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Personas – The basics marketers often forget

A few months ago I posted a discussion on LinkedIn to find out a little more how people were using personas. I had a great response and received quite a few comments.

However, before I share with you some of the feedback, I’d like to lay out three challenges of integrating personas into day-to-day activities.

  1. One of the mistakes is that we treat building personas as a chore, without prior understanding of how we will use this information, passing this off to an individual that perhaps hasn’t understood the business objectives, or hasn’t even been shared the vision.
  2. I also believe that we focus too much on content: it’s much more than that. It’s about getting personal and understanding who you would like to build a long term relationship with (here I go about dating again) and how this is spread through the organisation’s touch points.
  3. Lastly, personas are not everybody’s cup of tea and need to be nurtured within the organisation.

Personas are often mistaken as being hard work. I often hear people say: “Why should I spend time thinking about how to use personas?”. However, these are the people I and all our touch points often interact with or hope to interact with, so why shouldn’t I? The main reason to use a buyer persona is to truly understand the process your customer takes when he or she is making the buying decision.

One of the best ways I find to show how important personas are, is to work from the bottom to the big picture that should eventually end with the business objectives. Working from explaining that we don’t do business with a company but the people in that company, taking particular individuals and their role in their company. Moving towards that bigger picture of how the influence that they have can often mean that you win or lose a contract or even the possibility of upselling to a customer. It’s important to share business objectives with everyone, not just senior management.

To implement the use of personas as an integrated method of identifying customer’s needs, it’s important that marketing can communicate this through sales engagement. Such a way is to use personas in negotiation. Working with sales to identify the needs of the individuals that are in the DMU (decision making unit) can lead to a greater use of the information already gathered. It can also help to fine tune the persona and has a knock on benefit for marketing communication content.

Account based Marketing (ABM) works better too with this type of relationship with your sales team. For the first time, you move away from segmentation and can focus on individuals by building a better understanding of their needs.

Something you could try out (but don’t tell your sales team) is to create personas of your sales team, or at least the people you need to get their buy in. It’s a great way of learning how to develop personas but also to find out things about your peers that help your relationship develop positively, with a more empathetic and listening approach. Start with your objective and then use the persona detail to help you with your internal negotiation and a win-win finish. This is a way of nurturing personas into your organisation and finding new ways of using that precious information.

So don’t make it a chore, keep objectives as the driver and be creative with your personas, but don’t get caught talking to them like an imaginary friend.

I'll be speaking more about this at the B2B Summit on 17 June. If you’re interested in attending the Summit there’s an early bird offer in place until 8 May. Sign up here: