The Value of Buyer Personas in Times of Uncertainty

buyer personas are a compass
Picture of Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito

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Buyer insights and buyer personas act as a compass for business leaders in uncertain times.

We are living in times of tumultuous upheaval.  A world turned upside down and rife with uncertainty.  It seems just when we may have a clearer picture of how six months to a year may go, unpredicted events make that picture fade away.  For businesses, this means understanding their buyers and customers is more critical than ever.  Requiring robust insights and forward-looking buyer personas to inform just how to navigate uncertainty.

In what seems like eons ago, buyer personas originated at another time of uncertainty.  I was living in Silicon Valley at the time.  We had just entered the new millennium of the 2000s, began to witness the rapid evolution of the Internet, experienced the wildness of the dot com bust, and saw our world forever impacted by 9/11.  Especially after 9/11, uncertainty reigned in the minds of business leaders, buyers, and customers.  Nothing would ever be the same.

And it has not been the same ever since. 

It was out of this time of unnerving uncertainty that buyer personas were founded.  As a former head of strategy and sales, I knew that the old way of sales and product management/marketing thinking was not working.  That these approaches were not going to help us to understand how buyers were changing. 

Here we are twenty years later.  Another tumultuous time of uncertainty.  In many ways, far more uncertain than at the turn of the century.  And the value of forward-looking insights and buyer personas is never greater.

I have sat back and read all the “buyer personas are dead” postings.  Usually, they come from people in organizations who are selling their wares.  Where it would be beneficial only to them if they did die.  And who shows little understanding of what is involved in the concepts and processes of buyer insights and buyer personas.  Do not believe the nonsense.

Because we have been experiencing an order of magnitude degree of change and uncertainty on all fronts, the value of buyer insights research and buyer personas has increased substantially.  Business leaders are in their roles for one of several primary reasons.  Which can be summarized as the ability to anticipate, predict, and strategize on how to steward their organization into the future.  A task, today, akin to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a large sailboat.  Facing gale-force winds, two-story-tall waves, and a broken compass. 

The art and science of buyer insights research and buyer persona development, when done correctly, can give business leaders what they need most.  A compass that is not broken and is accurate about the true north of where buyers are heading. 

The compass was invented over 2000 years ago.  Human history’s need to know where they are going and in what direction remains a constant.  Business leaders have such a constant in their existence.  Charting a course forward and knowing in what direction to steward their talent and organization remains a critical force.

This has always been the constant value of buyer personas.  I knew it then some twenty years ago with the first-ever buyer insights research and buyer persona development engagement with the Reed Elsevier portfolio of companies.  I know it now as we face a most uncertain future. 

Buyer personas act as a compass for leaders.  Enabling business leaders to possess informing insights that are a lantern at the bow of their ship.  Emitting enough light to see ahead and to make forward in a dark sea we call uncertainty.