Personas have become a widely used way to represent users in B2B marketing, sales and design processes. This is great in theory as it puts a focus on the customer, but the reality is that B2B organizations often use the same static personas over and over, sometimes for years, when they are inaccurate and outdated. This continuous recycling of personas for all projects regardless of the marketing challenge is dangerous: It can lead marketers down the wrong path, wasting money and resources.
When used correctly, personas can be extremely powerful and elicit customer empathy. Great personas can prompt inspiration and lead to better solutions. Bad personas are shallow and fluffy (or worst of all fictional), and lead to bad decisions. The ubiquitous nature of personas means more B2B companies have real personas, but too often they are seen as a one-time investment and not updated with new research. While it may save time or money, this decision undermines the effectiveness of this communication tool.
Why can’t the personas from the company re-branding interviews two years ago be re-used for the new mobile app design project?
Persona creation is a customized process. Effective personas must be specific to the marketing or design problem, goals and behaviors regarding the brand, service or product. There are many types of personas and the best one to use depends on the project and available audience information.
Without going into the details of persona creation, here’s a quick summary on the differences in key persona types:
That’s why a brand persona created for last year’s ad campaign won’t help a team understand user behaviors to design a mobile app and a provisional persona shouldn’t be treated as real.
The purpose of a persona is to summarize the audiences’ goals, needs and interests to help capture what is important and relevant to them. If a persona is outdated and static, it offers little value. Consider the following points to determine if it’s time for persona updates:
Remember, personas are just research communication tools. What’s important is understanding your target audience—and that’s an ongoing process not a once-and-done activity. The voice of the customer is what will validate or challenge assumptions internally and help lead to success. If you are facing B2B marketing challenges, use real, relevant and recent information from your audiences to guide your solutions.