Buyer personas get personal

Working on a buyer persona for a chief information officer last week, my client listed the predictable pain points on the flip chart -- shrinking budgets, conflicting priorities, legacy solutions that are difficult to integrate but costly to replace.

These aren't the real issues for Sam, I said. He’s been living with these problems for years – why would he be motivated to talk to you now? We explored the more personal side of this issue for Sam – could his job or career be compromised by sticking with the status quo? Which aspects of this decision look riskiest to Sam? What, exactly, is at stake if he makes a decision to go with your solution and it doesn’t work out?

I kept asking for deeper insight into Sam’s resistance to their solution. Sam knows about products such as yours, I said, so this isn’t about the obvious problems. Let’s talk about his attitudes and what it would it take to change those perceptions.

After a bit of discussion, my client said, “I get it! Buyer personas are about ‘stake-in-the-heart’ marketing.” A bit violent, I thought, but the people in the room suddenly understood that capturing the same old “pain-points” in their buyer persona renders it meaningless.

I’ve never seen a more interesting example of stake-in-the-heart marketing than this year’s U.S. presidential campaign. I confess that as a marketer I am predisposed to see the election through the lens of effective campaign strategy, but think about it. Can you see that the proposed answers to the country’s problems (health care, the economy, terrorism) are the candidate’s “feature-benefits,” crafted into messages that target different persona pain points? Do the differences in their plans fully account for your decision? Are their solutions new enough to explain the record numbers of people voting in the primaries? Or could it be that these candidates have managed to communicate on an entirely different level, and to audiences who are seeking something more?

With rare exceptions, the technology solutions I hear about each week are a lot like politicians – the differences between competing features and benefits aren’t enough to drive most people to take action. Plus buyers know that technology (and political) solutions are more difficult to implement than anyone wants to admit. Marketing needs to get personal if we want to convince buyers that our solutions can be trusted get the job done, come what may.

Topics: Advertising, B2B, Buyer Personas, Buying Criteria, Positioning & Messaging, Public Relations, Technology Buyers

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