Why Your Buyer Personas Are Wrong

Creating buyer personas has become fairly common and accepted practice amongst inbound marketers. And for good reason. When executed correctly, buyer personas can provide incredibly useful insight into the minds of your customers, and help you to make critical strategic decisions that affect both your relationship with your current customers as well as your ability to attract new ones.

Great buyer personas are such a valuable tool.

Which is why it’s so surprising that so many people screw them up.

And here’s the thing, when you’ve done a poor job of creating your buyer personas, those personas become essentially useless. Not only have you wasted loads of valuable time in the creation process, you also might be using these personas to make the wrong decisions, or finding yourself unable to use the buyer personas at all.

So, here are some of the most common, most horrifying blunders we see when it comes to buyer personas.

It Takes A Village…

Sure, it might take a village to raise a child, but when it comes to marketing decisions, you shouldn’t be stuck raising a village full of buyer personas. A buyer persona is supposed to inform how your company will handle certain strategic decisions based on your buyers and the decisions they are making or are likely to make. That means each buyer persona is essentially representative of a strategy. Having a few strategies in place for the various types of customers who are interacting with your company makes sense, but there’s a tipping point. If you have fifty different strategies, for instance, you really have no strategy at all. The number of buyer personas you have should be a reflection of how many strategies make sense for your company, both in terms of your audience, and in terms of your ability to execute.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Creating buyer personas is all about imagination, right? Putting yourself in the mind of the buyer and trying to think what they think, feel what they feel, like a writer creating a complex character... right?

Nope! If you are approaching your buyer personas like works of fiction, well, those personas might be useful for that novel you’re going to write someday, but for your marketing strategy – not so much.

Look, the whole point of a buyer persona is to inform decisions that you or your team aren’t capable of making on your own. If your buyer persona consists of stuff you just made up, you’re still just relying on your best guess. Buyer personas need to be based on your real buyers, and the real decisions that they make. That way, your strategy can be based on what you know about your buyers, and not just what you think.

Joe Schmoe from St. Louis, MO

Your buyer personas are not dress-up dolls. You don’t need to fill in their entire life histories back to what they ate for lunch in third grade. You don’t need to know whether your buyer persona grew up an only child, likes alone time, or always has a candy bar hidden in her desk. Personas should be based on real people, but not representative of individuals. Each persona needs to represent a type of person, and the details you fill in should be details about their actions, not the people themselves. Remember, buyer personas are all about being able to anticipate certain types of decision-making.

Wish List

Every business should absolutely know who their ideal customer is. This person checks all the boxes of perfection for who they want to work with, and who the will ideally attract.

But, businesses also need to live in the real world. That means recognizing that your actual customers are probably not the same as your ideal customers. Maybe they have some of the same traits, but maybe not. Buyer personas need to recognize who is actually buying from you, and help you make decisions on how you can better serve those people.

Creating buyer personas is not hard, but it takes an understanding of what these personas are actually going to be used for. With a bit of research and strategic thinking about your company’s relationship to its customers, you should be able to avoid these mistakes and create great, useful buyer personas. 

Need help discovering and strategizing around your company's buyer personas. Let's talk!