Do your personas need a recession update?

Personas are a mainstay in the toolbox for today’s B2B marketer.

The entire organization is more effective when equipped with rich insights about the buyer’s personal and professional needs, motivators and behavior.  With an accurate persona, product features align to the user and organizational needs, marketing content is more relevant and compelling, and the sales team can better anticipate and overcome objections.

Personas, like any other tool, should be reviewed and updated periodically to keep pace with the market. In normal circumstances, a B2B marketer reviews their persona every 2-3 years. If your personas were created in 2019 or earlier, it raises the question: Do your existing personas still accurately describe your customers and prospects?

Decades of research on individuals and societies show that core personality traits remain consistent regardless of external stimuli. Optimistic people may despair immediately after a crisis but soon return to their optimistic state. On the flip side, challenging situations can magnify certain tendencies. People with a conservative outlook become even more risk averse in uncertain times.

This consistency in outlook means that many of the dimensions in a typical buyer persona remain unchanged after a crisis or during an economic downturn. There are likely to be few changes in their personality, motivations, validation needs and communication preferences.

However, other dimensions in a typical persona often change with the times. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Responsibilities
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Communication preferences

Responsibilities – More Hats

After the layoffs common in economic downturns, B2B buyers often end up with a wider set of responsibilities on their plate. Their team is asked to do the same amount of work with fewer staff. And when departments merged managers find themselves overseeing new staff and functions.

Goals – Focus on Today

During an economic crisis even the most forward thinking B2B buyers become more tactical and focus on immediate goals. Their orientation shifts from how to a grow my business to how to guide my business through these challenging times. They have less risk tolerance. Even the most optimistic B2B buyers will become more conservative in their evaluation of new ideas, solutions, and vendors. In a downturn, many lack the financial cushion required to take risks and experiment – they have less room for error and need to be more careful.

Challenges – More of them

Increased responsibilities and a focus on short term responsibilities add to the challenges B2B buyers face. They are stretched thin, wearing more hats and with less time to do each job. They have pressure to produce immediate results – especially if their business is struggling. Internal competition for budget increases as every function within the organization struggles with the same resource constraints.

Communication preferences – Less is more

With more responsibilities and more challenges, communication preferences and content needs can change too. For example, buyers may need more “101 level” information if making a decision for a new domain that landed on their plate after layoffs.  Or, they may want more streamlined content because of increased workloads.


Out of date personas have implications across the organization. Marketing messages based on the buyers 2019 business objectives may not resonate in 2020 if the buyer persona’s priorities and challenges have shifted. The product road map may no longer align with functional plans and investment. The sales team may find that the questions buyers have shift from strategic potential to how your solution will help them today. And that’s if they can even find the time to meet with your sales reps.

Persona Revision Review

The 2020 persona shifts we’ve hypothesized reflect changes Isurus has seen in B2B buyers over the past twenty years after economic crises and disasters across a range of B2B sectors. Our observations may or may not reflect changes within your customer base. We recommend you make it a priority to review your existing personas and make adjustments that reflect the new realities your buyers face. This exercise could be a simple review and judgmental adjustment to your current personas. Or a more formal review and update. Regardless, personas should reflect who your customer is. And who they are in the second half of 2020 is not who they were in 2019.