Why Buyer Personas Are Not a Waste of Time
A recent article on MediaPost raised the question “Are Buyer Personas a Waste of Time?” The article quoted Michael Jaschke, CEO of 48Bricks, an ad tech company, as saying, “The premise of trying to model consumer behavior based on massive amounts of data does not work.” Based on this and the belief from 48Bricks that you simply cannot understand your customers, the assertion is that putting effort into the development of Buyer Personas is a waste of time.
In reading the article that highlights the thoughts from Jaschke, the articles author, John Miller states the following:
“Here’s my advice: Build personas. But don’t go crazy. As Jaschke says (and I agree), massive amounts of data won’t solve the problem. So digging deeper and deeper into the buyer data you’ve accumulated will be a waste of time. However, I’d argue that you need to make some effort to understand your audience. You need to have a reasonable approximation of how they behave and what they’re looking for. Seasoned marketers with a basic understanding of buyer psychology should be able to create this framework.”
So spend a day with your content team talking about how your customers buy, why they buy, and why they don’t buy. Get input from sales on what the audience is looking for. Create an understanding of the buyer’s journey. This will help to create an orientation toward the audience for your team.
But here is what both Jaschke and Miller are missing; simply trolling through your data and meeting internally with a content team to uncover the nuances of the customer will not produce effective or useful buyer personas and buyer journeys. In fact, if this is how they believe personas should be developed, they are right, do not waste your time.
However, what Miller and Jaschke overlook is that it take more than data and internal workshops to develop personas and when done correctly they not only matter, but they serve as a guidepost for the development of your content and Demand Generation Strategy.
When building Demand Generation personas organizations do need to analyze their customer data, but need to go well beyond this step. For personas to matter, marketers must take the step to speak to their customers. In speaking to the customers you will uncover their buying behavior, purchase patterns, pain points and challenges. This is far more telling than your internal content team trying to cobble together a buyer journey with no customer influence.
Secondly, while the voice of the buyer, should be considered, organizations should add the additional element of research into the market their customers and buyers live. Having the research to understand what is driving the market, the growth of the market and any additional market influences will provide insight into a condition that will impact your buyer.
In reading the comments by Jaschke and Miller, I must respectfully disagree and say not only are buyer personas very important to build a foundation, but by all means, go crazy. Analyze the data, interview sales, customers, potential buyers, conduct the research and above all, do not treat them as a static exercise. Personas are dynamic and should be updated with a regular cadence. This is how you know all about the buyer who is the most important part of any and all Demand Generation or Content Marketing Strategy.