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Buyer Personas: Bright Shiny Object or Compelling Strategic Advantage?

How are you positioned? I’m not asking about your products, I’m asking about you, a career marketer who needs to be positioned as an expert that clients or internal stakeholders will trust to market their solutions.

I had a quick look recently at how marketers are writing their LinkedIn summaries. The preferred formula seems to combine years of experience with the results produced in prior jobs. While this appears to work for securing the next position, I wonder how much impact it has once the marketer is on the job.

Imagine telling your clients or other stakeholders that they should not change the message you created because you’ve been doing this sort of thing for 10 years. Or saying that your recommendation to dedicate some of the budget to email marketing is appropriate because you successfully employed that technique in prior high-performing campaigns. Will this approach overcome the company’s objections to your carefully crafted message or allay concerns for the executive who has just read about the demise of email marketing?

What if your recommendations are absolutely correct, and you aren’t able to implement them because you don’t have the clout to carry the decision?

What happens if she learns that it isn't real?

Many people believe that my work is focused on buyer personas, but the more accurate view is that I’m obsessed with elevating the role of marketing. I take it personally when I see smart people toiling away on endless lists of deliverables, operating with little more autonomy than a factory production worker.

So while I’m thrilled that there is so much interest in buyer personas, I’m increasingly concerned that they could become just one more “Bright Shiny Object” on the marketers’ to-do list.

I’m seeing too many blog posts advising marketers to simply fill in templates that capture internal notions about the buyer or readily available, completely obvious external data.

For example, you can spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn and find your buyer’s job description. From that you can easily conclude that your buyer wants to grow revenue, improve productivity, reduce costs, etc. Would buyer personas created in this way really add any value?

The simple truth is that companies have a vacuum of true insight into how and why buyers make decisions. And marketers who step up to fill this void are the source of a compelling strategic advantage.

It’s also true that the comfort of existing approaches such as surveys and internal interviews won’t reveal anything compelling. But buyers will tell you exactly what you need to know, sharing insights they haven’t yet shared with anyone else, once you learn how to engage them in a structured, unscripted interview.

I’ll close with congratulations to Irakli Beselidze @premiersv, John Fox @b2bmarketing, and Julie Squires @juliesquires for completing our Certified Practitioner Program, which we recently launched to recognize marketers who build insightful buyer personas and use them to drive strategies for messaging, positioning, content marketing, targeting, segmentation, and sales enablement. You guys rock!

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