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When you travel to a foreign country where you are not familiar with the culture or the language, it can be exciting yet very trying. The first few hours are like being in a giant maze and you wonder how you will ever get to find your way around and be able to communicate with the locals. The next few days are a real struggle as you attempt to make sense of all the gestures, facial expressions, and how the local people respond to you as you seek help.
If you are there more than a week, you find yourself surprisingly starting to immerse yourself into the culture and you are doing so almost entirely on a non-verbal level. All the funny gestures, expressive motions of the hands, wrinkle of the faces, and the exasperated laughter of those trying to help you suddenly are beginning to make sense. At the very least you now know how to order an espresso nonverbally.
This next rule deals with a critical element of buyer persona development that serves executives as they formulate customer strategy:
Rule 5: A Buyer Persona Offers Insight into the Unarticulated and Not-So Obvious
As in visiting a foreign country, visiting buyers can be akin to going on foreign territory. It is tough to make out specifically what they mean. And what buyers say may not always be what they mean. While information respective to a customer profile about background, job functions with related titles, reporting, motivations, pain points, needs, fears, and wants can be derived with some degree of research, the real value is in uncovering profound unarticulated insights and not-so obvious goals that lead to a winning customer strategy and a competitive differentiator.
This is one of the key rules that separate buyer personas from being a customer profiling exercise to a means of providing senior executives with the informed insights they need to make sound decisions about customer strategy. As mentioned previously, it takes the right people with the right skills to go into this foreign territory. It is my belief that in the near future, organizations will have specialists who are hybrids of customer strategists, ethnographers, and anthropologist who engage in buyer insight for the purpose of informing strategy. The near future is not that far off as forward thinking organizations such as Intel, HP, and Starbucks continuously seek the unarticulated and the not-so obvious.