When we put time, resources, and money into anything we do business-related, it is natural to seek value in return. Value comes from understanding what are the right things to get done. How to ensure investment in buyer insight research and buyer persona development adds value is one question I get asked frequently.
Doing The Right Things
To get the most value out of investments, business leaders have to look beyond style or hype and look at the substance. Using evaluative criteria to determine if they are making as well as have made the right choices. This is usually the area of topic discussed when involved in conversations helping people with how to tackle buyer insight research and develop buyer personas. It comes down to the profound Peter Drucker axiom of – doing the right things.
The state of buyer personas, as they have gained visibility, has produced many different approaches. These have been about doing things right. And, many times, these “things” are not the right things. This state is made evident by the many different templates and hyped versions of buyer profiles masquerading as buyer personas. So how do leaders evaluate they are doing the right things?
Here are 7 criteria to keep in mind when investing in buyer insight research and buyer persona development:
1. Are your buyer personas based on qualitative research directly with buyers?
This is first and foremost critical to attaining the deep insights into buyers today. Doing the right thing in this area is to make use of qualitative research techniques and standards, which provide the means of gathering deep insights. This means not falling for the trap of win/loss interview techniques – or now relabeled as buyer interviews in some circles – and seeking doing the right thing.
2. Are your buyer personas based on real people and sound like real people?
Buyer personas are archetypal representation of real people. If they sound and look like stereotypes – they probably are. They must sound believable and represent believability as well. You get to this right thing by doing the above and not just quantitative data gathering or win/loss approaches.
3. Does your buyer personas focus on the right attributes and goals of buyers?
Foundational to buyer personas is deep insight and articulation of buyer goals. And, how these goals are connected to their buying behaviors. Most times, when asked to review ineffective buyer personas, they read like job descriptions and offer little insights. If you feel like they came from HR, they probably are lacking.
4. Do your buyer personas tell insightful and archetypal stories about your buyers?
Buyer personas are meant to provide archetypal representations of real buyer stories and scenarios. If your buyer personas are more representative of product marketing or sales jargon, then they may not be a good representation of your buyer’s story. I see many buyer personas focused on trying to force product marketing or sales projected views onto their buyer personas. Speaking the internal language versus the buyer’s language.
5. Does your buyer personas help inform key decisions related to customer and got-to-market strategies?
The key purpose for buyer insights and buyer personas is to inform critical decisions regarding overall customer strategies and decisive go-to-market strategies. If they do not enable leadership decisions at this level, then they may be focused on the wrong things instead of the right things. Oftentimes, buyer personas are created in a narrow context and tend to focus on doing things right tactically but lacking in informing strategies.
6. Do your buyer personas look too complex and result in non-adoption?
Buyer personas serve as the communications platform for critical deep buyer insights. If this delivery is muddled in complexity, then adoption will be limited and deemed of non-value. I have seen many buyer personas or buyer profiles more accurately, shoehorned into MS Excel spreadsheet for example and become hardly usable for teams. Production value is critical to overall adoption.
7. Do your buyer personas become operational in key customer interaction areas?
Buyer insights and buyer personas should be focused on how to help key customer interaction areas do the right things with customers and buyers. Many companies are struggling with making buyer personas operational in marketing, sales, service, support, and operations. This is due to the lack of adequate research, narrow focus on one particular function, and a focus on the wrong things versus the right things.
Know The Difference
What has become critical for buyer personas is the difference between doing things right and doing the right things. To make sure investment in buyer insights and buyer personas is adding value, executives must make this distinction with the right choices. This is made complex by how many ways the term “buyer persona” is now used by consultants and firms as well as found in many articles. Claiming knowledge but have no background in standard and best practice methodologies.
For executives today, these 7 criteria descriptions will help in making the distinction and helps to ensure doing the right thing.