Why Your Buyer Personas Aren’t Effective

Buyer Personas

You’ve heard all the hype about creating buyer personas, right? According to the Buyer Persona Institute, buyer personas are detailed examples of the real people that buy your products or services. By crafting a persona that represents a particular segment of your target market, you can more effectively create content that appeals to that segment and yields better results.

Sounds easy right? Just think about the people that buy your product or service, write down a few key insights, and start promoting. Sorry, it’s just not that simple. Just like any other marketing tactic, if you don’t apply a serious strategy and invest some serious time and effort, lack of results are the only thing waiting for you over the rainbow. Forget about that pot of gold.

Don’t just rush in and put together a few personas on a whim. Here are a few quick tips to help you start out in the right direction.

Don’t be “me-centric”

Whether we admit it or not, we are inherently biased when we consider what motivates our target market to make a buying decision. Don’t let those biases slip into the buyer personas that you create. There is certainly a segment of your target that thinks like you, but even within a single demographic there are a wide variety of motivating factors. Don’t assume that everyone is like you.

Talk to your team

No matter what industry you work in, there are team members within your company that interact directly with your customers. They have a much better understanding of who your customers are and what motivates them than you do sitting in front of your computer all day.

Let’s say you run a large retail operation. Set up some time to chat with your customer service representatives. I guarantee they have a good deal of insight into who is frequenting your store. From your office, you might assume that your customers stop by to enjoy your excellent prices, thus you avidly promote your sales and great daily deals. After talking to your frontline employees, however, you might find that many of the customers they talk to really shop there because they like the friendly service, your policy on the environment, or their children enjoy the little coin operated rides outside (if those still exist outside of K-Mart.) This changes your marketing approach altogether.

And don’t stop there. Talk to all customer facing team members, and even those that deal with your suppliers and distributors. Form a persona for everyone that your marketing material might reach.

Don’t forget the non-customers

I know, focusing on those that aren’t paying you sounds pretty counter-productive, but just hear me out. Ignore the folks that tell you this isn’t important. If you produce content that is good enough, even if those that are consuming the content aren’t buying, there is a good chance they are sharing.

In the content marketing industry, for example, not everyone checking out our content is a buyer. Many are, but a lot are industry influencers, industry professionals, enthusiasts, educators and the list goes on. By creating content that appeals to these personas, you increase the chance of your content being shared. What do people trust more than word of mouth from their peers? It is one of the most trusted forms of promotion, so embrace the non-buyers and create personas for them as well.

Find out who the influencers are in your industry and develop personas based on their characteristics. If the content you produce is shared by the most trusted minds in your industry, you have instant credibility. If you can gain access, take the time to interview a few of these individuals to find out who they are and what makes them tick and then use that to develop a detailed “influencers” persona. You’ll probably find that they are motivated by different stimuli, so be prepared to develop multiple personas here.

Now get to work

Go get your team together and start brainstorming. Don’t go it alone. Have a team and have a strategy. Conduct surveys and even host focus groups. Collect as much detail about your customers as your resources will allow and then put together detailed personas for each segment, complete with names and even generic photos or drawings of the persona. Most importantly, have fun with it!

Anthony GaenzleDirector of Marketing

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