committee?
- How do they consume content?
From these foundational questions, you can begin to build a framework that will guide decisions on content strategy, engagement channels and lead management to create a demand generation program that is a growth engine for your organization.