Buyer personas are representations of your customer in your target market. These fictional individuals are based on real-life characteristics such as demographics, personality/demeanor, buying habits, goals, challenges, budget, technology, their perception of the market, and much more. Personas are used to help guide your marketing efforts in the right direction by providing clear and consistent frames of reference. Without detailing these profiles, it’s near impossible to create engaging customer experiences that yield impactful return.

Documenting your buyer personas is easier said than done. It takes time, money, and resources to create and implement something that can serve as a guide when making important marketing decisions. Want to start off on the right foot? We’ve laid out 5 common mistakes we see a lot, but we've also added in some helpful tips you can follow to avoid falling into these traps.

1. Going with Your “Gut”

Simply guessing who your buyer personas are isn’t going to cut it. These assumptions tend to be either too narrow or too broad, failing to hone in on the real data that’s important. Think about your customers’ obstacles, needs, and motivations. Your targeting efforts won’t be effective unless your team creates detailed, succinct buyer persona profiles that ring true to your client base.

Keep in mind that buyer personas are meant to help you understand your existing customers rather than your ideal customer. Additionally, some marketers make the mistake of identifying their personas based on internal conversations with sales teams, project managers, or online research; completely ignoring the interactions they have with actual customers.

Our Tips:

  • Back up your personas with real data. Google Analytics, ABM tools, social media, digital advertising, and email marketing are just a few channels that house an array of demographic information useful in supporting your buyer persona profiles.

  • Collaborate with your sales, marketing and other client-facing employees on common behaviors or patterns they experience when interacting with customers.

  • Reach out to your customers directly. Ask questions related to their needs, wants and obstacles. Interview enough people to develop as accurate of a picture as possible. Don’t be tempted to stop after a handful of interactions because you believe you have enough data.

2. Having Too Many or Too Few Personas

Having too many (or too few) buyer personas can be a costly mistake. Too few personas either means you’re missing out on potential market segments, or you’re losing sales because you’re targeting too broad of an audience that lacks personalization. On the other hand, having too many personas could mean some are based simply on demographic data, or they might contain redundant profile information. This risks your ability to differentiate between them adequately and runs contrary to the whole reason for developing personas in the first place; to provide focus.

Our Tips:

  • Start with 2-5 buyer personas based on accurate representations of your client base. There should be clear differentiators between each persona. The whole idea of creating personas is to create an experience that resonates with each of them. And If you don't have enough information on a particular persona, remove it.

  • Focus on your highest revenue-generating personas. Who are the people you want to continue targeting with campaigns? Additionally, who are the people you are not currently targeting, but could be a good fit for your company, could benefit from your product or service, and could yield great revenue opportunity? 

3. Neglecting to Humanize

While you certainly need to use demographic data to develop effective customer personas, it’s important to see them as more than just sets of numbers. Humanizing personas can provide you with a deeper understanding of how your customers think, feel, and interact with your business. Put a personal face on them and tell their story. This will help you determine what information they need, and ways in which you can position your offering to solve their problems.

Our Tips:

  • Prioritize understanding your customer’s typical day and break down their “story” into realistic events. Instead of defining your persona along the lines of “female, 25 to 40 years old, suburban dweller, mid-range income”, consider what this person does for a living. What does their average workday look like? What channels do they use to consume media? How do they measure success? What are their interests and character traits?

  • Think of the unique challenges your buyer personas face, and relate this back to your product or service offering. Here at August Ash, we have a few different buyer personas with different roles, motivations, and challenges. For example, “President Paul” may face the uncertainty of what marketing and web technologies he should invest in to drive growth in his business whereas “Marketing and Sales Director Mary” is unsure about what sales/marketing enablement tools she should implement to expand her company's pipeline. 

4. Failing to Inform Your Team

It’s surprising how many companies have a wealth of buyer persona information hidden in their archives that nobody knows about. Personas aren’t a secret, but one of the most frequent mistakes is failing to share the personas with your team. Some companies believe that, somehow, this is confidential information. It’s not. You don’t have to protect it or restrict the knowledge to just your marketing team. The more open you are about who your target audience is, the better your team will be able to understand and deliver on your mission.

Our Tips:

  • Share your buyer personas with your team! In turn this will enable them to deliver a more cohesive customer experience. Often times, all that’s needed are simple reminders to ensure your team is using the right language, tone, and imagery to appeal to your target market.

  • Make sure your website content, social media pages, sales collateral, processes, and and any other customer facing initiatives speak directly to your buyer personas. 

5. Forgetting to Update Personas

Times are constantly changing, and it’s fair to assume that the environment in which your business and industry live will change as well. Whether your product lines evolve, your customers’ needs grow, or your business is exploring new markets, you will need to re-evaluate your personas to make sure that they are in sync with your marketing initiatives. Failure to update buyer persona data could result in your sales slipping, unsatisfied and misunderstood customers, and competitors gaining advantage over you.

Our Tips:

Don’t wait until you’re confronted with the fact that your buyer persona’s needs have changed and you are no longer reaching the right audience—implement measures to review and update your buyer personas on a regular basis. Additionally, as your business grows, your target audience may change as well. Some instances that should trigger a persona review and update are:

  • Mergers and acquisitions

  • Shifts in business strategy

  • Reduction in lead generation

  • Decreased website traffic

The creation of buyer personas gives your company direction and insight, and provides a structure for your marketing campaigns. This will help you decide where to focus your time, guide your research and development initiatives, inform new product ranges, and ensure alignment of strategies across your organization. Buyer personas also enable you to attract the most valuable prospects and leads that will hopefully turn into your most loyal customers.

Here at August Ash, we place a heavy focus on buyer personas and believe that they are an essential ingredient to a successful marketing plan and website project. Are you wanting to map out your buyer personas but don’t know where to start? We can help! In our Buyer Persona and Buyer Intent Workshop, we can help you develop a performance-driven marketing strategy by advising on how to put your customer’s needs, wants and interests at the center of all your initiatives. By providing the right products and services, for the right people, at the right time, we can use the right channels, to address the right needs or wants at each stage of the buying cycle. Contact us today to get started!

Are you craving more information on buyer personas? Check out our blog, Buyer Personas Should Change the Way You Design Your Website by Internet Marketing Strategist, Jason Drury. He emphasizes the importance of knowing who your buyer personas are and how they think, feel, and behave is key in creating a successful and effective website.