At its very basic level, a “persona” is a character. The term is derived from Latin, where it originally referred to a theatrical mask.

Personas in the world of music refer to an artist assuming a role that matches the music they sing (think Ziggy Stardust adopted by David Bowie). In psychology, a persona can refer to the mask or appearance one presents to the world. In user experience design, made famous by Alan Cooper’s The Inmates Are Running the Asylum (1999), personas are fictitious characters based in research used to help solve design questions.

In the world of business-to-business marketing in 2015, personas have become synonymous with strategies used to help companies focus its efforts on targeted groups of customers. Thanks to the proliferation of content marketing and a rise in marketing blogs, personas are synonymous with “buyer personas.”

But there are three distinct types of personas you should be aware of! Do you know the difference?

Buyer personas are focused on prospects looking to solve a problem or meet an objective that your products, solutions or services help them to achieve. Buyer personas encompass all of the differing roles or stakeholders involved in the purchase decision and are usually represented by decision maker, influencer, champion, and gatekeeper roles. Distinctions can also be made as to economic buyer and functional buyer.

Customer personas have solved their initial problem by choosing your solution. This means their context must build from this new status quo to what’s next. The objective for both customer and user personas is to create higher loyalty and retention, as well as increase account value through renewals, cross and up sell. The roles represented by customer personas can include the person who “owns” the solution within the company, the executive(s) responsible for the department(s) its value impacts and procurement or vendor relations.

The really tricky part is that the customer persona could be a different role than the original buyer. Who authorizes renewals? Who manages day-to-day teams? Where a VP could be the original buyer, a director who is responsible for the product’s use/processes, etc, could now be the decision maker for up and cross sell and retention where they were an influencer in the original purchase.

User personas are designed to address the perspectives of those who work with your products, solutions or services on a daily basis. The goal is to help these “end users” achieve more complete use of the product, gain more value than they initially anticipated, as well as to help them become champions for continued use,
 new additions, extensions or feature upgrades. They got what they needed to solve the original problem from your product, now how do they gain more value, or use more features? This persona is often the influencer in an account-based-marketing retention sale.


Learn more. Find out how to create buyer personas as active tools, in our new eBook featuring Ardath Albee, “The Intelligent Guide to Buyer Personas.”


  • The 9 key components of a persona
  • How to design personas as active tools
  • 8 ways to use buyer personas




Read More: What About Seller Personas?