Buyer Personas Require Regular Refreshing


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During a series of articles entitled The Future of Buyer Personas is Social, I referenced several times that the social age will cause a rethinking of buyer persona research and development. One new important principle is the need to change from a static perspective of buyer personas to an ongoing refreshment of buyer personas. The constant evolution of buyer behavior is the primary driver behind this principle. A realization is settling in that created buyer personas derived from anthropological inspired and ethnographic research can have a short shelf life and must be part of ongoing buyer behavior research efforts.

The actual archetypical buyer personas that are created serve as an interface and a narrative to social, cultural, and behavioral research of buyers within organizations as well as in individual environments. The design of buyer persona research becomes critical given this important premise. Organizations today will need to shift their view of personas in order to adopt. Over the years, persona research in general was seen as a one-time initiative to establish a foundational understanding of customers – both users and buyers. I strongly advocate that this perspective needs changing. What is needed is to establish a research foundation for the ongoing qualitative insight into buyer behaviors that impact business relationships, ecosystems, and purchase decisions. Why is this important – especially now?


I recently wrote an article describing a new Social Buyer Ecosystem. The key though is to understand that this ecosystem will undergo constant reinvention. New participant will enter and old participants will exit. Keeping informed on the malleable shapes of your buyer’s ecosystem will mean the difference between being a part of it and somehow finding yourself excluded.


It is a safe bet that all of us will be adapting to some new form of technology yet unseen – most likely in the very near future. The introduction of new technology – be it social or otherwise – is having a higher degree of impact on buyers today than ever before. Technology changes patterns, norms, relationships, and behaviors. The introduction of new technology should serve as a trigger event for refreshing your buyer behavior research and archetypical buyer personas that serve as the interface and narrative.


It is no secret that the social age is shaping new behaviors. New behaviors are radically changing the inter-relationships between organizations and buyers as well as intra-relationships between internal stakeholders and buyers. I have written often lately about the desire for more socially-oriented relationships on the part of buyers. In addition, how the social experience that accompanies buying is now becoming a new form of Social Buyer Engagement Index. Staying abreast of new social behaviors, norms, expectations, and patterns are becoming a critical component of the organization and buyer relationship.


We are living in times unlike any other in recent history. The degree of uncertainty that exists in the economics of business is having a transformative impact on how businesses today foresee and plan for the future. The global roller coaster ride of economic woes has undoubtedly caused shifts in buying behaviors and processes. It is my guess that this high degree of uncertainty will be something we and businesses will need to learn to live with for quite some time. It becomes an essential reason for organizations today to establish an ongoing practice of monitoring buyer behaviors and patterns as well as refreshing their archetypical buyer personas.


Remember when the five year strategic plan was in vogue? Strategic planning today has gone from five years to a short five months nowadays. To grow and to survive, organizations today must constantly reassess as well as refresh their strategic plans. Standing pat or in rigid adherence to a plan for too long may actually be harmful to an organization’s existence. The foundational purpose of personas – be they user, consumer, or buyer personas – is to inform strategy related to product innovation and marketing innovation. I also make the case that research conducted from a true anthropological inspired and ethnographic foundation will help senior leaders to make important assessment regarding future business models and organizational structure towards becoming a social business. One of the most unfortunate reasons why buyer personas are not playing a significant role in the board room as they should be is because the term has gone viral inaccurately. The term is widely misunderstood as a profile building tool as opposed to a method for researching buyer behaviors and serving as an interface and narrative to inform strategy.


Wired into the DNA of organizations for the past century has been the constant notion of pushing products outwards and conducting voluminous push messaging. The social age is creating a transformative shift that I suspect many companies are finding tough to adapt to. Organizations today are finding the learning curve to be quite steep in becoming efficient at social listening and creating pull. This steep learning curve essentially requires constant listening of buyer behaviors and how buyers are choosing channels from which they want to be heard.

These are six important reasons why buyer personas require regular and ongoing refreshing. It starts with the accurate understanding of the role of archetype buyer personas as an interface and narrative to ongoing buyer behavioral research. Organizations who have this essential footing will find themselves more nimble and quick to respond to behavioral changes in buying experiences and decisions. Nimbleness that will be a required core competency due to that old adage – change is constant.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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