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Five New Year’s Resolutions for Marketers (recommended by your buyer personas)

In case you’re looking to make your 2015 New Year’s resolutions a few days after the fact, here’s five your buyers want you to consider.

  1. I’ll find the time or budget to interview buyers and understand their mindset.
  2. I’ll bring the buyer’s perspective to our company’s internal discussions and decisions, replacing “I think” with “we’ve been listening to buyers and they think”.
  3. I’ll align with our salespeople by focusing on how we can work together to be helpful to buyers.
  4. I’ll ensure that our time and budget is allocated to creating content and resources that provide clear and useful information to buyers.
  5. I’ll stop making stuff up.

If this is too many to take on all at once, I highly recommend the final one, and that you’ll start with a plan to stop making up your buyer personas. Too many marketers are treating buyer personas as a creative exercise, with predictably disastrous results.

For example, we recently completed a buyer persona study for a company that had been delivering content to the executive buyer of their technology solution by focusing on its business benefits.

Here’s a verbatim quote from one of the buyers we interviewed:

“I’m looking for a level of detail that would need to be provided by an engineer. I’m not interested in a colorful brochure. I’m not interested in one that has been extensively wordsmithed. I’m just looking for a particular set of capabilities.”

In the next sentence, this executive described the capabilities he wanted in this type of solution. Then he talked about the perceived limitations of each of the solutions he had considered. He said that the business benefits were obvious, available from every vendor, and that marketing materials that focused on those points were useless.

This marketing team is not alone. Countless marketers have made similar mistakes by segmenting their buyer personas by job title and guessing about the content that will be useful to those people. It’s not that these marketers are wrong about the need to focus on business value, but it’s difficult if not impossible to guess about what it will take to persuade that executive that their solution is the best way to achieve a specific goal.

As I look towards the new year, I’m thrilled about the enthusiasm that marketers are showing for buyer personas. But I’m also alarmed about the long term prospect for buyer personas if marketers don’t realize that the purpose of buyer personas is to gain insight into the buyer’s mindset.

I hope that 2015 will be the year that marketers resolve to become buyer experts, and that my upcoming book from Wiley — Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into Your Customer’s Expectations, Align Your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business – will be an easy way for marketers to understand what’s required. The launch is scheduled for March, and the Kindle and hardcover editions are now available for pre-order here.

Comments

  1. Pushkaraj says:

    I am building a buyer persona questionnaire which will be sent over email to Indian CMOs. Can you let me know if the questions can be open-ended or should it be closed ended with objective-type questions?

    • Adele Revella says:

      We do not recommend any form of questionnaire for discovering the information you need for your buyer personas. The problem with structured questions is that you only get answers to the questions you know to ask. This form of survey research is useful when you want to validate your ideas. But surveys or structured questions are not useful for the “discovery” of buyer persona insights.

      Open-ended questions are better than closed-ended because at least you have only predefined the questions and not the answers. But I would encourage you to consider learning how to conduct an unscripted interview with your buyers, as this is the only path to the insights about your buyers that will differentiate you from your competitors.

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