Let’s kill personas

Have you had enough of buyer personas?

Those silly overviews with a stock photo portrait and subheads covering age, background, role, company, goals, challenges, shopping, news preference. They’re supposed to be a general representation of your ideal customer.

Hopefully they’re an aggregate of customer interviews. (More likely they’re slips of fiction made up by some junior in the marketing department or an intern at the user experience agency.)

A brand can have anywhere between two to five personas. They’re meant to help you and the team better picture the people you’re trying to reach, trying to persuade. So you can better personalise the messaging.

Which is good in theory. But unsurprisingly a little flat and two-dimensional in reality.

Flawed marketing efforts

Like most well-intentioned but ultimately flawed marketing efforts, they focus on segmentation rather than what people actually want.

Most marketing and messaging efforts are wasted because they double down on the product instead of the problem.

Take drills. Most brands segment markets by type of drill and price point, benchmark drill features and functions, and measure market share.

Segmenting sounds logical because it’s still taught at business schools. But it’s short-sighted and resolutely unhelpful. Because people don’t want to buy a drill. They want a hole.

Brands will happily look at the product and wasted money accordingly instead of looking at the hole the product creates.

Put people first

When you turn your attention to the hole, you start asking people-centric questions, like ...

Why are people trying to drill a hole in the first place?

How do people define a successfully drilled hole?

What other products – beyond drills – might people use to create this hole?

How have people drilled a hole before?

If you don’t ask questions like these, you miss the opportunity to understand the value people derive from your product. You miss the opportunity to put a person first. You miss an even bigger opportunity to turn a person into a purchaser.

After a global pandemic has fundamentally changed consumer behaviour forever, putting people first has never been more important to your bottom line.

In 2020, 40 percent of brands did not meet revenue targets. As you plan through 2021 and beyond, sharpen your focus on people, not product. Place people at the centre of every decision, across marketing, sales, and customer success.

Put your product last

If your marketing isn’t putting your customer first, now’s an excellent time to start.

Look carefully at the language your customers use to describe what you offer and the results they seek. Don’t use your language. Use their language for greater relevance and resonance.

When you’re speaking your customer’s language, they’ll be all ears. You’ll gain their attention, confidence and commitment. You’ll earn their trust.

Put your customer’s needs, desires, motivations, struggles and circumstances first. Then offer your product.


Joni Salminen J, Jansen B, An J, Kwak H 2018 “Are personas done? Evaluating their usefulness in the age of digital analytics” Persona Studies

Hart I 2019 “The customer persona is dead. Long live customer intent!” Natural Intelligence

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