4 Mistakes to Avoid when Creating Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market. This picture is based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.

Adele Revella, founder and president of The Buyer Persona Institute, a firm that helps marketers interview buyers for insights into personas and marketing, highlights the four mistakes you need to avoid when developing and using buyer personas.

1. Don’t Make Stuff Up about Your Buyers

Your sales reps, product experts and online data are often not capable of giving valuable information that can be used in developing marketing strategies. Why? Buyers can mislead or lie to sales reps; product experts interact mostly with current customers, which does not make them buyer experts; and buyer personas created from online data give no personal insight into your buyers.

Therefore, the way to gather clear, unexpected insights about how your buyers make decisions is to have a conversation with them. Each month, take time to have a 20 to 30 minute in-depth interview with buyers. Ask them to walk you through their decisions, starting with the moment they decided to solve their problem.

2. Don’t Get Sidetracked

Your marketing team should not be focusing on the wrong aspects of creating a buyer persona by debating irrelevant trivia. For example, is the buyer persona a man or a woman? Unless you’re a B2C marketer, the buyer’s gender, marital status and hobbies are usually irrelevant.

Marketers generally only need to focus on five insights regarding what are the buyer persona’s problems or objectives; what rewards does the buyer associate with success; what factors could prompt the buyer to question a product; what process does this buyer persona follow in selecting a solution; and how does a buyer assess different solutions.

3. Don’t Develop too Many Buyer Personas

When you have captured the necessary insights about your buyers, you will see that differences in job title, company size, and industry do not necessarily relate to differences in your insights. You will only need a separate buyer persona when there is a significant difference on several of those findings. For example, you may find that buyers that have almost identical priorities and perceived barriers can be more effectively communicated and marketed to when they are placed under one persona.

4. Don’t Conduct Scripted Q&A Interviews with Buyers

Using a telephone script or online survey won’t reveal anything you don’t already know about your buyers, and will lead to answers that are obvious and useless. To reveal the new insights you want requires you to ask probing questions based on your buyer’s answers.

To get this right will take a bit of practice, but it is possible to learn how to have unscripted, agenda-driven conversations. When you get it right, your buyers will tell you, in detail, how they weighed their options and compared your solutions to your competitors.

Avoiding these four mistakes, will help your buyers become the focus of your marketing strategies and tactics.

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