Buyer personas help you understand your audience and adapt your marketing efforts to the preferences of your ideal customer. Properly built, buyer personas will reveal actionable insights about where to find your potential buyers and how to capture their attention, helping to align your marketing decisions – from positioning and messaging to content marketing and sales enablement – with your buyer’s expectations.
The return on personas comes in the form of successful lead generation and customer acquisition. If you’d like to improve these metrics for your organization, make sure your buyer personas are done right.
4 can’t-miss steps when building your ideal buyer persona
Here are some effective techniques for gathering the information you need to develop B2B personas:
- Start with identifying the right job roles, industry, and company size. Look through your contacts database (including your current leads and customers) and through your competitors’ case studies and client testimonials.
- Research job descriptions and LinkedIn profiles to understand your target persona’s responsibilities and how they measure success.
- Collect your sales team’s input on the leads they are interacting with most.
- Interview your existing customers either by sending them surveys or interviewing them directly to discover how they find and consume professional content.
5 mistakes that lead to inaccurate buyer personas
It takes time to really get to know, understand, and use your personas properly – but I’d like to highlight five of the most common and most costly mistakes I’ve seen fellow marketers make and provide best practices for what you should do instead.
Mistake #1: Personas are based on personal experience rather than actual, distinct customers
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes might be a great advice for many areas of business, but not when it comes to creating your buyer personas. You need to stay real.
For example, if you are super familiar with your industry, you may not think of relying on online reviews to the extent your customers will. Many marketers write down what they think their buyer personas should be or rely on anecdotal input from the team. Start there, but don’t stop there! Reach out to your customers – long-term and new. Google Analytics and social media provide a great start. Handing out a survey will take it one step further to obtain concrete data on who your actual customers are, why they need your product or service, the challenges they are facing, where they find their information, etc. (Learn more about how to conduct surveys quickly and easily with survey design help!)
Mistake #2: Personas are not humanized
Personas should reflect customers as real people, with human needs and concerns. Simply picking an appropriate picture and giving your persona a name is not enough. Put qualitative and quantitative data into context about what matters to the person. Beyond their job titles, you should be able to uncover the human story behind what motivates them toward certain behaviors.
For example, part of their job role could be solving the problems that your product is built to solve. But what will prompt them to invest in your solution and what is different about prospects who are satisfied with the status quo?
Mistake #3: Buyer, decision maker, and influencer are not well-defined
The critical piece to understand about your buyer persona is their role in the buying process. In some rare occasions, your buyer is also the decision maker and the actual user. But often, it’s more complicated than that. You will likely have to deal with the initiators of the purchase process, the gatekeepers, the influencers, the deciders, the buyers, and the users. Make sure you clearly understand you buyer persona’s role and how they interact with others. Is their power based on status, expertise, or rational argument? This will enable you to crate relevant content for this persona and successfully guide them along the buying process.
Mistake #4: Persona creation is a one-time project
Revisit buyer personas on a regular basis to uncover opportunities to adjust content and engagement strategies in ways that are relevant to the audience. Customers adapt and change – both as companies and as human beings. What they prioritize, where they research, how they buy, and what they expect constantly evolves. The global pandemic itself has shifted how people live, work, and think, but that’s certainly not the only change impacting customers’ lives and work experiences.
As a rule, follow any changes in your business and technology and any changes in buyer interaction patters, but ensure the audit happens at least once a year.
Mistake #5: Persona documents are not well-designed
This may sound like a secondary task for some, but don’t underestimate the power of presentation. Your goal is to encourage your business partners to leverage your buyer personas in their decisions. Make persona documents easy to navigate, understand, and use. Organize information in a way that moves from basic to more detailed. Use design elements like bullets, simple images, sections, and headers to focus the reader on the most important insights. Make persona documents editable or ensure there is a way to provide feedback and suggestions. If documents aren’t useful or evolving to meet requirements, they’ll stale out and go stale — and your team won’t use them.
By avoiding these critical mistakes, you will be better equipped to design buyer personas that will be useful for demand generation, sales enablement, content marketing, and customer experience work, helping your organization drive consensus across customer buying teams more effectively.
Make surveys part of your buyer persona creation process
If there is only one takeaway you’ll get from this blog post, it should be this: You cannot create accurate and reliable buyer personas without speaking to customers.
You need to create opportunities to have a conversation, and when interviewing them directly is not possible, don’t underestimate the power of online surveys.