Many companies are using 2D persona cut-outs these days, an approach that has limited success. But you can really get some amazing results from your buyer personas if you take the time and effort to dig a bit deeper than everyone else when creating them.

What is so amazing about personas?

The wonderful thing about the persona approach is that it helps marketer think in concrete as opposed to abstract terms. Addressing a generic segment is harder than designing a campaign aimed at Mike, 37, accountant, married, father of two, DIY fanatic, gourmet extraordinaire and your ideal customer.

What is not so good about buyer personas?

The problem with buyer personas is that they are often not built correctly. Someone in the organisation decides that personas is the way forward and tasks someone else with creating them. A Google search delivers a few templates, and presto! You have half a dozen buyer personas. Right?


  • A buyer persona is not a demographic profile.
  • A buyer persona is not a list of assumptions about that demographic profile.
  • A buyer persona is most certainly not the above crowned by a random headshot found on Google Images.

So, how do you build your buyer personas?

It can be tempting to speak to your sales team first and foremost. After all, they are the ones on the line of fire and know your customers inside out, right? But the results can be misleading, because what interests you sales guys and gals (bottom line: price and features) is not necessarily what really matters to you buyers.

The only way to really find out what makes your customers or prospective customers tick is to talk to them. Ask them good questions, and leave them time to answer. What are their values and worries. What they want from the kind of solution you offer. Why (if) they want to buy, and why now. How they inform themselves. How they make buying decisions.

You want insights so you can offer value.

The results of a persona analysis can support you entire marketing scaffolding, from website structure to content marketing to real life events. Once you really “grok” your personas, you know where to add value to their lives.

Where do I find out more?

I first heard of personas in the course of a Pragmatic Marketing Institute seminar in Boston in 2007. The experience totally changed my approach to marketing.The seminar leader was extremely knowledgeable and a brilliant communicator. Her name was Adele Revella.

A decade later, Adele is CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute, arguably the world’s top expert on buyer personas and best-selling author of a book on the subject.

I totally recommend her book. Her approach is very B2B oriented, but regardless of where you work I’m sure you’ll find it extremely valuable.


One of the things Adele said during that seminar that has stayed with me for almost a decade (and I repeat as a mantra when I find myself tempted to skip certain steps in the marketing planning process) is this one:

Your opinion,
although interesting,
is irrelevant.

You can have the most wonderful thoughts and ideas about your persona. But if they are not fact-based, derived from hard work and conversations with your target audience, they’re useless. So if your personas aren’t working for you, go back to the drawing board and start from scratch, this time really digging deep.

It’ll be worth it, I promise.

[Photo credit: Kevin Dooley / CC]


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