Buyer personas – under-used, but over-abused?

Personas are still woefully under-used – which suggests either: a) people simply don’t know what they are but still have good insight/understanding of their target audiences; or b) that too  many conduct marketing programmes without having a critical foundation of customer insight

There’s been some interesting discussions on buyer personas recently.  To get up to speed quick, try these: http://ow.ly/1d84N and http://www.buyerpersona.com/

Personas are still woefully under-used – which suggests either: a) people simply don’t know what they are but still have good insight/understanding of their target audiences; or b) that too  many conduct marketing programmes without having a critical foundation of customer insight. If you’re not crystal clear about WHO you’re talking to (individual’s buy, businesses don’t…) then do some research. Quick.

They’re also over-abused. Companies spending months and months on over-detailed personas which, while technically brilliant, fail in their objective as they are simple not USED. Which of course defeats the whole point of the exercise.

What’s more interesting for me is how personas need to evolve. All the examples I’ve seen are very ‘role-centric’ (i.e. ‘job title). Which kind of makes sense. Until you realise that individuals in today’s web world behave in a more ‘task-based’ fashion. In other words, you could be a finance director (or HR, or MD, or COO) but you could well be engaging on an IT decision-making task by researching providers online. So ‘role’ goes out of the window. What’s needed is a greater focus on the tasks individuals are trying to perform, and then how our marketing proposition (a dreadful phrase I know…) aligns to that.

This template’s been quite useful – to help think much more about what an individual is trying to do, when, why, where and how.

Persona template

More to come in the near future, and interested in other’s experiences and views…

By earnestagency 4 March 2010
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