9 Mistakes to Avoid When Developing Your Buyer Personas

Since we’ve been on the topic of buyer personas for the last two conversations, let’s get a different perspective on things. You’re likely tired of reading tips and tricks to creating buyer personas for your marketing strategy. The so-called experts say things like, “use this template” and “do this for social media, not drip campaigns.” And here you are, frantically trying to implement all the best practices to gain traction. But for whatever reason, it’s just not working for you.

There are two things wrong here.

  1. There’s really no such thing as a one-and-done solution to creating buyer personas.
  2. You simply can’t implement every nugget of advice into your buyer personas and marketing plan.

By process of elimination, you can tap into these typical buyer persona mistakes to avoid. In conjunction with our previous conversations and buyer persona templates, staying away from these common missteps can clear a path to marketing success.

1. Buyer Personas Won’t Work if You Don’t Develop Them Correctly

Buyer personas do serve a valuable purpose. They represent your core audience of buyers and allow your marketing teams to strategically craft campaigns to address those audiences. If your buyer personas aren’t right, your marketing and advertising efforts won’t be either. Here are key elements every buyer persona should have. If you’re missing any of these, you have your first mistake to correct.

  • Every buyer persona needs a name (after all, it’s a fictitious character representing your buyer.)
  • Demographic and lifestyle details matter.
  • Make sure your buyer persona has a list of interests or hobbies.
  • Know where your buyer persona works, or at least what type of job he or she has.
  • Outline your buyer persona’s decision-making behaviors.


2. Don’t Get Hung Up on Demographics

Yes, your buyer personas need to have ideal demographics, including age ranges, jobs and hometowns. But don’t get lost falling down the rabbit hole of data. Some business leaders become fixated on the details and inadvertently lose sight of the buyer persona purpose. If you don’t need to know whether your personas rent or own their homes, have blue or brown eyes, or prefer cheddar to provolone, then don’t sweat it. Don’t spend so much time trying to understand the minutiae that you overshoot your buyer persona objectives.

Tina’s Cleaning Service: Tina has two clear buyer personas. She’s focusing her efforts around connecting with “busy families” and residential service, along with “office managers” in need of commercial cleaning services. She’s concerned about the latter because, well, office managers come in all shapes and sizes. Should she be targeting women, commercial decision-makers or men? And their titles vary, too. There are office managers, but also business administrators, general managers, and maintenance managers who make cleaning service decisions. How can she be sure her buyer persona hits all of those potential targets?

Don’t get blindsided by all the information you collect. Spending too much of your focus and time in the weeds with the details can distract you from the value of the buyer persona. Instead, use the data to help you determine how many various characters you need based on fundamental differences in demographics. For the most part, you can focus on the attributes the decision makers all share as your foundation for engagement.

3. Creating Buyer Personas Based on Real Customers

When developing your buyer persona, you might automatically assume it’s best to define each profile based on real customers. Don’t do it. Instead, look at your existing clientele and make improvements to develop who your ideal buyer might be.

4. More Than One Is Good, But Ten Might Be Too Many

Most marketing gurus will tell you it’s best to develop a buyer persona for each ideal customer you aim to target, based on your niche offerings and core deliverables. They would be right, to an extent. But if your company strategy includes more than a few personas, you could be spreading your resources and messaging too thin.

Paul’s Used Car Lot: Paul feels pretty confident about his two personas, one targeting credit-challenged buyers and the other middle-class parents on the hunt for the BEST deal on a teen car. But he sits down and looks at his roster of past customers and thinks maybe he needs to reach out to retired buyers on a fixed income too. And then he thinks maybe he should be specifically targeting single moms who need vans and SUVs since he has a few of both on the lot right now. As he scratches his head, he’s wondering if there’s such a thing as too many buyer personas.

Identify the few core personalities that best represent your ideal clientele and work with those. You can always add more personas later, as your company grows, or should you introduce new products or services. For now, focus your marketing strategy on meeting the needs of those few buyers that can make the most significant impacts to your bottom line.

