Are marketing ‘personas’ still worth the effort?

Are marketing ‘personas’ still worth the effort?

I’m going to be really honest – when I run Marketing strategy workshops, the only part of them that I do not like is the “Who is your audience?” section.  This is because, in over 15 years of delivering these workshops the responses can usually be whittled down to either:

  1. We have no idea.
  2. We are completely convinced it is X, and no amount of data you produce can prove to us that it is in fact Y.
  3. We have a ridiculously complex set of audience personae, complete with breakfast preferences and their dog’s middle name…

It is a brutal process getting clients to build personas for each customer journey and – if I’m honest – I hate doing this because I think personas are dumb.  Consumer behaviour is constantly changing, as is technology, and don’t get me started on the economy.  There are better places to invest your precious time and resources than in keeping your marketing personas up to date.  So what should you be doing instead?

What goes into a Marketing Persona?

First, before I get angry comments, what I’m rallying against are Marketing Personas (aka Buyer Personas) which are fictional representations of ideal customers that are designed to help companies understand their target audience. They encompass demographic information, behaviours, goals, challenges and, in theory, enable businesses to tailor their marketing efforts effectively.

Why I don’t like them is that these personas are based on assumptions we make about our audience.  Instead of picturing a fictional person to speak to, I want businesses to use data to drive their decisions.  Technology today provides us with actual audience data from multiple sources. Combining this data allows us to see how people interact with our content and brands, which means we don’t need fictional characters anymore!

Why Personas Don’t Cut It Against Data

1. Evolving Consumer Behaviour
Consumer behaviour evolves rapidly. While personas provide valuable insights, data constantly updates and is validated with results (good or bad) to help you make better choices.

2. Personalisation at Scale
With advancements in marketing automation and AI, companies can now personalise marketing efforts at scale. That means that you can target every individual with the things that they are interested in rather than showing them what the fictional character you have created that most closely resembles them would like!  There is no contest for which will succeed!

Knowing your Audience Using Data is Absolutely Vital

When you understand your audience and who buys from you, your marketing gets better.  It’s that simple.  It helps with:

1. Targeted Marketing:
When you have valuable insights into customers’ preferences, you can craft targeted marketing campaigns. By understanding your audience’s needs and pain points, you can create relevant content and deliver messages that resonate with potential and existing customers.

2. Improved Customer Experience
When you use data to understand your customer’s journey, you can create seamless and personalised experiences at each touchpoint, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Effective Content Creation:
When you study your audience using data, you gain a clear understanding of the topics, formats, and channels that appeal to them. By aligning your content with this information, you can create engaging and valuable content that drives conversions and builds brand authority.

4. Just Plain Better Marketing
Your data should act as a compass for marketing strategies. It helps you to prioritise marketing channels, allocate budgets effectively, and make informed decisions about product development and customer acquisition initiatives. Data is a game changer!

Data-driven marketing is the accurate, intelligent way to target your customers, so stop wasting time on fictional personas and spend time looking at the facts and figures.

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