Meet Elizabeth: a 27 year old nurse who drives a Honda Civic, loves making TikToks, and spends most of her time with her lovely 9 month old baby.
Elizabeth is desperate to have more time to herself, but struggles to find the right balance between work and domestic responsibilities. She tries to indulge in moments of self-care, but those moments are rare. Elizabeth needs a way to recharge her batteries, relax, and take care of herself.
Through this description, you will know Elizabeth’s age, occupation, gender, desires, struggles, and pain points. All of this information will help you put them into a category – but none of this information tells you why they are buying your product.
Buyer personas usually contain descriptions like Elizabeth’s, along with other demographic and personality information.
In the early days of customer segmentation, this would have been more than enough to support marketing campaigns and product development. However, with growing markets and heightened consumer awareness, businesses need to go beyond the usual buyer personalities to reach their target audience.
If we can apply what we know about people’s decision making and the way we as a company group people together, we will be able to reach clients like Elizabeth with empathetic solutions to help her rather than stereotypes Panacea that are simply overlooked.
Here, let’s dive into three myths of the buyer persona – and what to do instead.
Standard buyer personas are not enough
The first mention of audience segmentation was made in 1956 by Wendell Smith. Smith defined market segmentation as “the adaptation of market offerings to consumer or user requirements”.
Smith knew that creating segments would lead to higher customer / user satisfaction. But Smith’s idea of segmentation was years before we had a clear understanding of psychology, behavioral economics, unconscious bias, and deeper knowledge of how to ensure consumer satisfaction.
Since Smith’s discussion of segmentation, we have made important discoveries in the way people think, rationalize, and categorize others. Daniel Kahneman and Amos’ Tversky’s 1974 research A Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases revealed the way people process and are influenced by information. And Clayton Christensen first shared his jobs-to-be-done theory in 2003.
Both studies of human behavior, purchasing and thinking have had a lasting impact on the way we create copies of ads, rate products, introduce calls-to-action and influence many other marketing activities – but have not yet influenced our approach to creating buyer personas.
Based on the teachings of Kahneman, Tversky, and Christensen, there are three myths about the standard buyer persona that could harm your marketing and customer relationships. Now let’s dive into these.
Myth # 1: Your buyer personality needs a name
We all know the old advice to give yourself a memorable name. Names like Sally Sales Girl and Mary the Marketer will bring your persona to life and create a more concrete persona in your head and marketing – so we are told.
Fact: naming your buyer personality creates bias.
The problem with giving your buyer personas a false name is that you could skew your marketing.
Introducing name skew in your marketing means that you have consciously designated a specific person as your best customer. It’s good! The problem is, you may also inadvertently exclude people who might be a good match for your product, but may not be similar to the person you envisioned. And that’s bad.
If Elizabeth is your best suited customer, look for customers who match your subconscious perception of Elizabeth rather than customers who actually use your product or service.
Studies show that someone with a name that is easier to pronounce is judged better than someone with a name that is harder to pronounce. And while most studies of unconscious name bias focus on résumés and applications, we can apply these findings to buyer personas as well.
The pronunciation varies depending on the place of residence or language. But keep in mind that a name that sounds familiar may not seem familiar to your audience.
Solution: Name personas based on segmentation data.
When we create buyer personalities, we group a large number of people into one category. Instead of naming your personas after someone, try naming them after the characteristics they share.
Do most of these best-fit customers enjoy football? Large! Call them “The Soccer Players”. Or maybe they are using your product to save time in their planning processes. Wonderful – let’s call them the free timers.
Naming this group of people according to their segment or needs will help remove any bias.
This helps keep buyer personas focused on the category of people you are serving, rather than just a fake person.
Myth 2: Your buyer personality needs a photo to make them more relatable and realistic
Most buyer personas have a stock photo on the first page. I’ve even heard of companies using cardboard cutouts of buyer personas in their offices.
