You probably have too many personas

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Personas are a good thing. They help us to visualize the audience that we are speaking to. So, you might think that the more personas, the better. But it’s not true.

Developing personas has become kind of a cottage industry among marketing consultants. They’ve got techniques for facilitating persona workshops. And the goal is to come out with a bunch of personas that help you drive your marketing strategy around. In the big companies I work with, no self-respecting marketer would be caught dead without a fine array of personas. That box must be checked: Personas? Check. Buyers Journey? Check. You get the idea.

When you approach personas as checking a box, it feels like the more the merrier. If you are paying a consultant to develop your personas, then why wouldn’t you want more? More personas for the same money? Genius.

Except it it’s not. The purpose of developing personas is to have a target for your marketing. That means that you intend to develop a message for each persona. Your messaging around your product should be different for each persona, or else there is no reason to have personas. If you create a set of personas, but you just have a single set of product pages written to one bland customer, you wasted your money creating the personas.

At this point, you might be wondering if you need personas at all. The strict answer is that you don’t, if you aren’t going to use them. But if you want to develop personas, let’s start small and let’s use them for something. Sometimes the best way to start is with just two personas. For many of my B2B clients, they start with the exact same two personas: the folks who want to know what it does vs. the folks that want to know how it works.

Depending on what you are selling, that might be all you need. If you are selling software, there are purchasing agents and business folks who want to know what the software does–they want your case studies and your ROI calculator. There are also technical folks who know the best practices around how that software will solve the problem–they want your white papers and product specs. Most B2B products and services have similar breakdowns between the business-oriented and the technical. Just focusing your marketing on each of these two groups will make the messaging sharper and the create more influence.

Having just two personas that you actually create messaging for is better than seven personas that are tacked up on the wall of your war room–and ignored.

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