Master Inbound

The Dark Side of Buyer Personas
The Dark Side of Buyer Personas

As marketers, our day-to-day activities revolve around communicating with leads and prospects. We analyze strategy, fine tune offerings, and create exceptional content to please the people who keep our business growing and our paychecks coming. But how well do we really know these targeted customers, and what are we doing to ensure we're making them happy?

In a perfect world, every brand would have the kind of cachet and loyal following attributed to companies like Apple and Google, but we know achieving that kind of following is easier said than done. There is no guaranteed formula for successful marketing, but the use of buyer personas has grown to be considered an incomparably effective way to understand our customers.

What Is A Buyer Persona?

The concept is relatively simple, but constitutes the entire backbone of a successful inbound marketing strategy. If you're unfamiliar with personas, consider a few examples of companies that have utilized crafted customer identities to improve their strategy and drive sales. What these organizations have in common is the ability to assess their "dream" customer, and implement strategy based on that person's identity. Over and over again, the construction and adhering to buyer personas plays an instrumental role in effectively converting leads in to customers, and customers into evangelists.

Although we may feel that we already understand our theoretical buyer, effective buyer personas require deep analysis of current customers, past buyers, and relevant individuals in the "lead pool". It's only through conducting thorough research and asking in-depth questions that we uncover the necessary insights, and the results may not always be what we expected. To put it bluntly, our intuition alone won't cut it here.

Getting It Right

So how do we paint the picture of our dream buyer? As you might already know, no persona is complete without demographic and psychographic information. Key points include age, income, profession, job level, and more. A thorough persona outline would also detail the basic goals your service or product satisfies for the customer, and how they gather purchase information.

Upon completing the organization of this information, you deserve a pat on the back. You've asked the detailed questions, you've looked through enough data to make anyone's head spin, and your labor of love has resulted in a great profile of your company's ideal customer. And that person is certainly waiting with a smile to buy your product, right?

I've got some bad news...

Buyers Aren't All Happy

It's a hard truth to swallow, but no matter how great your product may be, there's a good chance that the "dream buyer" constructed above is not as happy or eager to buy as we'd like.

Unfortunately, all of our lives (and more importantly, our customer's lives) are riddled with stress, inconveniences, and pain points. Just as our accomplishments and families and hobbies make up a large part of who we are, these darker aspects are equally relevant in constructing an identity. Oftentimes, these pain points play a critical role in how, when, and if a person decides to consider a purchase.

Far too often, we marketers strap on the proverbial rose colored glasses, and forget to consider the things that displease our customer. In doing so, we willingly give up the opportunity to connect on a much deeper level: through a conversation based on real emotions, and on positioning our product as a means to improve their life.

Selling Emotions

Dove figured out a while ago that a lot of selling does itself when you put the focus on appealing to the personal desires and potential discontentments of the buyer, rather than the features of the brand. Their Campaign For Real Beauty has played a part in challenging traditional assumptions about beauty, and continues to assert its presence online while relating to women in an intimate, honest fashion.

So how has Dove managed to play a part in a societal shift, while also marketing a product and appealing to a specific audience? The answer is relatively simple: through in-depth understanding of their ideal buyer, and the things that keep her up at night. In the same way that Dove's buyer persona wonders if she'll ever fit into the American classification of "beautiful", your buyer persona has concerns or inconveniences which disrupt their life.

And that's precisely what the dark side of buyer personas is all about – embracing those negative possibilities or feelings, and basing strategy upon challenging or solving them. If you can keep a happy person happy, they'll stay happy. But if you can make a sad person happy, they'll be grateful.

The Meeting Of Dark And Light

I'll wrap up today's thoughts with a personal anecdote.

My first job out of college was a bit of a hybrid between marketing and selling online advertising for a digital media firm. I had never sold a thing in my life (other than Legos during a summer job at Toys "R" Us), and was unsure where to start. During a brief chat, the company's owner gave me a great piece of advice about sales which I carry with me today: "Selling isn't about the product - it's about providing a solution to holistically improve your buyer's life."

He went on to discuss how any contact I had with a potential customer should focus on how I could bring them happiness, rather than discussing the specific product. For him, it was a casual thought on a Tuesday afternoon. For me, the concept was a discontinuous innovation.

What if we shifted our thinking from "selling" to "helping"?

What if we could effectively frame our service as a step towards a more organized, more beautiful, less stressful life?

That's exactly what we can do, if we understand what's keeping our buyer from achieving success, or hapiness, or any other goal. If we have an in-depth understanding of not only who our dream buyer is, but also what weighs them down, half the battle is won. All that remains is to effectively communicate the potential.

By no means should our strategy revolve exclusively around the negative (we know a complete persona encompasses multiple other aspects), but this multidimensional understanding is crucial to developing a persona which analyzes all aspects of our buyer, and the life they hope to live.

Harness the dark side, and you have the capability to bring your customer into the light.

Shannon Good
Shannon Good

Shannon is a passionate Inbound Marketing Specialist at Savvy Panda, a web design and marketing firm focused on crafting unique strategies to build businesses through earned and owned attention.

After graduating from Colorado State University with a Bachelor's in Communication Studies, Shannon developed a passion for digital media while working in online advertising. Since then, she has happily transitioned into the Inbound realm where she enjoys utilizing social media communication, content creation, and community building to achieve excellence. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and 


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