There’s Power in Personas Done Well.

by April Williams

B2B companies that take the time to understand the pain points of their target audience and empathize with them – drive engagement and outperform their competition.

“Buyer personas, built well, take a concerted effort to produce. Businesses in the B2B space are especially known to skip the buyer persona process. In fact, only 44 percent of B2B marketers use personas, and 83% of these marketers say they are only slightly or somewhat effective at using them. What a colossal waste of time, effort, and investment.”


I recently sat with Joe Lazauskas and Rand Fishkin and they both shared that personas are much more about empathy than they are about data (not that data doesn’t matter.) And they both emphasized to do personas well takes time but it can be a game changer across your organization.

So are doing personas well worth your time and effort?

Rand Fishkin would absolutely tell you YES!

I spoke to him about the time he literally swapped lives for an entire week with a client. He shared that it was a way to get deep empathy for another human being in a way that is almost never done in modern life. They exchanged homes, lives and careers for a week.

He described it as powerful but also very frustrating to live the life of a marketer at an agency that was using Moz products in addition to other SEO software tools. He witnessed firsthand the many mistakes his company had made. He said if he had one key takeaway to share it was to sit in or imagine sitting in your customers’ company and watching them use your product or service in their day to day work life. 

Joe Lazauskas would agree.

When I spoke to Joe he said most marketers don’t actually get in the weeds and talk to their audience and do that work of understanding who that audience is. He explained that this is so important because when we look at what actually unlocks creativity and our ability to tell stories that resonate with people, it’s developing empathy for that person.

And when you just have a few slides in a PowerPoint deck that’s a stock photo with a QR code name, like the Millenniata, and a few bullet points about what their goals and challenges are, reading those slides isn’t what makes us develop empathy for that person.

Spending a lot of time with that target audience, interviewing them, getting to know them is what helps us develop that empathy that you hold inside of yourself as you are in flow, as you’re going through that creative process.

So many marketers nowadays just don’t go through that process of spending that time with their audience. Joe cited a CMI study that showed that:

“Only 42% of marketers even incorporate talking to their audience into their overall audience research.”

When you sit and think about that – it’s kind of crazy. The people we are trying to get to believe in our product or service we don’t even talk to those people to understand what THEY want.

Joe encouraged us to stop being lazy persona developers and instead actually get out there, talk to your customers, talk to your prospects and really get to know them. Because once you do that, your creativity will be unleashed in ways that you can’t even understand right now.

Still not sure if it is worth it? Here are EIGHT more reasons to think about:


Personas drive engagement.

Our goal should not be to reach everyone with a general message but to really know and understand our target market so we can communicate specifically to them and their needs increasing the likelihood that they will engage with our content.

Clear personas get marketing and sales aligned.

As you work together to develop personas and begin to communicate them across the company they begin to take on a life of their own. This allows everyone to easily remember who they are targeting and why. Take the time to create personas with not only names, but also stories of where they work, what their role is, what motivates them and what they are afraid of. Make them come to life for your entire organization so everyone can make decisions based on their needs and wants.

Personas help you identify your prospects’ key pain points.

Not everyone will use your product or service for the same reason. For us we know some may have a labor shortage, some a skill gap, some need to scale quickly, or get a new product to market – each one of these pain points requires us to speak differently.

Personas eliminate the dreaded question: Are you talking to me?

We’ve all been there. We get marketed to but know they don’t mean us. We simply ignore at best or unsubscribe and tell others about the horrible experience with this clue-less brand at worst.

Responsys surveyed over 2,000 U.S. adults to find out how they felt about their relationships with brands. Some 34% said they had “broken up with a brand due to receiving poor, disruptive or irrelevant marketing messages.”

Great Personas are like love at first sight.

When your target audience reads a piece of content, sees an ad, listens to your business pitch and they feel seen and understood because you know who you are speaking to, you know what keeps them up at night, what they love, hate, aspire to, are anxious about, and what they want and need, you cause them to fall in-love with your company and they WANT to do business with your company and only your company. The competition falls away.

Personas assure you attract the right customers.

Ann Handley of MarketingProfs shares in her post, “How to Repel the Wrong Customers and Attract the Right Ones, ‘It’s a waste of time and resources to nurture relationships with people who are a bad fit for your business. It makes your nurturing programs seem far less robust than they actually are.’” The last thing we want is to spend marketing dollars going after the wrong prospects. Personas ensure we don’t do that.

Negative Personas help you say we are not for everyone.

Hubspot even recommends creating exclusionary (aka negative) personas so we stop wasting time and money marketing to a segment that will never buy from us, or takes too much time and resources to acquire.

Personas done well work.

Research shows that using buyer personas to target groups of customers increases open rates by 16 percent.

Over and over I have come across companies that have big hopes that marketing will work for them – and I have also heard many people become disillusioned about marketing working. And yet when I ask a few more questions I usually find these same companies were not willing to put the foundational work in to ensure their marketing worked. This is one of those examples. Personas are a key foundational element that not only ensures your team is all on the same page but it actually improves the results of your marketing efforts.