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Nothing useful about these buyer personas

The product marketer I was coaching said he knew his buyer persona — that her top pain points were reducing costs, improving operations, and controlling risks.

Nothing revealing there. Every B2B buyer wants her business to be profitable and to operate it efficiently.

I was looking for the insights that would help me see his solution from his persona’s perspective. Focusing on the problem that his solution addressed, could he tell me what approaches she had already tried? Or what obstacles she thought his solution would need to overcome to deliver the benefit we were claiming?  What did he know about her positive and negative attitudes towards his company’s current version of this solution?

Silence. But then this is hardly unusual.

While many companies think they know their buyers, their knowledge is usually limited to the obvious information anyone could assume based on the buyer’s job title and functional role. And now I’m seeing people who think that a buyer persona is simply this “knowledge” plus disturbingly irrelevant information about the buyer’s personality or hobbies.

Here’s why I’m worried.

Buyer personas are only useful when they communicate the insights I need to build and execute a competitive marketing strategy.  This requires information that is both unexpected and not easily available to competitors. It also means that no one who has a really good buyer persona would ever publish it as an example.

So I’m very interested in changing the industry’s perceptions about the contents of buyer personas and I can’t publish great work when I see it. What to do? I’m taking the next best step I can think of and making our buyer persona templates freely available (no registration). Please let your colleagues know too. We need to educate as many people as possible about the content of complete buyer personas or they will lose credibility, and we’ll be back to guessing which strategies would compel buyers to choose us.

Be sure to download both the Product Persona Connection and the Core Buyer Persona templates. If you don’t have the time or resources to capture insights for both parts of the buyer persona, focus on the Product Persona Connection, as it reveals the most immediately actionable information. And if you think that the sections in either template aren’t clear, let me know so I can continue to improve them.

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