When I first started learning about inbound marketing, I was introduced to the concept of ‘buyer personas’. At first I thought it was just a typo. It sounded a bit silly to me, and as I learned more about inbound strategies, it started to look like I was going to have to learn a whole new language. Despite the fact that I’d been in the advertising/marketing biz for over 20 years, I’d never heard the term ‘buyer persona’. I wondered about the etymology of the phrase. Was it the same as ‘person’? Well, not exactly.
Good little researcher that I am, I searched ‘persona’ and came across this in Wikipedia:
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona…a series of role-playing video games developed and published by Atlus. The series is a spin-off of the Megami Tensei series, which focuses on demon summoners. However, the Persona series centers around groups of teenagers who have the ability to summon facets of their psyche, known as Personas, into being. The game draws many elements from Jungian psychology and various Jungian archetypes.
Well, that sounds like an interesting game, but the demon summoners series sounds even better! Still, that didn’t seem quite right. I was pretty sure a buyer persona didn’t have anything to do with a series of video games. So, I searched the ‘persona’ disambiguation and found this under ‘user experience’:
In user-centered design and marketing, personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. Marketers may use personas together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personas are constructed to be representative of specific segments. The term persona is used widely in online and technology applications as well as in advertising, where other terms such as pen portraits may also be used.
Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of brand buyers and users in order to help to guide decisions about a service, product or interaction space such as features, interactions, and visual design of a website.
I was suddenly incredibly depressed. Was I just a ‘persona’ to some big corporation? Could I really be pigeonholed that easily? Well, not exactly.
When you step outside of your ‘B2B marketer persona’ (clever, huh?), the second definition is, I think, less accurate than the description of the game. I’m actually a great big lump of buyer personas. For instance, I can be described as a:
- News Junkie (we’ve got sub-personas here: politics, entertainment, science and, of course, gossip)
- Pet Owner/Rescuer
- Movie Nut
- Avid Reader (we’ve got sub-personas here, too: cookbooks, humor and classic literature. OK, OK, trashy novels, too.)
Then what buyer persona am I? If we go back to the video game description, one might say that I can “summon facets of [my] psyche” depending on the role I’m playing at the time (writer, news junkie, gardener, etc.).
So, if you’re a B2B marketer, how do you get me in the door? Well, obviously, it depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling guns, I’m not going to be the one to click on the free eBook download about Five Legal Loopholes to Use When You Accidently Shoot Your Neighbor’s Dog on the Guns & Ammo website. On the other hand, if you’re selling kitchen gadgets, gourmet food or wine, I’m your gal. Just look a little closer and you see the connections: foodie, oenophile, chef and I like to read cookbooks. (And if that’s what you’re selling, could you let me know your URL? Just leave it in the comments section – thanks!)
The thing is, before you can create your buyer personas, you need to do your research. Who are your best customers? What do they like? What don’t they like? Your buyer persona is just a description of your target audience, your ideal customer or maybe even your prospect. There are tools available that can help you develop your buyer personas. Try this one.
Did we really need a new word? Maybe. Having its own verbiage is, I think, just an attempt to differentiate inbound B2B marketing (buyer-centric) from traditional outbound (product-based) marketing. Understand the different facets of your customer’s psyche and you’ll have your buyer persona.
So, thanks to a series of video games and Carl Jung, I get it.