This leader article: “There’s a real person behind that Persona” was originally published in the Summer 2016 edition of Professional Marketing magazine for PM Forum members.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted to see the professionalization of marketing and business development supported by sophisticated software. There are amazing analytics programmes that allow us to measure just about anything at any time in any medium. And that enable us to develop amazingly complex personas of both commercial and consumer clients.
There’s technology to increase efficiency in managing everything from digital assets to electronic mailing programmes, from content management to conversion. There are systems that allow us to put a pitch together at the touch of a button. We can even use sentient software to measure our digital reputations and artificial intelligence (AI) to read user emotions. I recently saw an infographic outlining 1,200 categories of marketing automation systems.
No longer do we seek the marketing nirvana of perfect CRM databases – they have arrived and are being used in anger to profile clients, mine data and micro-manage the opportunity pipeline. Many firms have sophisticated client listening programmes that concentrate effort on a small number of the most significant clients.
And there’s finally an understanding from those running the financial systems that we need profit figures every which way we choose. And back again. We have young marketers who have cutting edge specialist digital skills which they use with analytical and creative flair. No longer does professional services marketing suffer from the “Data Free Marketing” label.
But as a marketer I always firmly believed that I was the client’s representative within the firm. We are the clients’ champion. But I fear we are in danger of losing touch with the our clients. As a psychologist, I’m fearful that we are at risk of forgetting that there’s a real person behind that persona.
I watched in dismay recently as experts talked through a detailed process to manage the sales pipeline. It was a great methodology that no doubt our fee-earners will adore. But somewhere in there it looked like we had forgotten that underlying the sales process are real people in real relationships.
Sometimes, people aren’t the decision makers – but they have a role in sponsoring the sale. Sometimes, they aren’t in a position to buy now – but may be in a years’ time. Sometimes, they are likely to be referrers – sending in significant clients in the future. Sometimes, the commercial sales cycle can take numerous tentative touch points and careful exploration of political and personal needs as well as commercial ones over several years. Yet an efficient and rigid process might screen these and other situations involving real people and real prospects out.
Please don’t forget that our clients – both commercial and consumer – are real people. And whilst we must use systems and be efficient and accountable, we mustn’t become too internally focused. Let’s please not lose our external view, our empathy and our humanity.
Further posts about segmentation and personas: