I will be the first person to tell you I am not a brand or design specialist. Dale and I are complete opposites. Yet over the past few years working together in sales development and training, we have learned how to align sales and marketing processes into one uninterrupted and integrated smarketing process. We have become a complimentary force to be reckoned with.
As our own beloved Pete Caputa at Hubspot recently told us, "You 3 are ridiculous. Especially, in concert." (The third he referenced was Rick Roberge, after all, he brought out the ridiculousness in ALL of us.)
And I will also admit, I sometimes struggle with how to explain personas to designers. One colleague told me it was backwards. Another told me it was inside out. They are used to design coming first. After all, even the cavemen knew to draw pictures before they learned to create symbols from those pictures, then later words. We are used to having design come first.
Personas became popular again in the 21st century with the book "The Inmates are Running the Asylum". Most people use the book as a reference to help understand how to design software interfaces. What things should show in the menu, where to hide things, where the user is likely to go looking for a function, etc. Software designers use 'personas' to figure out what the user's prime motivation is to get something done.
Users and personas are not the same. They are not created or used in the same way.
Where personas actually came from is the Greek word, prosōpon translated to mean character. On a Roman-Greek stage, actors (or characters) would put on different masks and play a different character or role. That is what happens to people as they go through their buying process to get to the point that they can see themselves using your product or service. Depending on the product or service and their part in the decision making process, personas, or customer behavior profiles, are the mask that they wear when in that specific buying process.
In his book, "Always Be Testing", Bryan Eisenberg talks about the important of scent. This is about the relevance and consistency in the buying process (or smarketing process). He uses a great example from an old Mickey Mouse cartoon to explain how scent, or relevancy, is a trail that is made for visitors using both words and pictures that reinforce the path and bring customer's another click closer to buying.
Eisenberg goes on to say that maintaining scent, or relevancy and clarity, is how to keep the persuasive momentum going, establish your credibility, and build customer confidence. I may not be a branding expert, but I am pretty sure those are some of the elements of a great brand?
What a buyer persona (or mask) helps a sales and/or marketing person to do is determine the angle of approach based on the customer's buying behavior. The angle of approach that a customer may take to find your product or service will be determined by the mask they are using, where they are in their buying process, and what the risk to them is.