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Personas Risk Leading Your Marketing Astray

October 13, 2014


I could not agree more with Tim Reisterer and his recent article in the Sales and Marketing magazine. (You can read the article here, on pages 22-23.)

It’s a great article and dead on point. Personas are an excellent way for marketers to paint a broad picture of those they are trying to attract, helping unseasoned marketers get a grip on the idea of whom they’re writing to and creating programs for. Personas also help shape the language you use in your marketing collateral and tactics while providing a common language to use inside an organization as they talk about different prospective customer roles.

And I agree with the discussion of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), as related to personas, being a waste of time. Exactly for the reasons that Tim states: customers ultimately purchase because of their situation, not because of who they are.

People and companies buy because there is a trigger and a forcing function. Something happens that makes them want to move from their status quo. As humans, we like to try new things, but we don’t like change very much. Very few of us actively seek change for change’s sake. The KPIs that most people have as part of their work goals are a REFLECTION of their status quo, not the driver of it. Goals are set in the corporate bureaucracy to keep the organization moving forward.

Very few people in the hierarchy have KPIs that are focused on changing the company. Personally, a large part of my issues with KPIs has always been that, like accounting, they look to perpetuate the past, not change the future.

Don’t read this wrong. I am not saying that as a marketer or marketing team, you should abandon personas. They are incredibly helpful. Go through the process and continue to refine your personas so you understand the people, their education, what they care about, the tone to talk to them in, the things that are important to them. And then help your sales team use the personas by applying the understanding of the triggers and current/future situations to move the deals forward.

Marketing brings a broad message about the opportunity to do something different (content). And good marketing does this in a way that resonates emotionally with the buyer. Sales helps a buyer understand how to seize those opportunities to do something different and apply it to their organization. The situational context that sales people encounter is difficult, if not impossible, to capture in a small or narrowly defined set of personas.

Do you have a different take on it? We’d welcome the conversation or comments.

Dan Kraus
Written by Dan Kraus

With more than two decades of experience in sales, marketing, and go-to-market strategies, Dan Kraus has developed a deep portfolio of experiences that he now uses to help small businesses profitably grow their businesses. As an entrepreneur, Dan understands the challenges of growing a business with limited capital and human resources. As a line of business manager in larger companies such as SAP America and Great Plains Software (now part of Microsoft), his experience launching new business ventures inside reputable organizations established his reputation as a creative and effective executive that could both plan and execute within corporate confines.

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