While I admire efforts to bring a category of people to life, assigning an image or person to a large group of people lays the groundwork for bias in your marketing.
Fact: Your buyer personality doesn’t need a face to be realistic.
The picture of the buyer persona most likely represents what you think your ideal customer looks like, but it is likely not a good definition of your entire audience. If you’ve given your Elizabeth personality the image of a middle-aged white woman and 100% of your audience is non-white and middle-aged female, you have misrepresented your audience.
Giving our personas a stock photo can create racial, gender, or blemishes. This type of bias is so ingrained in our minds that even when we logically don’t believe the bias is true, we follow prejudice patterns.
This phenomenon is called. known blind spot. Studies show that 95% of cognition occurs below the threshold of conscious thinking. That said, you may not be racist, misogynist, or anti-aging, but there are patterns in your head that will influence your decision-making, whether you know it or not.
A Google image search when searching for “Buyer Personas” clearly shows the problem with assigning images to Buyer Personas. There’s not a lot of diversity in these images, and that lack of diversity hurts a company’s growth.
A 2019 survey by Female Quotient, Ipsos, and Google found: “64% of respondents said they took action after seeing an ad they thought was diverse or inclusive. Those numbers are increasing on Latinx + (85%), Black (79%), Asian / Pacific Islander (79%), LGBTQ (85%), Millennial (77%), and Adolescent (76%) consumers.
Solution: Forget the photo.
Leave the stock photos off your buyer personas. This will not harm or harm your marketing efforts and functions. It will be a step towards eliminating unconscious biases. Instead of using an archive photo, it takes you straight to the crucial information.
You may feel the urge to add a cartoon character, but that doesn’t alleviate the problem. Skip the images entirely and go straight to the information that will help you reach, reach, and sell to your customers.
This is the first step in realizing that your customers come from a wide variety of races, genders, shapes, and sizes.
If your marketing represents your audience better, your product, your messages and your communication will get through more clearly.
Myth 3: Buyer personas should describe character traits
Most B2B buyer personas are created to educate marketing teams and executives about who their customers are and to keep promotions consistent, but restricting buyer personas to character traits, demographic, and sociographic information puts your audience and the audience down Ability to reach the right people in the right way.
Fact: Buying personalities should tell you why people buy a product or service.
The best way to resonate with your audience is to understand them and empathize with their pain points. Understanding your target audience starts with how you build and segment your buyer personas.
When segmenting your target audience based on attributes such as brands, habits, or job titles, you are grouping people based on fleeting attributes.
For example, let’s say our personal example, Elizabeth, changes jobs, moves to a new city, or changes every feature of her life. As a result, you could unnecessarily push Elizabeth out of your customer demographics. She loves your product and would still buy your product, but now stop investing in marketing for her segment.
Solution: Segment according to the task to be done.
Instead of building your personas on demographics and character traits, you should base your personas on what your customers have commissioned with your product / service for them.
For example, Elizabeth is a mother, loves long baths and buys deodorant from Suave. The reason she buys Suave has nothing to do with her age, job title, or preference for bathrooms. She buys Suave because she’s been using it for years, loves the smell and how it feels to be. She “hires” a deodorant from Suave to make her feel good and smell good.
Clayton Christensen was the first to discuss the concept of how people hire products and services for a particular job.
Combining the emotional psychographic information from buyer personas with a job-to-be-done approach will help inform your marketing efforts and open up your market so that you can serve all types of people. According to Christensen, “Companies that develop offerings that focus on jobs rather than customer attributes and buying behavior can stand out in the marketplace and avoid disruption.”
The Best Buyer Personas will be the tool that will make your business grow
It is time for buyer personas to catch up with our knowledge of how people think, behave, and buy. When doing your next buyer persona project, leave out the wrong name and picture and focus on what your customers are doing for them with your product.
Your marketing results will be more accessible to a wider audience while still being tightly focused and empathetic. Creating better buyer personas lays the foundation for better marketing practices that will resonate with your audience and grow your business.