To Win Email Marketing's Changing Game: Buyer Personas

March 1, 2013
By Michael Neubarth

buyerology blog

The better you know your prospective buyers, the better you can fashion your communications to convert them to paying customers. As part of the effort to win more business, email marketers are seeking to segment and target their audiences with ever greater precision through the use of customer profiles and buyer personas.

As buyer motivation expert Tony Zambito relates, although the terms buyer personas and customer profiles are often used interchangeably, they are different animals and should not be confused.

The difference, Zambito explains, is that customer profiles are comprised of more general data like age, gender, marital status, education, etc, while buyer personas involve deeper psychological factors—personalities, motivations, attitudes, beliefs, values, pain points and social interactions.

Buyer personas are archetypal representations of buyers and customers that model buyers’ goals. A buyer persona can include characteristics common to customer profiles, but they go beyond customer profiles to reveal deeper insights.

Zambito contends that the traditional marketing funnel is becoming flattened and made obsolete by the ways customers gather information and make decisions in the age of the Internet and social media. Conventional funnel thinking, he says, is woefully inadequate in today’s B2B buyer landscape and is limited in the ability to address new and evolving complexities.

“The ways buyers decide today is becoming increasingly complex,” says Zambito, explaining that buyers no longer make decisions in a vacuum, rather they rely on more sources, do more checking and solicit more opinions. To be effective, marketers must understand and master the art and science of decision-making in this environment.

Zambito’s methodology, which he calls “Buyerology,” is based on buying behavior and opportunity and takes into account the working environment and steps buyers take to make decisions. Zambito counsels marketers to devote attention to predicting and modeling how buyers map and begin their exploring as well as what forms of navigation they take specific to their industry.

While the data for creating customer profiles can be acquired through data appending, the behavioral and psychological data used to create buyer personas is collected through interviews, social media and surveys. According to Zambito, Buyerology uses multiple qualitative approaches for interviewing buyers that help to understand why and how purchase decisions are made.  

As Zambito explains, buyer personas offer insights into the unarticulated and not so obvious motivations that lurk beneath the surface. Thus, getting at buyers’ goals can be a difficult task because buyers may not be able to articulate their own goals clearly.

Meanwhile, Zambito notes that he has seen a great amount of misapplication and misunderstanding in regard to buyer personas among marketers who he says often wish to create buyer personas but lack the appropriate skills to collect, distill and analyze the data. The end result, he says, is they create poor customer personas that provide no insight.

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