Dare to Succeed in 2019: The Death of Personas and Other Audience Trends

December 10, 2018

Audience Trends

Editor's Note: This week on the LinkedIn Marketing blog, we're serving up a compilation of contrarian ideas in marketing to help you succeed in 2019.

“To forget one’s purpose is the commonest form of stupidity.”

When it comes to targeting strategy and persona creation, at some point in their career, most marketers (myself included) can take solace in this quote from famed German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It’s especially easy to fall victim to this most common form of ignorance when creating personas because building a customer composite just feels like a purposeful exercise in its own right.

But purposeful for whom? When you consider that only 3% of buyers say advertising is relevant to them, and that roughly three quarters of marketers use personas, well, that’s quite the gap between practice and theory.

Why Do We Create Personas for Targeting Strategy in the First Place?

The true purpose of persona creation is to make buyers feel understood, but the numbers say most of us create personas to make ourselves feel as though we understand buyers. Does that mean we should steer clear of personas? It does not – having personas is generally better than not having them.  

What it means is that we can do a much better job reminding ourselves of what we’re really trying to develop when we create personas: customer-centric behavior. Yes, we want to better understand our audience, being sure to speak their language, but when it comes down to it, speaking one’s language is best shown through behavior that’s appreciated by the customer.  

How best to achieve this? In the video below, LinkedIn's Global Lead of Market Development & Strategy John Lombardo explains the importance of “starting with who” and using data to build personas before showing us how Netflix uses “consumer science” to achieve customer-centricity.

We Needn’t Be Netflix to Be Customer-Centric

Now granted, assimilating Netflix is a tall order. Most of us don’t have that kind of first-party data. There are, however, actions we can take to pull stronger, more telling data into our personas. One such example comes courtesy of LinkedIn’s free Website Demographics Pixel. Implementing this pixel allows you to see the professional attributes of your website visitors, and that’s data you can use to create customer-centric experiences that resonate.

We don’t need to do away with personas. We just need to do away with static personas, built from hunches, in favor of dynamic personas continuously shaped by first-party data. So next time someone recommends creating a new buyer persona, be the voice of reason who squashes guesswork and demands data.

Register for our next Live with Marketers episode on Tuesday, Dec 18 to uncover the top 3 B2B marketing trends for 2019!

In what other ways can contrarian thinking make you a better marketer? Check out our B2B marketing trends site, a compilation of contrarian ideas, and let’s bravely venture forth in 2019.