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How using voice of customer and understanding the corporate training buyer persona will change your game

By Scott Hornstein

Originally published on

persona voice of customer

The marketplace for professional learning is crowded and supremely competitive, but you’re well aware of that. You have to be different to stand out. What you may not know is that your compelling competitive differentiation is rooted in just how well you really know your prospects and customers.

Let’s begin with a question:

How many of your marketing staff have ever seen or spoken to a prospect? Or a customer, for that matter?

It’s not just you, it’s your competitors as well. Which is why gaining a first-hand, unique insight into the men and women that inhabit our classification of “prospect” or “customer” is a potential game changer.

Changing the game

Bottom line, marketing needs to be:

  • Valuable and relevant
  • Distinctive  
  • Compelling, and urge the prospect through the consideration

Positioning, content and messaging can become infinitely more effective once we gain a deeper understanding of how our prospects and customers describe their issues and challenges, their individual and collective contribution and rewards, who they trust, and how and why they make a decision.

My experience is that the skill to learn, adopt, or strengthen is gaining this unique insight. If you do this with commitment and agility, it will bring a vitality and immediacy to your marketing, and your product or service to your customers.

I’ll tell you how, but first I will tell you why:

Here’s why

I’ve had extensive experience with Voice of Customer research, and as it has evolved into the prospect persona process. Within that experience is a high-reward trend: voice of customer has consistently prevented costly mistakes and illuminated the way to accelerated revenue. Each “aha” moment is a high-value insight:

  • One company was successful in Market A
    and wanted to enter Market B. Prospects in Market B said that the company’s “tried
    and true” positioning was absolutely wrong, and why.
  • One company’s product innovation was
    revolutionary and disruptive. However, the market was risk adverse. The company
    felt that surely they could capture the mission-critical applications even
    without a track record. Prospects disagreed and pointed them to the appropriate
    entry point.

Here’s how

The persona process involves talking, probing, and carefully listening to prospects and customers, with intelligence and empathy, within a purposeful conversation. The result is a portrait of the person, framed within their business setting. An archetype.

It is their story, written by them, of how they do business. And because it is authentic, it can engender a vision and understanding common to both marketing and sales. It is most powerful when marketing a high-consideration product or service.

However, the persona process does not stand alone.

The power of 3

Marketing is most effective when it is combining information from 3 sources:

  1. Data Analysis. What definable and measureable actions and steps have prospects
    taken? Analysis of the data brings a critical aspect to our understanding of
    the person and the organization.
  • Internal
    Intelligence. Nothing can replace or even replicate
    the sales knowledge of the industry, the players, and the personalities. I’ve
    also learned through bitter experience that if you want sales’ buy-in, they
    must have input.
  • Persona Research. This not only unifies the marketing and sales perspective, but
    it enables us to talk to our customers and prospects about what they think is
    most important, where they go for trusted information, in their own language.

“Knowing our customer and communicating with them in their language, in the places they go in an appropriate way … everything else is tactics.”

– Peter Bell, Product Marketing Senior Director, Marketo

The most powerful lever

Within this triangulation of customers and prospects the most powerful lever is the research, because it lets those individuals speak for themselves. When you put this all together and load it into the MarTech rocket ship, you turn competitive differentiation into clear and compelling competitive advantage.

About the Author

Scott Hornstein

Scott Hornstein works with companies large and small to create customer relationships that are based on mutual respect and trust, and that maximize customer satisfaction, retention, and lifetime value. He works with clients in all phases of marketing strategy, research and implementation.

Scott’s articles and interviews have appeared in Brandweek, Adweek, The AMA Executive Circle / MENG blog, iSystem Asia blog, Sales & Marketing Management, CRM, Catalog Age, BtoB, DMA Insider, The Toronto Star and more.

He has lectured for the ANA, AMA and DMA, CRM, CRMA, USPAAC, and Inc. 500 conferences, NYU, Fordham, Mercy, Pace and Connecticut State Universities and others.

He has written or contributed to the following books: Opt-In Marketing, Personas  With Punch, and Integrated Direct Marketing.


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