Know thy Buyer Persona: How Customer Service Can Create Better Marketers

With data-driven insights from customer service, buyer personas can be like the best date ever. 

Most people today probably have a story about dating online or through an app. You go to meet someone, and who they are doesn’t really match up with their profile. It’s not just that they don’t look like their picture. We almost expect that at this point. It’s that they aren’t who you think. That interest in cinema means that they’ve “seen most of those Transformer movies”, and “pet lover” means they’ve brought more than one gerbil to the restaurant with them.

The problem here is that you have a lack of information past the point of theory. You might have an idea of who the person you’re seeing is, but then idea clashes against fact. And while that’s awkward on a date (do you have to pay for the gerbil’s lettuce, or what?), it can be a disaster in marketing. But that’s what happens to too many companies when creating the most important part of marketing, the buyer’s persona.

When making a buyer’s persona, that amalgamation which dictates content, sales, advertising, and so much more, there is often a gap between what you think you know and what you actually know. It’s the difference between theory and reality. But those gaps can be filled in by a department too often overlooked in marketing: customer service.

A great customer service department is vital to marketing, because it can create a more full understanding of who your buyers and potential customers really are. It guarantees you never again have a blind date.

Understanding the Buyer Persona

Sam Kusinitz at Hubspot defines a buyer persona as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” It’s based on many factors, including “ customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.” Most companies now know they need to have one, and for good reason.

The right buyer personas help you focus your marketing and your sales pitches. If you know that one category of customers is single women under 30 who have disposable income and are motivated eco-conscious identities, you can build a campaign around that.

If you know that your B2B buyer is an IT person who has to answer to two other bosses before being able to make a purchase, you can target a campaign around the economic benefits of your product. You can understand a buyer’s pain points, and what they need to get to yes. It is basic marketing psychology for the internet age. Right?

The Main Mistakes Companies Make With Buyer Personas

Wrong. Buyer personas aren’t always successful, and that’s because of simple, overbroad thinking. People make some very common mistakes. These include:

  • Relying in storytime. There’s a great temptation to think that coming up with a clever name is half the battle. People love saying “Small Business Sally” and thinking that’s enough. Marketers are creative types; we all have a novel in us, so when we come up with a name, we write a short story around their lives, and feel we know them. But we’re missing actual data on how they buy, income, market forces that pressure them one way or the other, and more. Data is key to a real persona.
  • The Millennial Trap. In one of my examples above, I painted the “typical Millennial” (which doesn’t really exist except in the mind of marketers). But that’s such a broad stereotype it tells us basically nothing. It’s relying on very basic demographics rather than any actual insight.
  • No Skin on the Bones. The other example, the IT guy with two bosses, is a little more clear, but even that is very bare-bone. Who are his bosses? Why do they act they way they do? What are their primary motivators? More importantly, how much does he buy? What’s his budget? What can he afford? That’s the real meat of the issue.
  • The Wrong Idea. Marketers, like anyone else, have their ideas of who is ideal. Everyone wants their product to be for Group X, for the brightest and prettiest. But you might have no idea who is actually buying your product, and making personas based on wishes that exist outside of data.

What we see in all of these is that there isn’t enough real information, just assumptions. And while marketers can fill in information based on experience, they don’t always see how customer interact with their products or services, or what happens after the sale, or what complaints and issues might be that could drive a fuller understanding of these personas. That’s where customer service comes in.

Customer Service to the Rescue

Your typical customer service representative can easily take 10 calls an hour. That’s 10 different touchpoints with a customer, every hour, for every representative. Some calls are angry, some are confused, some are curious about other offers and upsells. But all of these provide valuable data, and provide a deeper insight into who your customers are.

Take our IT buyer who arranged a deal for your secure cloud-based data storage platform. She’s called customer service several times because people in other department are having trouble accessing backup files. While that seems like an issue for your CSR, and it is, that information can also be looped back to the persona.

See, we now know that the IT person also has to be worried about how their product will ripple through to other departments, because if there is an issue, it comes down on her head. That’s a real concern, and one that is probably shared with many people in her situation. WIth that, the buyer persona is more fleshed out, and the marketing toward him or her can be even sharper.

This is especially true for larger companies that might not have face-to-face sales. You may think your buyers are hip young urban Millennials, but your customer service people know the bulk of their calls come from married suburban moms. With that knowledge, you can cater your marketing more toward people who are actually making purchases.

Customer service reps know the real demographics. They know pain points and frustrations. They know what’s happening on the ground. Better communication between departments, and a way to collect and transmit all customer service data, is vital. It helps marketers:

  • Tailor messages
  • Create more specificity in buyer personas
  • Utilize data-driven insights
  • Correct misperceptions

Marketing isn’t dating. You can’t laugh off a disaster, because your company depends on you. But thankfully, also unlike dating, you don’t have to go it alone. Customer service is a chaperone that helps make sure you have all the information you need to fully know and understand your buyer, before ever bringing them flowers.

At RDI Corporation, we combine the best in progressive and comprehensive digital marketing with proven effectiveness in customer service. Our training, hiring, and execution practices make us complete partners with our clients. Connect with RDI/A or RDI-Connect to learn more, and we invite you to read our white paper, The Perfect Circle: How Customer Service and Marketing Are the Same Thing which discusses even more ways that the two sides can complement and improve each other.  

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Better Together: How to Align Sales and Service With the Customer Experience


RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.