How CMOs Can Use Persona-Based Customer Strategy To Transform Marketing


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NexGen LabFor decades, business executives have faced disruptive forces and changes. Brought on by technology, population changes, war, economic collapse, and radical innovation.   Due to the disruptive force of the new digital economy, business leaders and CMOs are facing a new phenomenon different than ever experienced before. The rapid changes in digital technologies are overlapping with equally rapid changes in customer behaviors.

This powerful combined force is resulting in business leaders awash in responding to new types of organizational challenges. Situations related to nimble competitive entrants, emergence of new markets, changes in buying behaviors, pricing models turned upside down, and the need for different skills in their workforce has CEOs and their teams in a constant scramble.

The Great Customer Shift

In what can be called the “Great Customer Shift”, we are seeing customers imposing new forces of change on organizations.   The nature of these changes is disruptive and they significantly alter how companies today must view customers. Whereby organizations can no longer view customers through the looking glass as just a seller-buyer transaction. Instead, customers today are co-innovators, co-developers, co-creators, and co-marketers.

It is amongst this climate in which CEOs today are looking towards CMOs to respond to the impact the “Great Customer Shift” is having on their organization. Seeking to understand more deeply the digitally advanced customer and to assess the impact on all facets of the business. The CMO of today is now carrying a weight to bring deeper understanding of customers not only to marketing, but also to the enterprise.

Customer Strategy Becomes The New Focus

Transitioning an organization from a product and operational focus to customer focus is not an easy shift to make. How the organization has functioned, by design, means the invisible walls of silos still exists.   This presents a testing situation for CMOs in terms of developing a customer strategy and moving beyond its own marketing walls.

How can CMOs meet this test? By beginning with first gathering the deep insights needed to understand the powerful shifts in customer and buyer behaviors taking place. To move beyond “knowing “ customers as merely a transaction figure. This means leading the charge on engaging in customer and buyer insights research to get to know the customer.

When the CMO can lead the charge to gather the deep insights necessary to inform customer strategy, he or she is afforded the opportunity to make the rest of the enterprise knowledgeable about their customers. While mountains of data analytics can tell part of a story, it cannot tell the whole story.   What CEOs and their teams seek is to understand the ongoing narrative, which is taking place in the world of their customers and how they can respond.

3 Pillars Of Aligning Customer Strategy In Marketing

There are three pillars for developing a Persona-Based Customer Strategy CMOs can think about in efforts to transform their marketing. Aligning customer strategy with marketing strategy can consist of the following approach:

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Develop Customer Strategy. The CMO can lead the efforts to bring deep understanding of customers to the organization by committing to customer and buyer insights research. This includes understanding the customer segments they can organize around.  Aggregating insights and findings into a Persona-Based Customer Narrative, which is used to inform the overall customer strategy. And, of equal importance, is helping the enterprise to learn how it must align to meeting the goals and needs of customers.

Design Marketing. CMOs are faced with questions of how to organize and design their marketing to best align with customers. The customer narrative understanding can guide CMOs to design their marketing efforts around the capabilities needed to meet the goals of their customers. Outfitting their teams, as well as those of sales, service, and support, with specifically designed customer, end-user, and buyer personas culled from the persona-based narrative to ensure customer understanding is the focal point. In essence, building a persona-based marketing framework aligned with a persona-based customer strategy.

Implement Support Systems.   In the past few years, I have seen CMOs either misguided or felt pressured to begin here. Rushing to implement marketing automation and marketing intelligence systems. As some are learning the hard way, without investing in the first two elements mentioned above first, this third support element has a high risk of failure. Marketing automation can support your customer strategy efforts only when a sound deep understanding of customers is available to design how your marketing automation can work. Additionally, CMOs can lead the charge to implement a persona-based customer intelligence platform offering a common view and understanding of customers accessible to critical marketing, sales, service, and support functions. Fulfilling the organization’s need for customer intelligence and focus to adapt to the “Great Customer Shift.”

Taking The First Step

The adaptive ability of organizations is becoming a significant differentiator. Adapting to ever-changing customer and buyer behaviors will, in the long term, be the difference in achieving sustained loyalty from customers.

CMOs can lead by taking the first step needed – developing a cohesive customer strategy based on deep thorough understanding of customers.


Article by Tony Zambito

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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