Mistaken Identity: Don’t let these common mistakes crush your buyer personas

If you want just a quick, easy way to "say" you’ve done buyer personas, make them up based on what the sales guy in the next cube tells you about the company’s ideal customer.

Recently, I was surprised to see several bloggers advising content marketers to do just that. If you follow my blog or participate in my buyer persona workshops, you know how strongly I feel about the dangers of making stuff up.

So when Jeff Ogden, the host of Mad Marketing TV, asked me to come back for a second episode about the most common buyer persona mistakes, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.

Here is the video of my interview with Jeff where I cover the typical mistakes that marketers make with buyer personas. I also provide some tips on how to ensure a successful buyer persona initiative.

See this video on YouTube: Mad Marketing TV Episode 2: The Mistakes That Threaten Your Buyer Persona Initiative. Link to episode 1 on You Tube: Mad Marketing TV Episode 1: Understanding Buyer Personas

In Episode 2 of my YouTube interview with Jeff, I share these common buyer persona mistakes:

#1  Using made-up information about buyers
If you just make stuff up about your ideal customer, your message and marketing content is likely to result in “preaching to the choir,” with content that’s generic and no more persuasive than anything you created without buyer personas. B2B marketing stakeholders have a right to expect a far better ROI on their investment.

The purpose of buyer personas is to learn something new, factual and insightful about your target buyer’s decision to solve the problem(s) you address with your product, service or solution. Your insights should be non-obvious, something that your competitors probably don’t know.

The only way to get non-obvious information is to have unscripted, probing conversations with the real people you want to influence – the buyers themselves. With a few hours of buyer persona training, marketers can learn how to have conversations with buyers that will uncover clear, unexpected insights. That information will help you develop targeted marketing campaigns and messages that persuade buyers that your approach is an ideal fit for their needs.

#2  Including irrelevant or trivial information
Some marketers make the mistake of including information about buyers that doesn’t help them with their marketing initiatives. Incredibly, I’ve seen B2B marketing teams get bogged down in debating whether their buyer persona is a man or a woman.

In my e-book, The Buyer Persona Manifesto, I urge marketers to short-circuit all of the trivia and focus on what I call the Five Rings of Insight™.  These five insights help us discover how to reach undecided buyers, addressing their priority initiatives, success factors, perceived barriers, buying process and decision criteria.

#3  Producing too many buyer personas
In my MadMarketingTV interview with Jeff, I talk about the pitfalls of producing too many buyer personas. Many marketers believe they should segment B2B buyer personas by job titles. Not so.

This mistake can get out of hand for any company, especially those that already segment by demographics such as industry or company size. One of my clients originally came up with 24 different buyer personas. But when we got into the work with them, we were able to pare that list down to 11, and we expect to reduce it even more soon, because the marketers are continuously conducting interviews that reveal new insights.

As I explain in the video, it’s better to group buyers according to the insights that we uncover during the interviews rather than on demographics or job titles. Because those insights drive messaging and content marketing strategies, it is only logical to use them to define the buyer persona segments.

These are just a few of the most common buyer persona mistakes that I see. I cover others in my workshops and my presentations to various groups. I hope you’ll have a look at the YouTube interview and share it with your colleagues.

What misconceptions or mistakes do you see? I’m interested in your thoughts on buyer persona best practices.

Topics: B2B, buyer persona marketing, buyer persona mistakes, buyer persona training, buyer persona video, Buyer Personas, Good Use of Personas, Market Research, Uncategorized


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