Persona-based marketing is a practice that has been trusted by businesses for decades. Traditional research firms have relied on buyer personas to plan target markets, craft advertising plans, and drive the development of new products. Personas are the reason why today’s biggest companies have evolved to become what they are today — if you’re in the B2B world, you’re probably working with several companies that rely on this customer analysis technique.
The challenge with persona-based marketing, however, is that it doesn’t solve the same business problems that it has in the past — the ability to reach and engage consumers. As the digital ecosystem moves toward personalization, behavioral targeting, and predictive modeling, marketers are looking to learn from their customers on an individual basis.
Even still, persona-based marketing isn’t — and will likely never be — obsolete. Even though marketers are using individual-level data to predict customer behavior and make targeting decisions, there will always be a need to put people into groups. As data proliferates, persona-based marketing will take new forms but still remain relevant. Here’s what we mean.
1. Personas, segments, and other groupings illuminate patterns
Person-level data is a double-edged sword. Even though you have the potential to collect volumes of information about your users, you risk burying yourself under a data avalanche. Groupings, like marketing personas, can add structure to what would otherwise be chaotic.
With this level of structure, you’ll be able to assess patterns across dimensions. For instance, you may notice that product managers at large tech companies are more responsive to your new logo than marketing managers at a startup.
2. Persona-based marketing helps businesses prioritize changes
As a marketer, you know that it’s important to build a genuine, lasting, and authentic connection with your customers. Every decision you make should be based on feedback loops around marketing campaigns and product initiatives -- you should be listening what your customers tell you explicitly and subtly.
One of the biggest challenges related to customer feedback is prioritization. As much as you would love to accommodate every single feature request from your audience, you simply can’t. Instead, you’ll need to focus on initiatives that drive the most impact for your business.
While personalization is valuable for refining your marketing message, personas are valuable for finding patterns in analytics and insight -- information that you can reinvest into your product development initiatives and marketing campaigns.
As real-time marketing and web personalization becomes more important, persona-based marketing will continue to experience a paradigm shift from a push-mechanism to analytical tool.
3. Personas provide structure for experimentation
Test, measure, scale, repeat. The most successful marketing teams are driven by a process of experimentation.
Especially when evaluating new ideas, marketers need structure -- a clear hypothesis, methodology for execution, and system for measuring results. Before you launch your first test campaign, you’ll need a strong understanding of your audience. While you probably have a wealth of individual-level data on hand, you’ll need some group level identifiers to understand your customers’ journeys and corresponding metrics.
Personas can help you derive value from data points that are otherwise scattered. They allow you to uncover and communicate the trends that are influencing your business while providing a common thread to keep your team members in sync.
While personas may not influence your targeting, they will impact your learning process.
Personas are the opposite of obsolete. While personalization has evolved into the ultimate targeting tool, personas have become the ultimate resource for learning. The more you can understand your customers at a group level -- as a blueprint for more granular targeting -- the less likely you’ll be to throw darts in the dark.
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