In every project I work on, some version of buyer personas are involved. Sometimes I'm given personas (usually "profiles") to work with and sometimes developing them is the first step in the project. Let me tell you that I've seen a lot of personas - or what passes for them.
What I have noticed is that there seems to be two types of personas: those suited for marketing and those better suited for salespeople.
For example, I recently saw a collection of personas that were labled with titles such as The Forward-Leaning Buyer, The Risk-Averse Buyer, and The Jock Buyer (yes, I'm making these up for demonstration). The kicker is that each of these personas could be representative of the same title, roles, and responsibilitites as the others.
These personas went on to detail the personal lives and attributes of the personas including marital status, number of kids and even the breed of the family dog. And let's not overlook sports and entertainment preferences. (Yes, I'm still talking about B2B personas)
There were some useful details for marketers, but my first thought is how the heck would marketers begin to figure out which one of these personas were representative of their prospects in order to segment their databases appropriately?
Perhaps these personas are indicative of the need to develop content about how to train your Australian Shepherd to play frisbee or how to improve the efficiency of shuttling your kids to after-school activities. Then we could postulate that anyone responding to the content is related to the corresponding persona.
Okay - all joking aside - Buyer personas must serve the purpose they are designed to address.
From a B2B marketing perspective, this means that a buyer persona should:
- Serve as a tool that can be referenced easily to help guide the development of relevant marketing programs for the market segment represented by that persona.
- Point to specific topics of content as related to priorities defined as important to the persona.
- Reveal the circumstances of what could derail the deal (or the championing of the deal)
- Be unique from all other personas to indicate a truly definable market segment.
The purpose for a B2B marketing persona is to have a tool that defines and guides the marketing programs developed to engage a specific market segment. Never forget that a persona is similar to a composite sketch. It must help you to get close enough to the business interests of the actual humans involved in the process to create the opportunity for marketing programs to reach the goals set for them.
Personas that are based on personality traits or personal situations will not help as there are just too many variables to address to roll them up into a useful set of guidelines that have any traction with a market segment. This being said, these personality-driven profiles may be useful conversational tools for sales reps who are in conversations with a Director of Customer Service who they learn has an Aussie who won't return the frisbee.
Do you see the difference?
BTW - the picture is my girl, Bella, who absolutely LOVES to play frisbee.