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    06/11/2024 |

    A Lesson From ‘Face/Off’: Avoid an Identity Crisis in Your Persona Marketing

    If you’re like me, Nicolas Cage is your touchstone for understanding how the world works. 

    He’s made over 120 movies, and there’s pretty much no life lesson left uncovered at this point – or marketing lesson, it turns out. 

    In the realm of B2B marketing, crafting accurate buyer personas means knowing your customers. This goes beyond “skin deep” information like basic demographics or your current SEO rankings. In-depth, data-driven research is crucial to understand the pains and challenges that lead prospects to your company. 

    In Face/Off, FBI agent Sean Archer (John Travolta) undergoes a surgical procedure to swap faces with his archnemesis, terrorist and psychopath Castor Troy (Nicolas Cage). Archer’s objective is to extract crucial information from Troy’s brother and save Los Angeles. 

    The operation spirals into chaos when Troy awakens from an induced coma and takes on Archer’s identity to try and fulfill his objective – general mayhem, by way of destroying Los Angeles.

    The resulting identity crisis and ensuing chaos make Face/Off a summer blockbuster for the ages. But if you dial down the dubious science and explosions, you might recognize some of that chaos if you’ve ever tried to craft a marketing strategy around poorly developed personas. 

    The Consequences of a Misguided Persona: What a Predicament

    1. Misaligned Messaging

    In Face/Off, Troy and Archer don’t understand each other’s purpose or the motivations of the people in their circles. Troy is bored in his “good guy” role and treats his assumed family and colleagues callously, while Archer is repulsed by playing nice with notorious criminals. Since neither can relate to the people around them, they wreak havoc, alienating their allies.

    Inaccurate buyer personas lead to messaging that doesn’t add up for your target audience. You won’t understand your ideal B2B customers’ specific pain points and motivations. An incorrect profile might emphasize features that your best leads don’t value, thereby throwing your persona marketing way off base.

    2. Misguided Long-Term Strategy

    Misidentification leads to erroneous actions and decisions in the film, not just by the main characters but nearly everyone they encounter. In the B2B context, flawed personas can impact what you prioritize in terms of your content and campaign strategy – and direct you away from your audience’s needs. 

    For instance, say your persona inaccurately represents a tech-savvy decision-maker when your customers are more traditional. You may never connect with them during their buyer journey if you choose to emphasize paid ad campaigns on social media platforms or web-based assets like interactive tools. 

    3. Wasted Resources

    The chaos in Face/Off leads to wasted efforts and resources – it’s an action movie, so that’s what makes it fun. Troy delights in exploiting law enforcement perks and using manpower to defeat his enemies in the criminal underworld. Archer literally puts on a different face to stop a terrorist plot – and then his nemesis burns down the entire surgical facility and takes over his life. Imagine the costs (and I’m not even talking about physical damages, I’m talking about therapy bills). 

    You might not be facing the same devastation, but you’re definitely going to take a loss building inaccurate persona marketing campaigns. You’ll spend time, budget and manpower creating content, running ads and executing strategies that fail to engage the right audience. And that could, and usually does, have a major negative impact on meeting your revenue goals. 

    4. Damaged Brand Trust

    This all adds up to serious trust issues – just ask Sean Archer’s wife and daughter, who don’t know who to trust during the film’s inevitable face-to-face showdown. (“I’m sorry I shot you, Dad.”) 

    If your marketing efforts feel inauthentic, your prospects will keep searching for a company they trust. Buyers expect companies to understand their unique challenges at an increasingly personalized level and provide tailored solutions. Inaccurate personas can lead to generic or off-target communications, eroding credibility.

    When All Else Fails, Start Fresh

    You don’t have to wind up in the marketing equivalent of a black site prison with magnetic boots stuck to your feet. If you think your personas are off base, prioritize a deep dive and a comprehensive update. Here are some key steps to develop accurate B2B buyer personas:

    Data-Driven Research: Start with comprehensive research into your customers and the larger audience you want to reach. Understand the demographics, job roles, challenges and decision-making processes of your customers by:

    • Analyzing existing customer data 
    • Conducting surveys
    • Interviewing sales, customer service and product development teams

    Segmentation: Don’t assume your customer base is monolithic. Even if they’re all in one industry, their different roles and backgrounds (not to mention their expectations with highly individualized B2C marketing) necessitate different personas. Segment your audience into distinct groups based on categories like: 

    • Industry 
    • Company size 
    • Job function 
    • Role in the buying process 

    Real Data Over Assumptions: Avoid basing personas on assumptions or anecdotal evidence. Maybe mailing out a quarterly newsletter used to be a great re-engagement strategy. These days, even in industries with older demographics, that’s probably going straight in the circular file. 

    Use real data to inform your personas. Look at behavioral data from sources including

    • Website analytics 
    • CRM systems 
    • Targeted email campaigns
    • Social media interactions 

    Don’t Forget About Regular Updates: Does the face still fit? Buyer personas are not static. As markets evolve and your company grows, so will your customers. Regularly review and update your personas to ensure they remain relevant and accurate. The more detailed the persona, the better equipped your marketing team will be to craft targeted strategies.

    Precision in Personas, Precision in Marketing

    Precise buyer personas lead organically to tailored messaging, effective strategy and efficient content and campaign development, ultimately driving B2B marketing. They’re the foundation of a strong, aligned marketing and sales system.

    Avoid the pitfalls of misidentification – invest the time and effort into crafting accurate buyer personas. It’s important enough that you should reach out to experts if you need help pulling the information together.

    Heather Bowlan, Copywriter headshot

    Heather Bowlan, Copywriter

    Heather Bowlan's writing and editing experience has ranged from B2B/B2C website copy to travel guidebooks and poetry reviews to nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Her background in creative writing and critical thinking keeps her inquisitive and interested. Whatever the message or medium, she loves the opportunity to develop content with impact.

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