5. Buyer Personas vs. Segmentation (Knowing the Difference)

Segments and Personas together provide a holistic understanding of the market, which can be invaluable for any business. Segments are an excellent way to forecast the group’s market interest in a product or service, while personas help you understand what emotions help trigger the individual to take action on a product or service. While customer segments won’t offer as much insight into how people feel about things on their own level – since those feelings may not align with one another- they do provide insights about groups within larger markets like demographics (age group), psychographics, interests, etc.

Buyer segments and buyer personas are both relevant marketing tools in the toolkit. But it’s critical to understand that they are best used in different stages of marketing and can generate different results. We’ll refer back to number three on this list. Getting lost in the data can be easy when analyzing demographics, classes, behaviors and purchasing preferences with either if you’re not careful.

Your buyer personas are the marketing mechanisms to help you understand the emotional engagement required at the individual level to inspire a purchase. Segmentation is the way to help you capture the broader commonalities of your group audience.

Think of segmentation data points as:

  • Group Preferences
  • Firmographics
  • Preferred Buying Patterns
  • Overarching Psychographics

Think of buyer persona data points as:

  • Attitudes
  • Behaviors
  • Thought Processes
  • Individual Affiliations

6. Don’t Forget Buyer Personas Provide Valuable Data

Some companies make a huge data-related mistake when developing their buyer personas. Marketing strategists and content managers gather, analyze and apply incredibly valuable information and then sit on it like a hen with a golden egg. Instead of mining those valuable insights and keeping them in a silo, look for ways to share them across the company and within your organization. You will be able to leverage customer behaviors to improve your customer service processes, to train new employees and to implement new tech-based solutions. Don’t make the assumption that customer behaviors only apply to the marketing department.

7. Remember What Happens When You Assume?

Relying on anecdotal information or isolated details can lead organizations to create buyer personas that are too broad and too narrow. Customer stories are helpful but don’t make the mistake of carving out personas in an isolated vacuum. Don’t assume that every customer nuance should be applicable across all of your personas. Use those stories to help point your efforts in the right direction, but ultimately, rely on the data. Use customer interviews, surveys and research to help you collect a wide range of potential details. You can then use those insights collectively to make changes, dispel customer myths and improve your overall engagement strategies.

8. Negative Buyer Personas Can Help, Too

During your data collection process, you will obviously be on the hunt for the characteristics of your ideal customers. But a by-product of your efforts will also produce information about those audiences you are not trying to sell to at all, often called negative buyer personas. Understanding your ideal buyers’ journeys may be the objective, and it will take time to get the personas just right. But don’t be afraid to use the negative buyer persona details to aid your strategies, as well. Understanding who not to market to can be just as beneficial to your marketing efforts and will likely help your company avoid wasteful advertising and engaging the wrong audiences.

9. Buyer Personas Aren’t Static Characters

Where most buyer personas fail is when they grow stagnant. Once you’ve arrived at developing your ideal buyer persona, your work isn’t done. Since these profiles are rooted in the data and that information routinely changes, your personas should also be adaptable. Stay on top of your metrics and customer feedback sources to help identify ongoing improvements to your buyer personas.

Avoid these common buyer persona mistakes and keep your marketing plans on target with your ideal customers. In our next segment, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the next step – the buyer’s journey. Knowing who your ideal customers are is only half the battle. It’s a read you won’t want to miss.

And don’t forget. When you’re up for an expert assessment of your marketing plan, you can always take advantage of a FREE consultation with Awareness Branding & Consulting!

Marcus Wendt

Chief Executive Officer

Marcus helps lead and grow companies from the ground up. He has a proven track record. His experience is diverse with expertise in sales, branding, marketing, automations, manufacturing, building teams, managing operations, sourcing suppliers and outsourcing to offshore locations.