B2B Trend No. 1
The Death of Personas
Most marketers claim to be customer-centric.
Of course they do: no sane marketer would proudly announce that they’re not customer-centric.
But we shouldn’t ask marketers if they’re customer-centric, we should ask their customers instead.
When you ask customers how customer-centric the marketing they receive is, they unanimously suggest the same thing: the vast majority of marketing is irrelevant.
Obviously, marketers want to produce marketing that’s relevant to customers, but, most of the time, they just don’t know their customers well enough to do so.
As a result, marketers end up talking about what they know best:
• Their product development
• Their advertising campaign
• Their sales strategy
However, there’s a class of companies – often referred to as direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies -- that marketers can study to see what real customer-centric behavior looks like.
One of the best known DTC companies is Netflix, which maintains a direct streaming -- and billing -- relationship with most of its consumers. Netflix analyzes past subscriber viewing behavior in order to make data-informed recommendations on what a subscriber may also enjoy watching in the future.
The entire Netflix experience is built around the customer.
Netflix is so customer-centric that there’s no single Netflix; instead there’s 130+ million “Netflixes” because no two Netflix subscribers have the same home screen. For example, I see different recommendations than Joshua does and Joshua sees different recommendations than my mother does. In this respect, Netflix is radically customer-centric in its recommendations.
But even that general example – as customer-centric as it is – sells Netflix short.
For example, let’s say you like to watch romantic comedies like Serendipity, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, or While You Were Sleeping. Based on your past viewing behavior, Netflix will classsify you as a “romantic persona” and when you scroll over the film Good Will Hunting, Netflix will tease out the romantic storyline for you, show a picture of Minnie Driver and Matt Damon kissing.
Or let’s assume that you like to watch comedies like Arrested Development, Zoolander, or Anger Management instead. Here, Netflix will categorize you as a “comedic persona” and show you a picture of Robin Williams when scrolling over the film.
That means even the smallest detail is informed by data.
Let’s now return to the realm of B2B marketing to see how marketers build personas to develop relevant marketing. Persona building is entirely different in B2B marketing. What generally happens is marketers -- and maybe salespeople -- get together in a room armed with a some third-party data and create personas out of “thin data.” We say “thin data” because the data used is third-party and static, which means the personas are outdated even before they’re created. This explains why the majority of potential buyers say that the marketing they receive is irrelevant.
So how can marketers – who do not have direct access first-party data like Netflix – act more like Netflix?
That’s where LinkedIn can help with its free Website Demographics Pixel. Our pixel lets you see which professionals – in an anonymized fashion -- are coming to your website, giving you a first-party, dynamic understanding of your potential buyers. Once you’ve used a data-informed approach to establish who your potential buyers are, you can start developing relevant marketing for your potential buyers.
To be clear, you don’t need to be Netflix – you’re probably not a global entertainment company – but you should endeavor to understand your customer as deeply as they do. You can start that process by re-inventing the way that you build.
Personas are dead, long live personas.