Death of “Susan,” a B2B Buyer Persona

Home » Marketing » Death of “Susan,” a B2B Buyer Persona

The buyer persona season is upon us. For many companies, it is the beginning of a new fiscal year and the annual sales kick-off meeting is rapidly approaching. Marketing will be tasked with blowing the dust and cobwebs from their buyer personas. At the sales kick-off, the buyer personas will be included on a few slides in some training sessions. After the last sales professional leaves Orlando or Las Vegas, someone in marketing will upload the updated buyer personas to the company intranet.

To be neglected for another year.

Typically there are a number of factors that lead to this neglect. The mistake that pains me the most as a marketing professional is the poorly constructed persona. Here’s an example.

I once watched a very good marketing professional present “Susan,” the archetype for a Director of Customer Service.

Susan is:

  • 42 years old
  • A college graduate
  • With two young children

The next twenty minutes of the meeting were lost arguing over the design of the fictional Susan.

  •  “It’s wrong to depict this position as a woman.”
  • “What was her major in college?”
  • “You didn’t say if Susan a single mother.”

If we were selling an internet-connected washing machine that alerted Susan via her cell phone that it was time to flip the laundry into the dryer, this demographic information would be valuable. Instead, my company sold enterprise customer service software.

Personal demographics do not belong in B2B buyer personas. They continue to be included for a multitude of reasons, including:

  • A lack of training and experience
  • An overwhelming number of examples on the internet are rooted in B2C market research methodology
  • They are fun to create – it’s like making characters for a novel

So when the team finally started to dig into the substance of the persona, valuable time had been lost, emotions for a few people were disjointed, and one person was searching the Internet for a better image to represent the fictional Susan.

Alan Brooks

I use my senior executive marketing, product marketing, and product management experience to help our clients implement and build highly successful process-oriented, metrics-driven, and revenue-focused marketing teams.
Alan Brooks
Posted on