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The 8 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making With Your Buyer Personas

Feb 2, '18 / by Christina Bockisch

The 8 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making With Your Buyer Personas

Developing buyer personas is an essential first step in building a successful inbound marketing strategy. Buyer personas help you better understand your customers and prospects by identifying their goals, questions, challenges, pain points and behaviors so you can position your content to meet their needs.

But are you making mistakes when you’re creating your buyer personas?

While every business is different and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to buyer personas, there are some wrong approaches you might be tempted to take. Below are some of the most common mistakes marketers make – and how to avoid making them yourself.

Mistake #1: Having too many personas

Creating a bunch of buyer personas is appealing – especially when you have a ton of data at your fingertips. And while it may make sense to create a buyer persona for every individual customer you want to target, having too many personas can be harmful.

With too many personas, your marketing ends up being all over the place and often lacks any real focus. Plus, you’ll likely find that several of your personas are quite similar to each other and that there aren’t very many distinguishing factors.

To avoid this mistake, start by creating a single persona that represents a majority of your customers. As you analyze the data about your most successful customers, you’ll begin to see where one persona ends and another begins.

Mistake #2: Only using buyer personas in marketing

We often see buyer personas as a “marketing thing.” But buyer personas should be used by your entire organization – including your sales and customer support teams.

Whereas the marketing team uses personas to help attract the right people, your sales team uses them to engage with prospects. By having a strong knowledge of your buyer personas, your sales team will be able to deliver value more quickly and not waste a prospect’s time with irrelevant information.

Your customer support team also greatly benefits from buyer personas as it helps them confirm a prospect’s values and communication preferences. And by understanding your personas, your support team will be able to provide better service to your customers.

Mistake #3: Thinking of your personas as an individual person

Buyer personas are generalizations of your ideal buyers, but it’s easy to forget that personas are not individual people (especially when you have specific people in mind when creating your personas).

Rather than identifying the challenges, pain points, goals and needs of one person, focus on gathering a collection of characteristics about your ideal customers.

For example, it might make sense for you to group multiple titles or job roles into one persona. At Clariant Creative, one of our main personas is Resource-Challenged Rita, and we know that she’s typically a director of marketing or VP of marketing. In the real world, a person can’t hold both job titles – but since Rita is a fictional representation, she could occupy either role.

Mistake #4: Relying too heavily on demographics

Demographic information – including age, gender, salary, industry and company size – can be helpful for quickly identifying leads that match the profiles of your existing personas. But demographics shouldn’t be your main focus.

When you rely too heavily on demographic information, you’ll miss the real insights that help you improve your marketing: the challenges, pain points and questions your personas have that drive them to make a purchase decision.

So, rather than defining your persona as, “female, 20-25 years old, entry-level marketer,” think more about what your persona’s job role looks like, what challenges she faces in her role, how she measures success and how she consumes information – and define your persona around this information.

With that being said, you can (and should) include demographics in your buyer persona profiles. Just be sure to consider a wide range of inputs to paint a more comprehensive picture.

Mistake #5: Making assumptions about your buyer personas

When you create buyer personas for the first time, you’ll probably uncover anecdotal information about these personas from other members of your team. While it’s important to talk to your sales and customer support teams to learn more about your personas, your research shouldn’t stop there.

Instead, set up a time to interview your best customers. During the interview, ask questions about their:

  • Personal background
  • Industry and business
  • Job role
  • Goals
  • Challenges
  • Objections
  • Information sources

Base your personas around real conversations you have with real customers. After all, if your personas are too generic, your content won’t be any better than it was before.

Mistake #6: Not creating negative personas

Negative buyer personas – also known as exclusionary personas – allow you to identify anyone that’s not a good fit for your company. They help you weed out the bad apples by proactively identifying the types of prospects that could potentially drain resources or cause huge headaches for your team.

It may seem counterintuitive to spend time getting to know people who will never be your customers and generate revenue. But it will save your team time and money in the long run since you won’t waste your time marketing and selling to people who aren’t a good fit.

Related Content: Negative Buyer Personas: What They Are and Why Your Business Needs Them

Mistake #7: Not updating your personas

Many marketers think of personas as a “set it and forget it” type of initiative. But people – and the challenges they face, the goals they’re trying to accomplish and where they seek out information – change.

Also, as your business grows, your target audience and ideal customer may change as well. Reevaluate your personas at least a couple times a year to see if they’re still accurate and up-to-date.

Mistake #8: Creating personas and not using them

Buyer personas are a critical part of inbound marketing for a reason, and they must be at the center of every piece of content you produce – from your web copy and sales collateral to white papers and blogs.

Your personas help you understand who your target audience is, the questions they have, their biggest challenges and what drives them to make a purchase decision. If you’re creating buyer personas but not using them, how will you create content that speaks to what your audience needs?

If you find yourself not using your personas, ask yourself why. Is it because you’re getting pushback from other team members to only create content on certain topics? Does the rest of the marketing department not understand the importance of buyer personas? Are your personas outdated (see mistake #7)? Whatever the reason, figure out why and take steps to start using them immediately.

Developing accurate buyer personas takes time, but taking the time to get it right will benefit you tremendously in the long run. By being aware of the common buyer persona mistakes marketers make – and how to avoid them – you’ll be able to set yours up correctly and set your inbound marketing efforts up for success.

Need more help taking the first step with your buyer personas? Download our Buyer Persona Templates to see exactly what a useful buyer persona looks like!

Download Your Template

Topics: Strategy

Christina Bockisch
Written by Christina Bockisch

I’m passionate about helping my clients achieve their goals – whether that involves helping them show up in search engines, generate more of the right leads or nurture existing customers into brand evangelists.

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