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The quest for information can be addicting. In organizations where the leadership is mostly analytical in nature, the need for information and analysis can be interwoven into the corporate culture and is a component of every decision. When it comes to markets and customers, quantitative analysis of many shapes and forms are used to arrive at customer data. You may have recently sat in a presentation whereby you reviewed results of online surveys, viewed multiple pie charts segmenting data, analyzed customer data reports generated in multi-variant ways, and purchased industry related reports with a chockfull of relevant data. Several years ago, the futurist John Naisbitt came up with this quote:
“We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.”
The sixth rule related to buyer persona development is about distinguishing information from insight:
Rule 6: Buyer Persona Development is not a Quantitative Process
One of the pitfalls of buyer persona development in an analytical oriented organization is that it could be dropped into the market research area and undergoes a transformation into a quantitative research project. A cognitive dissonance occurs over sampling sizes in quantitative areas such as market research. A question that often leads to this transformation is: How could a buyer persona development initiative with a sample size of 40 to 50 possibly offer the same validity of performing surveys on a sample size of 1,000?
What happens is that you wind up with reams and reams of information but the knowledgeable insights that are gleamed from qualitative and experiential analysis is missing. Thus, the results lack contextual reference of exactly what the goals of the buyer personas may be. My colleague Angela Quail and I saw this happen firsthand. Six figures were dropped onto such a project in an organization we helped afterwards. Buyer persona “profiles” were created and they consisted of many data points pulled from a quantitative effort of sending out surveys as well as creating online surveys. It was clear that there were usability issues with the crafted profiles since sales and portions of marketing rejected them.
A hard lesson learned. However, it is important to note that the qualitative aspects of buyer persona development complement the quantitative aspects of market research in two ways. First, insights derived during buyer persona development can point the way towards opportunities that need to be explored and validated quantitatively. For example, during the insights gathering, uncovered is a promising new market potential. Market research can go to work then trying to figure out what the size of the market may be and validate the potential. The second can be when market research has identified a market with valid potential but the picture of the identified buyer segment is blurry. Executives can utilize buyer persona development to “humanize” the buyer segment, gain clarity on buyer goals, and determine what the appropriate strategies for customer engagement are.
Next up: Rule 7