5 Recommendations For Leaving Out-Of-Date Buyer Persona Practices Behind

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Tony Zambito

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orange juice – expiration date: August 30th, 2008 (Photo credit: viZZZual.com)

Companies today are facing challenges to grow yet must do so in new ways.  Finding optimal effectiveness and efficiency in reaching buyers can be elusive.  Confronted with higher expectations by buyers for quality services, better experiences and seamless integration into their business operations.  These factors have B2B organizations on the hunt for deeper understanding of their markets and buyers.

Living In The Past

Despite these challenges, organizations can operate as if they are living in the past.  This includes existing buyer persona development efforts B2B companies have engaged in.  Not realizing they may actually be putting themselves further behind in understanding buyers in today’s digital age.  Approaching buyer personas from out-dated modes of product marketing perspectives, language, and terminologies.  Seeing buyers through foggy product-centric lenses at best.

To illustrate this point, I can share with you a recent conversation helping an organization who created buyer personas yet saw little results.  They sent me templates, which were given to them to use alongside a consultant’s help.  What should be noted is the product-centric nature of how these templates ill-advised buyer persona creation:

  • A focus on product-related questions asked of buyers such as: “How does our product solve your problem?”
  • A focus on why deals are won or loss only – usually involving a product
  • Heavily weighted towards demographics and roles
  • Use of out-dated language buyers do not use such as pain points, triggers, buying criteria, barriers, objections, and more as they relate to a product.
  • Heavily waited towards out-dated views of buying processes and buyer’s journey

These are just a few examples.  What ties them together however is this: these templates are out-dated and reinforce the side effect of projecting product-centric thinking onto the development of buyer personas.  Thus, no meaningful buyer personas are created nor are there deep insights obtained.


B2B organizations need to increase their capabilities in understanding customers and buyers.  Not doing so will put them at risk of falling behind both their customers as well as their competitors.  This includes significantly advancing their efforts related to buyer persona development in order to gain the necessary deep understanding.  Here are five recommendations for companies aiming to advance:

  • Do the right level of research.  In my previous article, 6 Advanced Best Practices In Buyer Personas Propel Growth, I noted the need for direct research with buyers and the use of qualitative research techniques.  I wish to reiterate this point and to also bring attention to the misrepresentation of win/loss interviews as a substitute for qualitative research techniques.
  • Make buyer personas goal-centric, not product-centric.  Much of buyer persona adopters have oriented themselves towards product-centric thinking.  Rooted in products, solutions, obstacles, criteria, and the language of products.  Buyers are focus on advancing goals and the mindset, language, and terminologies of product-centricity act as roadblocks to deep understanding of buyers.  I echo this same recommendation to content marketers, who use buyer personas for message crafting.  Much of which can be prone to product-centric communications.
  • Make buyer personas experiential, not process oriented.  Keep the focus on the situational experiences of buyers.  Out-dated buyer personas make attempts to shoehorn research and development into generic views of buying process or buyer’s journey.
  • Update buyer personas regularly.  Oftentimes, buyer personas are seen as a one-time exercise.  In these fast-changing times, buyer personas must be updated regularly, with sufficient research, to be meaningful.
  • Integrate and make operational.  One misconception is buyer personas are meant for marketing messaging only.  Best practicing firms have integrated buyer personas into multiple facets of their business.  Paying attention to the experience of customers and prospects via touchpoints and customer facing interaction.  And, making them operational so they guide important decisions related to got-to-market strategies.

By following these recommendations, companies can begin to leave out-dated product-centric thinking and practices behind.  Including projecting product-centric approaches onto their buyer persona development efforts.

Seeing And Hearing Clearly

When it comes to strategizing, B2B companies can get caught in an ongoing debate about the best ways to market to buyers.  Usually, it can resort to out-dated product-centric dialogue using language related to pain points, criteria, buyer’s journey, objections, and more.  Leading to a further downward spiral away from truly understanding buyers.

To see and hear buyers clearly in today’s new digital environment, buyer persona development must advance far beyond this level of thinking and practice.  Those who do will be in the best position to help buyers accomplish their goals as well as to adapt to changing environments.  And, this is the one thing we can count on – buying behavior and environments will change.

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