Is the Term Buyer Persona Limiting?

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 6.50.32 PMAfter a recent workshop I was packing up my things and one of the participants shyly approached. She pointed out that my persona definition slide was wrong. She then went on to explain what I had taught her. In fact there were four types of individuals that must be influenced during the purchase process. Calling them “buyer personas” was confusing because internally “buyer” was generally considered the person who interacted with sales.

She was absolutely right! All day I’d been calling them “buyer” personas when in fact I was teaching something bigger.

Four Types of Buying Influencers

  1. User – The user is the person who engages with your product or service directly.
  2. Champion – Your champion is the person who is leading the charge for the purchase of your offering. They may or may not benefit directly from the purchase but they feel an emotional desire to make the purchase.
  3. Economic – Economic buyers have budget authority and fund the purchase. While they may also be a user they will have a distinct role in the funding process.
  4. Influencer – An influencer is outside the organizational context of your primary user and economic buyer but has some influence on the purchase. They could be a purchasing agent or legal staff in a business environment. But it could also be someone outside the organization all together, such as an analyst or highly respected blogger.

Whether your offering costs $50 or $50,000 it’s likely all four persona are represented in your customers’ process.

Consider even the simple purchase of a video game. (Can you tell it’s the holiday season in my house of teenage boys?) On the surface this seems straight-forward, target the game player. But that would mean missing some key participants.

  • User – In my house we have four different users. My 13, 14, 17 and 22 year old son all enjoy video games.
  • Champion – Although all four boys play video games, each lobbies for specific titles.
  • Influencer – There are a series of YouTube video stars who heavily influence what my boys request. While they will never play together, these videographers play an instrumental role in generating interest.
  • Economic – That would be me! My youngest children don’t have enough money to purchase a new game on their own.  And while the children represent both user and champion, I must approve of the cost & rating.

The most effective businesses understand these distinctions and aim their messages accordingly.

I for one will be more conscientious about using the term buyer persona moving forward. I’d hate for any of my students to limit their thinking only to the person(s) who engage with their sales representative.