Persona-lly, I Don’t Give a Damn

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I feel like building personas is a necessary step in marketing, but whatever result comes out of the process eventually gets swept under the rug. As marketers, we take the time to craft the perfect representation of who we believe is our target customer, give it a clever name using even cleverer alliteration (Engineer Ernie, Hipster Hal, etc.), share it with co-workers and then rarely (if ever) use it again.

What gives? I think there are three main issues that lead to this:

  1. A persona is a subjective profile of an individual. Who’s to say it’s wrong or right? Who’s to know for sure? People at the company will disagree on who the persona is. When people disagree, the less cooperative they are in marketing/selling/servicing that particular persona.
  2. People don’t understand how they can actionably use a persona they’ve created. It’s not just a one-and-done deal. The profile you’ve created should be used in the content you produce, the email copy you write and the types of products or services you develop. It’s universal throughout the organization, not a static piece of content you finish up and brush aside.
  3. There’s no easy way to measure the effectiveness of a persona. You can probably enforce some sort of lead scoring around the various metrics you attribute to your persona (revenue, # of employees for B2B businesses; income, eduction for B2C, etc.) there’s no clear cut way to see if the profile you develop is impacting the bottom line. This is probably the most important aspect in my opinion, especially as businesses today are shifting towards tracking ROI to the dollar.

When you combine the subjectivity of its development with a lack of actionable next steps and no means to measure the success of the whole ordeal, it’s difficult to become motivated to create and consistently refine a persona.

Sure, we’ve filled out powerpoint templates and shared them around, but there’s got to be another way, right? Or maybe this is just a persona-l struggle (see what I did there?)

What do you do to show value in building a persona?

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Al is a marketer at HubSpot, a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA. He is the creator of Mink.

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