Beware the Persona Echo Chamber
- A common first step to adopting personas is to gather persona information via internal sources
- To avoid the “persona echo chamber,” collect info from additional external sources to validate
- Persona development process is iterative and should include multiple internal and external data sources
Before the digital revolution, echo chambers were commonly used in audio recordings to enhance sound. Engineers would play the audio track inside a hollow enclosure with an accompanying microphone to catch the reverberation. In one of our recent buyer persona workshops, the term “echo chamber” came up as metaphor for what can happen when gathering persona knowledge from inside the organization.
For many B2B organizations that are in an early stage of the journey to adopting personas, a common first step is to gather persona information via internal sources. Chances are that the company is already doing business with the target personas, but the persona knowledge may be undocumented and reside in different groups or individuals at the company. Customer-facing functions such as sales, service and support have acquired much information about the persona through their regular customer and sales interaction. Executives, product teams and other subject-matter experts also can contribute to persona knowledge.
A persona echo chamber is created when internal beliefs and sacred cows about the target buyer are simply allowed to perpetuate. To avoid this, take the next step and conduct primary market research to validate internal knowledge. Test the organization’s understanding or assumptions with actual persona interviews, surveys and observations. In addition to direct validation, primary market research can uncover new insight about the persona, such as its initiatives and challenges based on the current market environment.
During our workshop, the discussion among the client’s product, marketing and sales participants was lively, asking questions like: Which group within the organization has the best knowledge about the target buyer? Which type of information should we trust, and how do we use it? The internal knowledge across product, marketing, and sales functions contributed to a good baseline or draft of the target buyer persona. And, although we made light-hearted references to the persona echo chamber, the team understood the importance of creating a persona profile that is based on research.
If your company is in the midst of adopting personas, remember that the persona development process is iterative and should include multiple internal and external data sources. Investing in market research helps ensure that persona knowledge is data-driven, current and relevant for creating audience-centric messaging, content and campaigns.