December 21, 2015

Your perfect prospect persona? We killed him.

Marketers work hard to create a persona to picture their ideal future customer. We bumped him off. sorrynotsorry

persona. DOA

Sales-oriented strategists define age/gender/income/psychic traits and habits based on research, intuition and alchemy. They even give him a name, or give her hobbies, then pin pictures to a mood board showing Perfect Prospect’s clothing, shopping choices and haircut. For 30 years it’s been a fun exercise for imaginative account planners, and often useful.

So why did we, um, “dispose” of him/her/it?

Are we just a bunch of spoilsports?

Well, it’s true that insightful speculation about that ideal customer can result in a successful launch strategy. But there are three serious problems, any of which can limit your growth potential:

1. It’s still guesswork. Calling her Debbie, saying she has five kinds of cheese in her refrigerator, drives an electric car and votes in every election may tell you something about what theater tickets she might buy. Maybe.

2. A persona can limit your vision. If you fall in love with your pursuit of Debbie, you might miss the possibility that there are multiple personae that could be profitably targeted. Is there a substantial audience of men? Or Hispanics? Or some other segment not on your radar?

3. Creating a persona is “old tech.” Personae have for decades been the secret sauce of account planners. Contrary evidence (ROI by audience segment, for example) is slow to arrive, so the marketing tactics to reach our imaginary friend can go unchanged for a long time. Years, even.

So we rubbed him out.

We confess, it was done without a pang of guilt. Because, you see, there’s a better way to measure the ROI of marketing tactics. Better insights into the pipeline of prospects. Today you can get real-time feedback into the behavior of market segments so you can be more nimble, more adaptive and more insightful.

It’s still a useful exercise to create a persona to launch or re-stage a brand, but you absolutely cannot rest at that point. Markets are fluid and dynamic, your audiences are in motion, so keep testing your assumptions.

Kiss 2007 goodbye. Marketing automation makes it possible to continually monitor messaging, measure engagement and reallocate resources. You can refine your media choices, social media usage and audiences by observing how they respond to your brand narrative and tactics.

Let’s discuss it: