What's a persona?
In recent years, most product managers and product marketing managers have adopted the practice of creating personas to represent the types of people who buy and use their products. Personas are an archetype of the ideal customer. One of my favorite illustrations is Sarah, the college freshman. She's never not had a mobile phone; she's never not had an ATM card; she's never not had a computer; she's never not had access to the Internet. In almost every way, Sarah is different from her college professors, who had none of these things when they attended college. Professors who understand this disparity can relate their topics to Sarah's college experience instead of their own. The best professors connect with the students--the best marketers do, too. See the Beloit College Mindest List for more on today's college students. If you want to be heard, speak in the language of the listener, the buyer persona. Smart product managers are creating innovative products that address specific problems of their personas, instead of just building a glob of features and hoping they will sell. The old "perfuming the pig" approach of marketing has failed, as no amount of perfume can overcome the stench of products that people don't want. We cannot "create the need" for products people don't want to buy. The persona concept helps product teams focus on the specific problems of a type of customer. And the concept helps product marketing managers connect with them when they're ready to buy. What did Drucker say? "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself." Products designed for personas don't need to be sold; customers merely need help in buying. He continues, "There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous." The aim of marketing, then, is to help our personas buy.
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