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Reasons to create a Buyer Persona: What it is and what it is not

Recently, we have observed a great deal of confusion about what a Buyer Persona is and what it is not. Sometimes, it is seen as a segmentation. Other times, as an imagination exercise in order to develop our strategies. This distortion of its essence and usefulness causes a wasting of time, effort and resources.

The Buyer Persona is a very useful tool for innovation, marketing and sales.. It can help us to focus our speech on the client and to find out which the critical points are at the moment of purchasing. That is why I am going to explain some of its most relevant aspects and, above all,
what it should be used for..

Infographics showing elements of what a Buyer Persona is and is not

We can say that a Buyer Persona is a generalization of our client, an invented character that represents your ideal client.. And so far, the similarities to some of the popular beliefs. The difference with reality is that in order to develop that character you need to rely on real customers..

Despite requiring information about real customers, and mainly recent customers, we cannot say that it works as a database. It does not gather specific data about every single buyer.

In order to better understand this concept, Daniel Attivissimo, in his article in Quirk’s Media “How to use B2B personas” dated November, 2018, explains the following:

A buyer persona is….

  • an archetype of actual buyers and their buying process/decisions;
  • qualitative in nature;
  • personable; filled with quotes, anecdotes and stories about goals, challenges and decision making;
  • a way to guide meaningful engagements with customers/prospects.

A buyer persona is not….

  • a customer profile or even a real person (despite using data from real people and customers);
  • calculated; filled with charts and graphs about demographics/firmographics* (therefore, also not a market segmentation);
  • a lead-generating exercise or a silver bullet for sales”. 

The biggest problem of the common belief about the Buyer Persona lies in the confusion and the creation of the character. In order to make the understanding and visualization of the information easier, the Buyer Persona is presented with a name, age, gender and other similar data.

This technique helps to create strategies with a client in mind, but it shall not be treated literally.

Illustrated card of a Buyer Persona

A Good Buyer Persona: A Matter of Approach

As its name suggests, a Buyer Persona tells us how the buyer is and everything related to this process. The risk to embellish a Buyer Persona with unnecessary data is that we may lose its main goal: to be aware of the critical points for the customer during the purchasing process.

We run the risk of just learning data about personality, habits, geographical and financial situation. When what we really want to do is to focus on our customers’ concerns regarding our products or services and how can we solve their concerns.

Adele Revella explains in her book Buyer Personas that:

“Some marketers will focus on psychographics, another long-standing approach to segmenting markets based on factors such as personality, values, lifestyles, and opinions. This approach might capture the fact that Jim goes to church regularly, is skilled at managing people, and is challenged by keeping multiple balls in the air. But this information has little bearing on how he will evaluate and choose a logistics management supplier.

Combined with a few demographics, you might know the kind of neighborhood he lives in and that he likes to spend time with his family, but you’ll still have to guess about what triggers his interest to evaluate your solution, the barriers that prevent him from finalizing the purchase, and which of your advantages will impress him”. **

What we must make sure of is that our Buyer Persona revolves around the reasons why he initiates a search process. It should include what he expects to achieve with the product or service offered, the boundaries that could prevent him from buying our services or the criteria to make the decision to buy, among others.

What you need to know about the Buyer Persona

1 Buyer persona's card or several

It is important to learn the basis of its elaboration, as if we understand its origin, we will understand its uses.

We start by clarifying that there does not have to be just one Buyer Persona. The company can have multiple Personas, but not excessively. Everything will depend on the kind of business and buyers.

On the other hand, the methodology to build a Buyer Persona mainly relies on a qualitative technique, based on in-depth interviews with customers who has recently gone through a buying process.

The interviews shall not only be held with our customers because the research will be distorted. We should also include those customers who have ruled us out and even those who have not even taken us into account.

Even though the creation of the Buyer Persona can be based on surveys, focus group or interviews to different players, it should be built upon and based on in-depth interviews.

A survey could be representative, but, by itself, we will not get the insights that come from a spontaneous speech and we will end up obtaining partial data.

The Buyer Persona is made with in-depth interviews

Finally, the Buyer Personas need to be regularly updated because the data and the trends change and, above all, the buying habits. A clear example of this are the new technologies that evolve and lead us to change our ways of buying.

What the Buyer Persona is for? and what it is not for?

The right use of the Buyer Persona is really important and we should understand its real usefulness. Thus, we could be more efficient with our resources and budget.

Therefore, a Buyer persona is essential to:

  • Improve the customer relationships and to make better sales pitch.
  • Strengthen our weakest points during the buying process and understand what is causing buyers to exclude our company from their consideration.
  • Develop marketing strategies that adjust better to the channels where our customers are.
  • Design campaigns and generate contents that include the message that the company wants to transmit tailored to the buyers' interests.
  • Optimize the usability of our products, websites and customer experience..
  • Create disruptive and innovative products or services.
  • Make sure that all company actions are homogeneous and coherent.

On the other hand, a Buyer Persona shall not be used as:

  • A market segmentation. It is only used to understand the goals, attitudes, insights, behaviours, etc. related to persons within the segments.
  • An approach to shape roles, which are very useful for the sales but they have different purposes.
  • A substitute for the sales intelligence. It helps to increase the understanding of its behaviour in every context, but it does not replace it.
  • A “Buyer’s Journey”. Although it includes important aspects of these stages, it has a different purpose.

In upcoming posts, we will explain the Buyer Persona and its uses in further detail.

Notes:

  • * Sets of characteristics to segment prospect organizations. What demographics are to people, firmographics are to organizations (Wikipedia)
  • ** Revella, Adele. Buyer Personas (page. 10). 2015. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
References and Links:
  1. Revella, Adele. Buyer Personas. 2015. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. Mike Kappel, “User Personas Are The Missing Links You Didn’t Know You Needed” September 2019. Forbes.
  3. Daniel Attivissimo, “How to use B2B personas” November 2018. Quirk’s Media.
  4. 4 Things Buyer Personas Are Not, by Tony Zambito.
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