Don’t Get Stuck With Bad Buyer Personas


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Marketing and Sales Leaders Need To Know The Difference Between Bad Versus Good Buyer Personas To Achieve Growth

Not all buyer personas are created equally.

This is a problem.  Because if they are not created equally, meaning with proven research rigor and processes, we will wind up with a bunch of really bad buyer personas.  As far as I can see, there is a whole lotta bad buyer personas being created.

This is upsetting from a founder’s perspective.  For when done correctly, buyer personas can be powerful in their ability to provide meaningful buyer insights that make a difference in achieving growth. In this article, let us briefly expand on the idea of bad buyer personas versus good buyer personas.

The Bad

What you should look out for as well as some myths to notice:

1 – Assumptions Kill Buyer Personas

Many bad buyer personas are based on assumptions about buyers.  There is no research or validation taking place.  And the results are plenty of Johnny the IT Guy or Mary the Marketing Wiz type of buyer personas that do no one any good.

2 – You Can Create Buyer Personas On Data Alone

Since the rise of Big Data and AI, you get the promise that you can create buyer personas solely on data and analytics alone.  Core to buyer personas is qualitative buyer research.  You cannot get to the core of critical buyer insights without it.

3 – Anyone In Marketing Can Create A Buyer Persona

The growth of buyer personas, in marketing particularly, has led many to believe that just because they are in marketing, they are automatically experts in buyer persona creation.  Far from the truth.   It takes certain attributes, learning, and rigors in processes as any good qualitative research requires. 

4 – Outside Of Core Services

There has been an explosion of marketing services, over the past decade or more, offering creative to technology deliverables.  Some offer buyer persona creation to support the selling and the delivery of their services.   This means the focus is very narrow. The likelihood they have no core competency in buyer persona creation is very high.

5 – Let’s Throw The Book At It

When in doubt, there is a tendency to include everything possible when it comes to buyer personas.  Especially when done without knowing the end in mind.  For example, you will see caricature-based buyer personas with bullet points about what time a buyer persona wakes up and what tea do they prefer.  Buyer personas created in this manner can be loaded with such fluff as to cover up the lack of truly meaningful insights.

The Good

What you should look for when it comes to buyer personas:

1 – They Are Based Goal-Directed Behaviors

Buyer personas were innovated as a means to help understand important goal-directed behaviors that influence choices and decisions.  Foundational to the concept of personas in general.  And yes, this means more than just listing presumed goals.

2 – They Help You Understand The Buyer Mindset And How Buyers Think

An important aspect of buyer personas is their ability to help you understand how buyers think and what their mindset is.  This helps to open the door to go beyond the how into the why about buyer decisions.

3 – They Provide A Clear Sense Of Which Buyers To Target

Buyer personas should make it clearer about who you are targeting and how they connect to your offering.  Far too many times, bad buyer personas muddy the water and you end up with far too many targets that it is paralyzing.

4 – They Provide True Buyer Insights As Opposed To Basic Sales Intelligence

Let’s not forget this important purpose.  Buyer personas are meant to help reveal insights about your buyers that in turn helps you to understand them more deeply.  A buyer’s insight meets the threshold when it reveals a previously significant unknown.  For instance, finding out what holds up a buying process is something a good sales representative should be able to inquire about.  In essence an important piece of sales intelligence but perhaps not a significant buyer insight that can be game-changing. Know how to separate basic sales intelligence from significant buyer insight.

5 – They Can Be Put Into Action Before Interaction

It does no one any good to have bad buyer personas buried deep in a file somewhere and forgotten.  The purpose is to help inform important go-to-market strategies.  And inform what buyer interactions matter. They become critical to marketing and sales leadership and frontline specialist before interactions with buyers.  In fact, the best leaders I have seen will not make a strategy or tactical decision without first validating their buyer personas.

There are plenty of buyer persona creation services these days.  Way more than I thought there would be after founding the concept of buyer persona twenty years ago.  The above will help you be on the lookout for what can lead to bad buyer personas versus good ones. 

Just – don’t get stuck with bad buyer personas. 

(If you or as a marketing or sales leader wish to delegate a team member to learn buyer persona expertise, visit the Buyer Persona Masterclass page for more information.)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tony Zambito
Tony is the founder and leading authority in buyer insights for B2B Marketing and Sales. In 2001, Tony founded the concept of "buyer persona" and established the first buyer persona development methodology. This innovation has helped leading companies gain a deeper understanding of their buyers resulting in revenue performance. Tony has empowered Fortune 100 organizations with operationalizing buyer personas to communicate deep buyer insights that tell the story of their buyer. He holds a B.S. in Business and an M.B.A. in Marketing Management.


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