Marketing Messenger/ Branding & Communications

We Need To Talk–Your Persona Is Lying


by Tim Riesterer
Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer
Corporate Visions Inc.

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For years marketers have created personas–fictional characters that embody all the traits of their prospects. They have names, beliefs, demographic attributes, and behaviors that help create relevant marketing messages. But do prospects actually respond better to a message because it was based on a persona? Is the persona driving prospects’ responses to the message?

The reality is, no. Your persona has been lying to you; prospects don’t make purchase decisions and change their current approach–or status quo–because of who they are and their characteristics. Instead, prospects respond to messages if they perceive their status quo to be in danger, or if they’re convinced that they must do something different to preserve their best interest. As a result, basing marketing messages off of a persona is ineffective and completely derailing your marketing messaging.

Know Thy Prospect
To ensure your messages are on-point, I recommend using a “status-quo profile” as the starting point. By leveraging this technique, you’ll identify your prospect’s status quo–learn it inside and out–and use this knowledge to create effective messaging that moves your prospect to make a change. However, to do so, be sure you know the answers to the following questions:

1. Currently, how are your prospects addressing the challenges that your product/service can resolve?
Your prospects believe they are already doing something to solve their problems and meet their business goals. If they didn’t, they’d be beating down your door asking for your solution.

To dislodge your prospects from their status quo, change their perception and help them realize your solution can resolve existing issues−perhaps even some they aren’t aware they have. To do so, you need an exact understanding of your prospect’s current solution and its capabilities.

2. Why do your prospects believe their current approach is the Holy Grail?
Don’t forget, prospects live in their world–not yours–and before they deployed their current solution, they probably had another solution. So it’s rational to assume they believe they’re already doing something “better” and don’t have a problem or need to change. Keep this in mind as you develop your messages–don’t focus on your solution’s specs and features. Instead, focus on how your solution can help them in ways their current solution cannot.

3. Since your prospects implemented their current approach, what challenges, threats, or missed opportunities have come to light?
As you develop your marketing messages, remember that not everyone will be an appropriate prospect for your solution. Focus on the best opportunities for change. To identify these opportunities, keep tabs on the changes in your prospect’s industry–from environmental changes to competitors to the global marketplace. Any factor or situation that your prospect’s current approach is unprepared to handle, or that your prospect may not have considered, will be essential to weave into your messaging.

4. What are the holes in your prospects’ current approach?
No one likes change. It’s an intrinsic piece of human nature. Be prepared for this to play out in your conversations with prospects. When you first tell prospects that their existing solution may not meet all of their needs, they will respond by trying to “stretch” their solution to overcome any of the challenges/threats you’ve brought to their attention. In order to help them move off of their status quo, you will have to identify and amplify the clear holes in their approach that will block them from being able to sensibly resolve the issues using what they currently have.

The holes you identify should align perfectly with the capabilities of your solution, which, naturally, can plug the holes.

Use your answers to these questions as the basis for your marketing messages. Focus on helping your prospects realize that their status quo is limiting their potential and threatening their desired outcomes; forget about you prospects’ titles, segments, or personality traits. To get your prospects to make the decision to change and then choose your solution, you must appeal to their survival instincts and help them realize the limitations/holes of their current solution, and demonstrate how your solution can be everything they need and more.

About Tim Riesterer

A marketing and sales industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, Tim Riesterer is the chief strategy and marketing officer for Corporate Visions Inc., a leading sales and marketing messaging company that works with B2B companies. Tim is also a recognized thought leader, practitioner, and author. His books, “Customer Message Management” and “Conversations that Win the Complex Sale,” focus on improving market-ready messages and tools that marketers and salespeople can use to win more deals. For easily integrated marketing and sales tips, visit