Here’s a thought experiment based on the iconic Apple ads from the early 2000s, in which a young hip guy calling himself a Mac exchanges quips with, and verbally thrashes (in a calm, hip way) a less young, less hip guy calling himself a PC. In this series of commercials, Apple parlayed the stereotypical differences between hip Apple customers and stodgier Windows PC customers.
When you think about it, it’s easy to imagine these caricatures of Mac and Windows users coming straight off the PowerPoint (okay, Keynote) slides of a buyer persona exercise by the clever marketers at Apple. And because we are so familiar with it, we might imagine that such distinctions would be the inevitable result of any such exercise – clear and clever differences between our buyers and our competitors’ buyers.
But here is the premise of this thought experiment: Imagine that group of Apple marketers sitting in a room asking themselves, “Who are our buyers? How would we describe our buyers?” and coming up with descriptions that apply equally well to PC and Mac users. It is likely that any description of typical PC users includes many items that describe Mac users just as well.
Certainly, somewhere in the persona descriptions of a Mac user lie many such descriptive items – things that are true of the typical Mac user but also true of the typical PC user. But Apple went a step further, digging deep to find key characteristics and behaviors that ultimately allowed Apple to create consistent, compelling content that doesn’t simply attract potential buyers but speaks to and attracts the right kinds of buyers – those who are willing to pay a premium price for what they perceive to be premium products.
Today, most b-to-b personas come up well short of the “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” standard. They only reach so far as to describe typical buyers; they don’t differentiate buyers who are likely to prefer buying from us rather than the competitor. To some extent, this is because we have not known enough about buyers, their habits and their behaviors to distinguish between the types most likely to buy from us and those who are likely to prefer our competitors. But with the proliferation of data in b-to-b, the time has come to ask the question: Is there data available that can help parse those likely to favor us from those who favor our competitors?
One way to answer this question is to ask if your organization is able to use predictive lead scoring and look-alike modeling to effectively prioritize and source new leads. If the answer is yes, then you may be able to identify “your buyer” personas from “their buyer” personas. If you have less experience with predictive analytics, you’ll have to work harder to answer the question, but it is still worth exploring. Absent predictive experience, consider the following questions:
If you are a SiriusDecisions customer, check out our recent brief “Optimizing Personas With Predictive Analytics: From Cluster to Buyer” for an in-depth discussion of how leading organizations are using predictive analytics to derive deep insights that drive powerful persona development. To download an overview of the SiriusDecisions Persona Framework, click here.
Kerry Cunningham is a Senior Research Director of Demand Creation Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Kerry has more than 20 years of experience in b-to-b demand creation and management, spanning a broad array of industries and markets. Follow Kerry on Twitter @KerrySirius.