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 strives to strike a balance between work and domestic responsibilities. She tries to give herself moments of self-care, but those moments are rare. Elizabeth needs a way to recharge, relax, and take care of herself.
From this description, you’ll know Elizabeth’s age, occupation, gender, desires, struggles, and pain points. All of this information will help you put them into a category in your head – but none of this information tells you why she is buying your product.
Buyer personalities typically include descriptions like Elizabeth’s, as well as other demographic and personality information.
In the early days of customer segmentation, this would have been more than enough to inform 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’ve learned about how people make decisions and how we as a company summarize people, we can reach clients like Elizabeth with empathetic solutions that help, rather than stereotypical panaceas that are easily overlooked.
Here, let’s dive into three myths of the buyer personality – and what to do instead.
Standard buyer personas are not enough
Audience segmentation was first mentioned in 1956 by Wendell Smith. Smith defined market segmentation as “adapting market offerings to consumer or user requirements”.
Smith knew that creating segments would lead to greater consumer 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 Amid Uncertainty: Heuristics and Prejudice revealed the way people process and are influenced by information. And Clayton Christensen first shared his theory of the tasks to be done in 2003.
Both studies of human behavior, buying, 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 affected the way we create buyer personalities.
Based on the teachings of Kahneman, Tversky, and Christensen, there are three myths about the standard buyer personality that could adversely affect your marketing and customer relationships. Let’s get into that now.
Myth # 1: Your buyer personality needs a name
We have all seen the old advice to give yourself a name to remember. 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 wrongly naming your buyer personalities is that you can introduce bias into 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 are a good fit for your product but may not be similar to the person you planned to use. And that’s bad.
If Elizabeth is your most suitable client, look for clients who match your subconscious perception of Elizabeth rather than clients who actually use your product or service.
Studies show that someone with a name that is easier to pronounce is judged more favorably than someone with a name that is harder to pronounce. While most unconscious name bias studies focus on resumes and job applications, we can apply these lessons to buyer personalities as well.
How easy it is to pronounce depends on where you live or what language you speak. Keep in mind, however, that a name that sounds familiar may not sound 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 a person, try naming them according to the characteristics they have in common.
Do most of these most suitable customers enjoy soccer? Large! Call them “The Soccer Players”. Or they use 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 personalities focused on the category of people you are serving, rather than just a fake person.
Myth Two: Your buyer personality needs a photo to make it clearer and more realistic
Most buyer personalities have a photo in stock on the first page. I’ve even heard of companies using cardboard cutouts from buyer personalities in their office.
While I admire efforts to bring a category of people to life, assigning an image or person to represent a large group of people creates a basis for the bias in your marketing.
Fact: Your buyer personality doesn’t need a face to be realistic.
The buyer personality picture most likely shows what you think your ideal customer looks like, but it is likely not a good determination of your entire audience. If you’ve given your Elizabeth person a picture of a middle-aged white woman and 100% of your audience is ignorant, feminine, and feminine, then you have misrepresented your audience.
Giving a photo to our people can lead to racial, gender, or beauty disorders. These types of prejudices are so ingrained in our minds that we follow prejudice patterns even when, logically, we don’t believe the prejudices are true.
This phenomenon is known as that Bias blind spot. Studies show that 95% of knowledge occurs below the threshold of conscious thinking. That said, you may not be racist, misogynist, or alteristic, but there are patterns in your head that will influence your decision-making, whether you realize it or not.
A Google image search when searching for “buyer personas” clearly shows the problem with assigning images to buyer personas. There is not much diversity in these images, and that lack of diversity is detrimental to the growth of a business.
A 2019 survey by Female Quotient, Ipsos and Google found that “64% of respondents said they took action after seeing an ad they viewed as diverse or inclusive. Those numbers are increasing for Latinx + (85% ), Black (79%), Asia-Pacific Islanders (79%), LGBTQ (85%), millennial (77%), and adolescent (76%) consumers. “
Solution: Forget the photo.
Let the photo out of your buyer personalities. This will not affect or affect your marketing efforts and functions. This will be a step towards eliminating unconscious biases. Instead of using a stock photo, go 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 altogether 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 look like a variety of races, genders, shapes, and sizes.
As your marketing better represents your target audience, your product, news and communication will get more resonance.
Myth three: buyer personalities should describe character traits
Most B2B Buyer Personalities are created to educate marketing teams and executives about who their customers are and to keep promotions consistent. However, restricting buyer personalities to personality traits, demographics, and sociographic information limits your audience and your ability to reach the right people 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 put yourself in their pain points. Understanding your audience starts with how you build and segment your buyer personalities.
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 mom, loves long baths, and buys suave deodorant. The reason she buys Suave has nothing to do with her age, job title, or love of bathrooms. She buys Suave because she has used it for years, loves the smell and how it makes her feel. She hires Suave deodorant to make her feel good and smell good.
Clayton Christensen was the first to speak about the concept of people hiring products and services for a specific job.
Combining the emotional psychographic information of buyer personalities with a to-do-to-do approach will help inform your marketing efforts and open up your market so that you can serve all types of people. Christensen: “Companies that develop offerings that focus on jobs rather than customer attributes and buying behavior can excel in the market and avoid disruptions.”
The best buyer personas are the tools your business will use to grow
It is time for buyers to seek our knowledge of how people think, behave, and buy. When doing your next buyer personality project, leave the wrong name and picture behind and focus on what your customers are renting your product for them for.
Your marketing results will be more comprehensive to a wider audience while still being tightly focused and empathetic. By creating better buyer personalities, you will lay the foundation for better marketing practices that will resonate with your audience and grow your business.