Alan Cooper first introduced the concept of user personas in 1999 to help inform design strategy, of which I was privileged to witness first-hand. This was important then since user-friendly digital products and services were lacking. Challenges on how to make the web user-friendlier were a pressing problem back then as well. In 2002, I began a focus on buyer personas to address the changes in buying behaviors beginning to occur. The focus shifted to informing customer strategies, which best fit, the goals of buyers.
The question I get asked occasionally when helping people is this: after a decade or more, are buyer personas still important? After having many conversations recently, I would have to say yes – and more than ever. I realize those of you reading this may think – “of course you are going to say that!” The central question is – why are they still important? Let’s review a few reasons why:
- They inform marketing and sales strategies. Many B2B organizations are struggling with how to understand the new buying behaviors of today. And, how to keep up with how fast they are changing. When researched adequately, buyer personas can illuminate who buyers are, the situations they are faced with, how they have changed, and most important – what goals they are attempting to accomplish.
- Develop a common language about buyers. Understanding of buyers can vary among different silos. Alignment still plagues many organizations. Buyer personas provide a common language and communications platform about buyers. Helping to overcome silo barriers and create the focus where it should be – on helping buyers and customers fulfill their goals.
- Inform market and customer strategies. Decision-making relative to go-to-market strategies, marketing, and sales can amount to a guessing game. Buying behaviors are changing every month. Best practicing executive teams seek qualitative understanding of buyers as well as quantitative.
- Design thinking is more prominent. Personas are ideally suited to address design issues – including design thinking. The design of marketing and sales will become more prominent in the next two years. At this date, technologies used by B2B companies are focused on what to say. Giving inadequate amount of focus to the user-friendliness of the delivery.
- Better performance results expected. According to several studies, B2B companies who have implemented best practices on becoming customer and buyer focused have consistently outperformed their competitors. In their efforts, buyer personas were a crucial component of an overall plan to guide their enterprise towards customer centricity.
- Globalization is now a must for all organizations. When buyer personas were first introduced in 2002, globalization was a strategy reserved for large enterprises. Much has changed with the introduction of technologies making barriers of entries fall like the Berlin Wall. Companies are entering new markets with little knowledge of regional buying behaviors and little room for errors.
As the above “why” reasons indicate, deeper customer and buyer understanding are needed more than ever. The globalization of business, as well as, technological advancements has made for a much more complex world. Buyer insights research and buyer personas help to break down the complexity into insightful understanding. Allowing for improved decision-making.
As a result of globalization and new technologies, there are more channels used by customers and buyers. Best practicing organizations are using buyer personas, backed by solid research, to improve enterprise-wide understanding of customers. Creating effective touchpoints, which act as links to the multiple silos customers and prospects pass through.
The future of buyer insights research accompanied by buyer persona development appears bright. Researched in the right way, buyer personas can help organizations to accomplish an understanding, which has long been absent.