Content CreationDemand Generation

6 Common Buyer Persona Mistakes to Avoid

By May 19, 2015 No Comments

A great buyer persona can transform your marketing and enable you to generate a ton of interested, qualified leads. While a growing number of B2B businesses are sold on the concept of buyer persona development, many struggle to see a return on their personas, and fail to improve lead generation and customer acquisition.

Chances are, these businesses are repeating some of the common buyer persona mistakes below. While these mistakes can seriously limit your marketing efforts, thankfully, none of them are too hard to overcome.

Here are six common buyer persona mistakes to avoid.

1. Profiling Ideal Buyers, Not Real Buyers

When businesses set out to define their buyer personas, a few hit a fundamental snag. Instead of trying to determine what their real customers look like, they set out to define the people they want to be customers.

Buyer personas are designed to help you understand your existing customers, and uncover the motivations and problems that drive them to buy from you. This allows you to tightly focus your marketing strategy around their needs in order to attract more potential buyers.

2. Over-Relying on Anecdotes

Most marketers and salespeople have a wealth of customer anecdotes at their disposal, drawn from decades of combined customer experiences. While these anecdotes can add valuable insight to your buyer persona, they’re just as likely to distort its accuracy.

Anecdotes paint an all-too-convincing picture. They make it extremely easy to fill in any gaps in our knowledge with colorful assumptions, and even though they might make sense, there’s no guarantee they’ll be accurate. Discussing these stories is a great idea, but before you incorporate any of them into your buyer persona, make sure they’re backed up by data.

3. Fixating on Demographic Information

Demographic information can be a great tool for quickly identifying leads that match the profiles of existing customers. Crucially, however, even great demographic data rarely translates into anything more than speculation.

Businesses that fixate on demographic information will never uncover the real insights they need to improve their marketing, which are the motivations and pain points that drive the buying process.

Instead of defining personas by their age, height, and salary, think about the real-world situations that may have lead to the point of sale. Ask questions about professional problems and frustrations, and try to understand exactly what drove your website visitor to take the substantial leap into customer status.

As Todd Cameron wrote in How to Rock Persona Development, “Good content is not about whether the message is B2B or B2C, it’s about being H2H. That’s human-to-human.”

4. Reading Too Much into Your Stock Photos

Although the addition of an illustrative stock photo can be a valuable tool for personalizing your persona, it’ll never be a perfect representation of your buyer. Letting it lead your marketing efforts by even the slightest amount can cause a noticeable deviation from your intended audience.

Before you hit the stock photo sites, it’s a great idea to flesh out an in-depth written persona. Include as much insight and detail as possible, and ensure that everyone in the marketing department has quick and easy access to your written persona information.

5. Using a Small Sample Size

Defining a buyer persona is something of a scientific pursuit, and, as in science, the smaller your sample size, the less valid your conclusions will be. The more customers you can survey, the easier it is to determine what a typical buyer looks like.

If you don’t have access to a ton of customers, make up for quantity with quality. Make use of in-depth interviews, and try to find out as much as possible about your customer, focusing on the problems they faced and their motivations to buy from you.

6. Creating Too Many Personas

It’s easy to forgive any enthusiastic marketer for creating a dozen buyer personas. After all, they’re looking to hone in on their target audience and uncover each and every motivation, pain point, and need. But the more they refine their analyses, the more personas they end up with.

A buyer persona is designed to be an approximation of your real-world buyers.

It captures the primary motivations that drive them to purchase—not the minutiae of each and every possible decision.

The more personas you create, the more diluted your marketing strategy will become. At this point, you either need to consolidate your personas, or grow your marketing team to a size where it can cater to multiple personas without any loss in output or quality.

What challenges have you experienced with creating buyer personas? Have any tips to share? Let us know in the comments.

Ryan Law

About Ryan Law

Ryan is a freelance B2B copywriter and professional coffee drinker. Read his content marketing musings over at Contender Content, and visit Iconsive for advice on all things inbound!