Is Persona-Based Marketing Already Outdated?

5 minute read

Upland Admin

Knowing your target customer and influencer type is part of marketing 101. Understanding their likes, dislikes, shopping habits, and buying motivations are the next level data that all brands are striving to collect and leverage. But how does it make a difference?

Is that data sitting in a folder, collected as a matter of habit? Are those stats making it into actual content operations strategy? Is there a content plan in place to take an artfully crafted, data-perfect persona beyond a one-dimensional picture?

These questions are what separates a brand from an organization that simply paints personas, and those who understand the role personas play in the bigger picture of other essential marketing considerations.

Personas Are Not Meant to Stand Alone

It’s common for brands to use personas as a “viewfinder” to connect with potential clients and influencers at a more intimate level. When this piece is clear and finalized, there’s something very powerful that takes place; every team within the organization has a clear picture of their customers and what they need. Think of it like a quick and dirty cheat sheet that teams can use as a reference to understand key customer characteristics and shopping habits.

The true work for brands comes after personas are complete. How effectively can they act as a “first lens” to then shape a bigger, more effective content strategy?

For example, simply sharing ads on a social platform where you think potential B2B clients might be is one step, but it’s not very targeted. Return on investment is also not guaranteed. To take things up a notch in terms of strategy, lean into persona characteristics and the data collected on purchase and content consumption habits to paint a more robust profile.

Then, expand into specific, nuanced marketing strategies that build a connection with B2B buying committees that match this description using targeted content strategies and campaigns.

Is ABM a Better Fit Than Personas?

To move beyond just setting and forgetting account based marketing tactics, look at accounts and buying committees in a multi-dimensional way. It helps brands dial in content requirements within key factors to highlight specialized needs, delivery styles, or creative incentive programs.

Take what you know about how you develop and use buyer personas in marketing and advertising efforts right now, and assess if it’s effective. Next, consider how digging a little deeper can help your brand build a stronger foundation and beef up ABM marketing tactics in a whole new way.

Before we get too far in the weeds—keep in mind that ABM requires infrastructure and process changes that affect your whole team. Using a lead-based model in tandem with ABM is usually too resource-intensive for most teams to yield real results. As you consider starting these conversations, know that ABM really requires an all-in mindset.

1. What market segment is highlighted with the specific persona in mind?

Can you divide a market of potential customers into more refined groups or segments based on different characteristics? Be mindful to create segments based on each type of persona’s reaction to specific types of marketing strategies, interests, needs, and locations.

2. Consider potential vertical markets within each marketing persona.

Is there a vertical market such as an industry, trade, profession, or other specific groups of customers that can be highlighted within a persona or groups of personas? Is there a way to use basic persona details to possibly open up a whole new target market and conduct data collection to test viability?

3. Review how the same persona can have different content and marketing preferences across industries.

This one seems simple, but it’s often overlooked in the quest to create very defined ridges within buyer personas for the sake of clarity.

Truth is, more people within organizations are doing cross training and knowledge sharing to improve team agility and maintain smaller, tighter project timelines. As the silo mentality continues to dissolve, it’s common to see the same point person as part of a buying committee across more than one industry or vertical for a brand.

4. Give the data reasonable time to share its story.

The clear data and answers brands want in order to set their products and services apart is about a moment in time as much as it’s about many moments in time that build a story arc. Personas are one tool that helps B2Bs see their customer from a generic starting point and provide context for the data they are collecting and analyzing.

Over time, the picture gets clearer and more useful. It helps to set a specific timeline for collecting data to prove or disprove theories or assumptions about personas and create a content strategy with clear roots that can grow and take shape as a marketing approach.

5. Create set timelines to refresh personas.

How often are you updating personas with relevant findings, or against industry and marketing trends? Access to vast marketing data makes it easier than ever to pivot or go deeper in a direction based on the buying habits of consistent customers or new clients. Take time to update personas, at least quarterly, and craft a checklist template to keep things simple and consistent in the review process.

In the big picture, the way brands approach persona-based marketing and content development is changing. It can be considered the death of persona-based advertising—in a way.

Key Takeaways

B2B organizations have a responsibility to the brand to dive beyond a one-dimensional view of what a persona can offer—in terms of marketing insights—and leverage strategies to break through to buyer groups. As customer preferences change with industry innovations and technical tools, it also impacts the way buyers approach research, education, and purchase decisions. B2B content operations need to do the same. Buyer personas are just one tool available in the marketing tool belt to help connect brands with the right point person at an organization and provide engaging content that converts them into a client.

The B2B marketer's guide to ABM content: a guide by Kapost and Engagio

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