Audience Mapping: Why We Rarely Use Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are a marketing staple. Here’s why Sounding Line prefers a more dynamic approach: audience mapping. 

When it comes to developing business strategy, the term “buyer personas” has been a staple defining and targeting an ideal customer. Here’s why Sounding Line uses a more dynamic approach: audience mapping. 

“Buyer Personas” Have Become Too “Salesy”

It’s been nearly a quarter century since Alan Cooper defined the term “buyer personas” in his book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Although Cooper used the term as a mechanism for understanding a user mindset, the expression has since become synonymous with the sales process. Buyer personas evokes the idea of sales teams identifying potential customers based on demographic data, income levels, and their propensity to buy things. It’s a sales-focused concept that for us carries an uncomfortable undertone. People don’t like being sold to; they prefer genuine, authentic interactions.

Audience Mapping Identifies More than Buyers

As the name suggests, buyer personas focus primarily on potential buyers. A successful business, however, engages with a broader audience than just people who want to buy products and services. Audience mapping considers not only buyers but also influencers, sponsors, partners, the media, collaborators and even competitors. This process encourages businesses to identify and engage with everyone who has the potential to impact their success.

Audience Mapping is More Inclusive to all Business Types

Not only are buyer personas equated with the sales process, the term also feels limited. Or something that is only used by enterprise sales teams. Audience mapping invites smaller businesses, cultural entities, non-profit organizations, and even solopreneurs to adopt an audience-planning mindset. By understanding what motivates their audiences, small, medium and large businesses can build strategies that attract donors, supporters, media attention and even the community at large, leading to greater impact and success.

Audience Mapping Goes Beyond Demographics

Buyer personas often focus strictly on demographic information such as age, gender, location, job description, and income. But this doesn’t doesn’t always paint a complete picture. Audience mapping goes beyond demographics, encompassing psychographics and behaviors and incorporates interests, pain points, and Frequently Asked Questions. This 360-degree view of a target audience, allowing businesses to create more personalized and targeted solutions and marketing strategies. 

Competitive Advantage

In today’s competitive marketplace, people often choose to work with businesses that make their life easier. Audience mapping not only dives into the buyer’s pain points, but it also identifies the audience and customer preferred experiences, which allows businesses to position themselves as customer-centric enterprise that genuinely care about the audience experiences. This process helps set businesses apart from competitors and helps them maintain a leading edge in their industry.

Adaptability to Changing Markets

Market trends and customer preferences are rapidly evolving. A single news headline or movie title (thank you, Blackfish), can change global perception overnight. While buyer personas can become quickly outdated, audience mapping is an ongoing process. It adapts to trends and market changes, ensuring greater flexibility in pivoting business strategies so they remain relevant.

Enhanced Product Development

By building a deep understanding of your audience and what experiences they prefer, businesses can develop offerings that not only solve problems but also create a wow factor. This approach not only boosts customer satisfaction but also drives word-of-mouth referrals.

Enhanced Personalization

Personalization is the holy grail of modern marketing. Users are tired of content that almost but not quite meets their needs. Audience mapping dives deep into your audience’s needs, preferences, and pain points, and provides insights businesses can use to create highly personalized content, products, and services that resonate with their audiences, higher engagement and conversion rates.

Better Content Strategy

Audience mapping provides valuable insights into the topics, formats, and channels that the audience prefers. This ensures that business content and voice resonates with its audience, establishing your brand as a trusted source of information in your industry.

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Better Marketing ROI

Building a deeper understanding of your audience helps businesses allocate resources more efficiently, targeting the right people with the right message at the right time. This precision can help you maximize the impact of your campaigns.

More Effective Communication

Audience mapping doesn’t just help businesses understand their audience; it also informs them of what experience your audience is looking for. Whether through social media, email marketing, or content creation, businesses can tailor their messaging to resonate with your audience’s values and aspirations, fostering stronger connections and trust.

The Audience Mapping Reset

We know buyer personas are not a one-size-fits all proposition. And there are plenty of businesses doing buyer personas very well..

But for the rest of us, it’s time for a mindset shift. Let’s stop thinking in terms of buyers and start thinking about building a more comprehensive, adaptable, and effective approach to understanding and engaging with your entire audience. 

By embracing audience mapping, businesses can build more meaningful connections with buyers, while also building stronger relationships with the ambassadors–the partners, sponsors, media, the second-level LinkedIn connections–to create a more dynamic, more powerful approach to business success.

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