Producing a quality product takes a lot of effort – marketing and actually selling it takes even more. It’s a known fact that no matter how revolutionary your services or products are, unless they reach the target audience, they won’t get uptake. Identifying who you are targeting is the cornerstone behind every strategy, and leads to creating archetypes of people you want to engage with, predicting their thought patterns and possible customer journey. These are better known as buyer personas.
Buyer personas are one of the key pillars of the inbound marketing strategy. Many businesses regard it to mark the start of every content plan and campaign. However, many companies are also guilty of doing personas incorrectly, and therefore inefficiently.
Are you still creating your buyer personas based on job titles and assumptions on their customer journey instead of deeply analysing and assessing individual needs and potential prospects? If so, you have fallen into a common pitfall – but don’t worry, we are here to help you out.
Mistake 1: Stereotypes
People are bound to bundle similarities together, and more often than not, stereotypes are established due to lack of knowledge and in-depth research. Marketers often turn to stereotypes to influence and design their buyer personas. This is a mistake.
Instead of building buyer personas on a foundation of thorough analysis to truly address needs and behaviour of the customer, most marketers prioritise job titles, topline demographic information and stereotype-based assumptions. Not every salesperson cares about selling alone, and not every director leaves the tech-related issues to CTOs. In other words, the interest of your audience is not defined by their job title.
Imagine you are selling a heat map tool to give better insights on users behaviour. Following the stereotype-based approach, your target audience is reduced solely to SEO experts. But what if there are other, non-SEO employees within the company that could find the tool useful?
For example, a heat map would help the UX guy Bob to structure the website in accordance to what the current user journey is. Mary the Designer would be given a good idea as for where users stop scrolling, helping her know where to include key visuals. James, the founder of the company, wants to know exactly what his customers are attracted to. In other words, while the target audience could be stereotyped as ‘SEO experts’, people that don’t fit under the umbrella terms can also benefit from the tool.
With this example in mind, we can determine that buyer personas should be objective/challenge-based, rather than grouped by job title or responsibility. Following the situation explained, one of the personas could be ‘the person who wants to know what content users interact with the most’ – while this means a much broader range of people, it will help you to understand the reasoning behind their interest in heat mapping. And, accordingly, assist you in personalised content creation.
Mistake 2: Wasted Effort
As we have already mentioned, most businesses understand the importance of the buyer personas and incorporate it into their planning strategy. The issue is, however, that creation phase is where it all ends.
Usually, companies are not in fault and follow the brainstorming process thoroughly. They organise workshops, discuss, make questions and end up coming up with relevant personas and neat templates. Once all this is done, the buyer personas are promptly forgotten, resulting in a wasted effort for multiple people.
The hard work you put into buyer personas can translate into real results – but to achieve that, you will also be required to use them. Each marketing activity you begin must be directed by end-user requirements, which will be built into your personas.
Mistake 3: Assumptions
Assumptions, as we have already discussed, mostly occur when the stereotypes are in place. They end up painting an inaccurate picture of what the needs and wants of your buyer personas are, and you risk straying very far from what your potential audience truly requires.
Buyer personas should be based on data, even the one you’ve got stored in your CRM will suffice. The best practice we recommend would be interviewing customers and prospects – after all, no one will know what the potential customer wants better than the customers themselves. Brainstorming with the team is great, but it will never be as accurate as actual first-hand data.
Now that we have pointed out three of the most common buyer personas creation mistakes, we have prepared a plan of action to avoid them.
- Real data is the key
Don’t base your buyer personas on assumptions or stereotypes, because the chance of missing out is greater than the one of attracting the audience you aim for. Plus, having actual data on hand will enable you to create high-quality, targeted content.
- Building is not enough
If you don’t use the buyer personas you built, you have wasted time and effort by building them at the first place. When creating new content, address your personas – will they find what you’re working on useful? Informative? Relevant? Keeping them in mind will also help you to come up with content ideas in general.
- Learn from the customers
As in – talk to them. They know themselves and their demands better than you ever will, and they are a valuable knowledge bank for your future buyer personas. You can talk to them via interviews or in a more simplified approach, via a survey. As long as you get the data straight from your customers, it works.