Why You’re Getting Your Buyer Personas Wrong

  • Buyer personas are target audience profiles based on customer interviews and other data.
  • Well-researched buyer personas can help you develop marketing materials that speak to your target audience, but poorly thought-out buyer personas can waste your time.

Whether you’re in marketing, sales, product development, or customer service, developing buyer personas can help you deliver what your customers want. However, your buyer personas may not give you the insights you need if you’re going about them the wrong way.

Before looking at how you can go wrong when creating a buyer persona, let’s define the term. Inbound marketing pioneer Hubspot sums the buyer persona up nicely as a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” You can use customer interviews and other historical data to create profiles for different segments of your target audience. You can even give them names like C-Suite Cecily and Freelance Freddy if you want (Hubspot is really into this). However, what’s much more important than the names is determining how and why the persona makes certain purchasing decisions. By figuring this out, you’ll get better at developing marketing materials that strike a chord with your audience.

Creating accurate buyer personas is harder than you might think, and there are a lot of mistakes that both novice and seasoned marketers can make. Below are six common mistakes you should be aware of while developing your company’s buyer personas.

Mistake #1: Your buyer personas are works of fiction.

When creating buyer personas, you shouldn’t be polishing your creative writing skills. Don’t just write personas based on what you think you know about your customers or what your sales team has told you. Look at real customer behavior, from time spent on different pages of your website to survey form fills. You should also conduct interviews with a large swath of prospects and customers.

Mistake #2: You’re only focusing on your best customers.

It’s easy to call up a few of your company’s best customers and let the praise wash over you. However, that’s not going to give you insights into your typical buyers. It’s okay to reach out to your biggest fans, but you should also interview the people who make infrequent purchases, started as prospects but didn’t close, and even those people who have had a bad customer experience with your company. Figuring out the stumbling blocks that prevent people from making a purchase will help you develop better personas—and that may help you remove those stumbling blocks.

Mistake #3: You’re getting hung up on irrelevant information.

You probably don’t need to know if your target customers are married or if they regularly eat French toast for breakfast. Here are a few things you probably do need to know:

  • What causes them to invest in your products or services
  • Concerns they may have when purchasing from you
  • What selling propositions (e.g. free shipping, high-quality materials) are most important to them
  • How they expect your products or services to solve a problem for them
  • Who or what influences them during their decision-making process
  • How they prefer to shop for your products (e.g. in-store, on their smartphone)

Mistake #4: You have too many segmented personas.

It’s easy to get carried away when creating buyer personas. You’ve collected all this data, and you start to convince yourself that maybe there really are 20 different buckets into which you could segment your customers. There’s no right or wrong number of buyer personas, but creating a bunch of microscopically specific personas is going to be confusing and unhelpful. Start with one or two core personas and build out from there as necessary.

Mistake #5: You think of a persona as an individual.

Don’t lose fact of the sight that Freelance Freddy isn’t a real person. In fact, Freelance Freddy (or whatever you’ve named your buyer persona) isn’t even supposed to represent a specific person. To paraphrase Hubspot again, your buyer personas come from an amalgamation of data provided by your customers. That means that there will be some variation within each persona (for example, some people who fit the persona might be Content Marketing Managers while others might be Directors of SEO).

Mistake #6: Your personas have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Maybe you and your team decided to create buyer personas as a marketing exercise a year or two ago but filed them away and haven’t looked at them since. If that’s the case, you’re wasting a tool that can be valuable across the sales funnel. Get those personas back out and bring them up to date. And even if you have been using buyer personas consistently, you should make a goal to update them periodically, especially when your business goes through major changes that could affect your personas (e.g. a new product offering, a subscription price increase).

Take the time to get your buyer personas right, and you’ll be able to use them to develop marketing materials that attract qualified visitors, leads, and customers.

Need help developing buyer personas or creating content that speaks to your audience’s needs? Contact Leverage Marketing to learn how we can help you target the right prospects.

Madeline Jacobson

Madeline Jacobson

Digital Content Team Leader at Leverage Marketing
Madeline is a writer and Digital Content Team Leader for Leverage Marketing. After receiving her B.A. in English, she moved from Washington state to Austin, Texas, where she worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer and college prep coach before pursuing a career in content marketing. When she's not writing, she enjoys running, attempting to cook, going to trivia nights, and exploring Austin.
Madeline Jacobson
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