I see it all the time. Whether it’s a new HubSpot portal, a PDF document, or just in conversation, there seems to be one, universally dangerous tactic that keeps marketers from having successful and useful buyer personas.
Now before I tell you what the one thing is, let’s just make sure we are all on the same page.
Buyer personas are meant to be fictional representations or cross-sections of your ideal potential buyers — a tool to identify and visualize your target audience.
When done correctly, they can help you better understand what drives a customer purchase, how to communicate with them in the consideration process, and what barriers they might have along the way.
Creating buyer personas doesn’t mean that you have a magical organization system that every potential lead, prospect or customer will fit in without exception. Defining personas will never compare to a real sales person asking real questions to identify what a company needs, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.
Why Are Buyer Personas Essential for Any Business?
- Clarity and Focus: Buyer personas should be based on your best potential customers. By focusing on the ideal, you can create more clarity around prospects who might not be the best fit because of budgets, needs, etc.
- Communication: Successful buyer personas will help create effective communication across teams. If your leadership, sales, and marketing departments can all agree on your personas, then they become a standard definition that can be used company-wide.
- Efficiency: Personas can create efficiencies with marketing messages, sales communication, and internal dialogue.
So, What’s the One Dangerous Mistake?
It’s going to seem simple, but don’t be fooled. The one dangerous mistake I’ve seen numerous companies make is creating too many buyer personas. If you miss the mark on this, you might as well not create personas at all. You can’t have a target audience if the target is all of the rings on the bulls eye.
I know your next question is going to be, “How many is too many?” And that answer is not black and white. Most companies who have really successful personas limit themselves to 3-5, but there are some key ways that you can identify if you’ve crossed the threshold.
- Titles Only: If your buyer personas have morphed to just include every single potential job title that your visitor might have, then it’s no longer helpful. Remember, these are meant to be representations that help you categorize your visitors. Job titles might not be the best way to represent the different groups of people that visit your website. Instead, think about their motivations, locations or compelling events as possible options for grouping different personas.
- They Don’t Help Solve Business Problems: In persona development discussions, it’s tempting to focus on unimportant details, but that misses the goal.
Every business is different, so those essential details will vary from company to company. But beware of getting caught up in the definitions of your personas. Most likely, their hair color and the type of dog they have won’t affect how you interact with them, yet those minute details can become a real distraction.
When your conversations turn back towards solving businesses problems, then you're on the right track.
- Nobody Refers to Them: If your buyer personas are just a PDF document that lies on the proverbial shelf and no one ever mentions them, then they weren’t done in a way that is really going to impact your business. Don’t be afraid to let them go and start again, some companies will need to come back to this problem a few times before getting a great solution.
How Can I Create Great Buyer Personas that Will Help My Business?
If you are one of the many businesses that don’t have working personas, it’s time to let go of your preconceived ideas about how to craft stellar buyer personas and keep these few tips and tricks in mind.
Start by getting all of your key players in the room: upper management, marketing, and sales. Each of these departments will bring a slightly different understanding of your ideal customers. Try to balance the future vision of the company with what is working well for sales today.
- Identify an Ideal Client: Use this as an ice-breaker to get your team thinking and talking about your business, ask them to think about specific people they have worked with in the past. What’s the best new customer that has recently closed? What makes a client a great fit?
- Identify Motivators and Pain Points: What drives new clients to your business? What is the compelling event that leads them to you? What stops people from making a decision?
- Identify the Sales Cycle: Where do they start in the research process? What is their timeline? When do they want help from sales?
- Identify the Characteristics and Demographics: Now that you’ve narrowed in on the “why,” start thinking about the “who.” Where do they work, what’s their job, title, education, salary, spending habits, etc?
- Categorize Likenesses: Spend some time finding the similarities between the personas and bucketing groups together. Remember, this doesn’t mean that every person has to be 100% represented.
- Verify the Personas: Coordinate phone or in-person interviews with clients and other members of your team to verify your findings. Ask your interviewees the same questions to see if their responses are what you expect or something different.
- Create a Persona Document: Using all of the data and interviews you’ve collected, create a templated persona document that quickly and succinctly communicates your personas to your company. If you don’t have a great template, use ours!
- Review, Revisit, Revise: Taking all of these steps won’t magically mean that your personas are done, but they should be something that is living and breathing that you can update as you get new information, new products, etc.
Now it’s time to take your creation into the wild. Use your newly developed personas as a guideline to help you better communicate with your customers and prospects online. If you are a HubSpot user, make sure to use the personas tool to manage your personas and collect more data from your lead submissions.
If you haven’t developed your personas yet, be sure to download this persona template to help you get started.