An essential part of developing a human-centered approach to modern marketing is hearing and observing your customers and buyers. The aim is to reach a level of deep understanding, which helps us to make more informed strategic business decisions. CMO’s and their C-Suite peers are collecting a tremendous amount of information. Whether it is big data, sales intelligence, or companies engaging in careful qualitative studies of their customers.
Making sense of a mountainous collection of information can prove to be a daunting exercise. While we may gather better clarity on segments and groups of buyers, obtaining a sensible and informing view of customer and buyer goals, their motivations, thinking, and behavior-driven activities is proving to be elusive.
Trying With Big Data
In the past two years, you cannot say companies are not trying. How they are trying to get this elusive painting of their customers and prospects may be making the lake in which we seek to understand murkier. Companies are investing in big data crunching in pursuit of better insights and decisions. However, as the surge of information becomes greater, the harder it is to gain the easy to understand painting of customers.
While quantitative big data can be very valuable, what organizations must be wary of is the deluge of data does not drown out the voice of their customers and buyers. Even worse, completely put a veil over having a human-centered perspective of their customers and buyers. The risk is customers can become mere digits on a screen.
Buyer Personas Represent The Human Perspective
Bringing a human-centered perspective to strategic planning and decision-making in marketing and sales requires deep understanding. Buyer personas represent archetypes of customers and buyers based upon research, which is qualitative in nature. While buyer personas have gained in popularity, organizations must be on guard not to create superficial target caricatures based on surveys or win/loss analysis. Giving such superficial caricatures labels as “the hard-charging executive information hunter” yields little in the way of developing a human-centered perspective.
A common pitfall for organizations introduced to or adopting buyer personas is their miscast role as target sales-oriented profiling. This perspective in relabeling traditional buyer profiling lacks human-centeredness and hinders much-needed innovation in modern marketing. More importantly, the wrong perspective prevents modern marketers from gaining the maximum value from a true human-centered buyer persona perspective – which makes for powerful sales messaging and content marketing.
(For example, one Fortune 500 Company I helped had previously fell into this pit. They had created an extensive spreadsheet of buyer personas – thirty-four (34) in all! Sorely unmanageable and fraught with traditional pre-modern marketing business speak. This was due to a misguided view of buyer personas as a win or loss profiling exercise versus an attempt to gain a human-centered understanding of goals and behaviors. In the end, five (5) buyer personas were developed, which represented common views of customers and buyers both marketing and sales can work with and understand.)
Buyer Personas Are An Important Part Of The Understanding Phase
In human-centered marketing, there are three important phases. A process I call H.U.M. – for hear, understanding, and model (see more here). Buyer personas represent the synthesis and translation of the qualitative research conducted with customers and buyers. It is here in the understanding phase where we put a human face to our research, findings, and uncovered insights. We bring our customers to life visually. Using descriptive narratives, scenarios, illustrations, stories, and a focus on goal-centeredness to illuminate behaviors and realities.
In human-centered marketing, buyer personas play an important role in deepening an organization’s empathetic view of their customers and buyers. They also help in challenging or validating assumptions as well as dispelling preconceived views. Oftentimes, marketers can unintentionally communicate or market through their own personal view of the world versus those held by customers. Buyer personas help with putting a focus on people.
Buyer Personas Help Guide Modern Marketing
Within a human-centered marketing framework, we seek to model and create meaningful communications and connections with customers and buyers. We attempt to answer important questions, through our buyer personas, related to challenges in content design, communicating a value proposition, and uncovering new revenue models.
In the era of modern marketing and the disruptive digitization of business, businesses must hone in on the impact to human behaviors. Learning how these impacts translate into new buying behaviors. Buyer personas, within a human-centered marketing framework, can illuminate new goals, motivations, and thinking of buyers. Helping to bring a common view and understanding of customers to an organization.
For today’s modern marketers, buyer personas become the central characters in iterative testing of new modern marketing concepts and strategies. What we do know is approaches we are using today may very well be inadequate in a short amount of time. If not so as of now. Buyer personas provide the understanding and human face needed to help guide innovative modern marketing approaches, which put organizations in the best positions to help their customers and buyers. Thus, earning their hard fought loyalty.