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Are Marketing Personas Limiting Customer Journey Mapping?

May 5, 2020 DJ Team

Are Marketing Personas Limiting Customer Journey Mapping?

Marketers today love personas. Creating a writeup of the “ideal” member of each audience segment can lead us to believe we know exactly what members of our audience are looking for, when, and why.

If all you are doing is confirming flawed assumptions in your personas, then what is the purpose of customer journey mapping? If this is the case, your marketing will not be as effective as possible. You may be able to paint a picture of the ideal customer and their ideal journey, but individuals in the real world will act differently. Here’s our argument for why teams should rely less on personas, and more on dynamic consumer insights data.

Customer Journey Marketing of the Past

Marketing personas were created in the mid 90’s, in a process that today seems closely linked to the idea of the online customer journey and putting the user first through design thinking. Alan Cooper, who created the first marketing persona, would even speak out loud with “Kathy.” He answered her hypothetical questions and considered why she wanted certain features over others. Cooper found this pretend conversation helped him clearly understand what was necessary and not necessary in the software he was creating. He was able to get to the heart of the question, “How is customer experience measured?” The answer is, by standing in the customer’s shoes and understanding how they experience your brand. This is far more accurate than just creating the brand experience you think is appealing and assuming customers will show up.

But even a simple customer journey map is still subject to a lot of assumptions. In the past, those assumptions were necessary. Today, they can actually do more harm than good when they limit your thinking about how consumers will behave on their path to do business with you.

The Real Consumer Journey

Let’s take a step back and ask ourselves, “What is meant by ‘customer journey?’” This is the complete set of experiences that a customer goes through while they learn about your company or product on the way to making a buying decision. According to Business2Community, the average number of customer journey touchpoints today is six. And these touchpoints don’t take place in one easy to locate website or social platform. They happen all over the internet, and this behavior is constantly evolving.

How much of the buyer's journey is digital? The answer: 67% or more. Today, that means a persona created a year ago isn’t likely to give much insight into how consumers are behaving online today. For instance, you might say in your personas that Mitch the Millennial is more likely to use social media than Betty the Boomer, and even have data to back it up. But if that’s the end of the examination, you still don’t have direction about how to use social in an effective way. Is Mitch more likely to read a review before or after he watches a video? Are you leaving out Betty’s friend Bob who loves Facebook Live and the comments section? Without customer journey insights rooted in cross-channel internet behavior data, your strategy will be based on assumptions and the historic data of the past, meaning you are always reacting, never being proactive.

[Learn more about how DemandJump’s consumer insights can help your business.]

Modern Ideas to Improve Customer Experience

The customer experience metrics and key performance indicators that can help you move beyond the assumptions and limits of marketing personas are available at each stage of the journey. Insights about how your customers are behaving online will still help you segment content based on characteristics like age or job title, but in a way that is implied by their own behavior, not judgments or outside research. The B2B customer journey touchpoints for a C-suite executive are quite different from those of a middle manager, though some personas might put them together. The manager may be able to set aside the afternoon for a webinar, while the executive needs an infographic or video sound byte to digest your basic values quickly. Both can arrive in the customer journey purchase stage faster and better qualified as a lead when marketing is individualized.

How can customer journey be improved? By moving away from stagnant marketing personas (not persona based marketing in general) and letting the journeys speak for themselves before you decide what each audience segment is really all about.

Technology for Customer Experience Management

Customer journey analysis isn’t easy, and relies on a lot of data from across many marketing channels, both digital and traditional. DemandJump exists to aggregate all the available information and translate it into actionable insights that help you make the most of each communication with each audience segment. A customer journey data model generated by our product shows you how your content has stacked up against competitors in the past, and uses predictive analytics to tell you what your target customers will be looking for tomorrow. We invite you to level up past static personas.

Join DemandJump for a 30 day free trial to see what consumers are doing in real-time, and how you can better align to the real consumer journey.

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