Timothy (Tim) Hughes
January 26, 2017

Have We Got Persona Marketing All Wrong?

Persona Marketing

This article by Timothy (Tim) Hughes, questions the common wisdom regarding Persona Marketing. It echoes some ponderings here at Curatti, and is another in our “Great Articles You may have missed” series.

Persona Marketing

Love the cartoon “Buyer Personas” via @tomfishburne. It reminded me of a time while working at a previous company.

Marketing had spent many an hour coming up with “buyer personas” and content to meet those persona. The field sales team then said, just like the cartoon, “How will this help me sell more software?”

If you are a reader of my blogs, you will know that I believe that right now we have serious dysfunction in the buying and selling process. Our buyers are self-educating (I think they always did) but because of the internet, buyers now have more access to the internet and get review more content (white papers, product reviews, youTube videos etc) more than was ever available in the past.

But there is also another problem. According to research below, B2B organisations are finding difficult to make decisions.

An Eye-Opening Gartner Report!

Here is an interesting Gartner report called 94% = Enterprise Buying Teams That Have Abandoned a Buying Effort With No Decision (in the past 2 years)

If you are a Sales Leader and running a sales forecast this puts a lot of your pipeline at risk, 94% to exact.

Worth revisiting this Gartner report to re-emphasize the wording

If we look at recent research from CEB customers take twice the time buying than they estimated. For example, if they thought a procurement would take 3 months, it takes 6 months. In the report CEB state:-

Customers aren’t overwhelmed by suppliers’ inability to sell, but their own inability to buy. The result is extended buying cycles; dramatically increased purchase regret; and fewer ambitious, premium-solution purchases.

So What’s Going On?

Why are buyers not making decisions? It would seem they are totally confused and decisions are abandoned or delayed. It’s been suggested to me that “Persona Marketing” is to blame. Why? Very simple, as a vendor you educate people in the decision making process with different information and when it comes to making a decision, vendors have totally confused the prospects.

Having interviewed Bent Adamson co-author of the Sales Challenger and the Challenger Customer before I put to him the following question:-

I asked Brent, “What do you think about Persona Marketing?”

He said, “Persona marketing can be incredibly valuable if it’s designed to solve a buying problem, rather than a selling or marketing problem. Typically, marketers use personas to better connect individual stakeholders to the supplier’s value proposition. However, our research shows that customer stakeholders’ real struggle is connecting with one another – not the supplier. In this world, marketers are better served using personas to anticipate the points, issues, questions and opportunities where stakeholders are most likely to disagree and proactively address those disconnects instead. We often refer to this approach as an “interpersonal persona,” designed specifically to streamline consensus creation and make buying easier.”

So what should us sales professionals do to react?

Nothing we shouldn’t be doing already. Which is, helping our prospects, educating them, listening to them, guiding them and engaging with them. Top performing salespeople, work across their accounts, using social media to research across their accounts and territory, decision makers, change makers and influencers. While in the past this took time, social media allows you to accelerate the discovery and connection of these contacts. All at scale.

Time spent prospecting has always been an investment in the “Territory Bank” and it remains so today.

What About Personas?

While I’m sure persona marketing has a place, let’s not lose sight that selling was and still is, social. It’s about connecting, engaging and meeting with people. While in the area which I work, business to business (B2B), remember, it is people that make decisions and not companies.

These people have wants and needs and one want is to be treated as individuals and not as a demographic, or as the “tech buyer” persona.

What Do You Think?

This is a great subject. Do you agree that personas are used wrong? Do you think they have a place in marketing? Or do you disagree with everything here? Happy to engage in conversation.

timothy-hugesThis article was previously titled “Are we Fooling Ourselves about Persona Marketing?” and posted on LinkedIn. It is republished here with permission.

Tim Hughes is co-founder of Digital Leadership Associates a company that provides support and guidance in all areas of Social as well as Social Selling. He has been called “an innovator and pioneer” of Social Selling and in the most recent Onalytica list of the most influential Social Sellers globally, Tim was named as number 1.



Tweet Tim @timothy_hughes or read his blog The Social Selling Network.

You can download or order his book “Social Selling – Techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers” from Amazon by clicking here. There is also a Kindle version. It is written in a workbook style, it’s designed to help you implement a Social Selling strategy across Sales and Marketing.


Featured Image: Copyright: ‘http://www.123rf.com/profile_axelbueckert‘ / 123RF Stock Photo



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