Who are your customers?
One of the first questions any business needs to figure out before they can even start to understand the pains and frustrations that are keeping them up at night. Pains and frustrations that you hopefully can solve with your product or service, and at the same time can help fix your (content) marketing.
Answering that question, however, isn’t always as easy as it seems. Creating buyer personas can be incredibly useful when planning marketing strategies as it focuses your intent on specific people instead of a broad, mysterious market.
As a result, creating buyer personas should be an essential part of building any successful inbound marketing strategy. When do you think about your ideal customer for your market? What are the first things that come to mind?
B2B marketers can most of the time answer pretty straightforward by describing the type of companies that fall into their target markets. But even if you know which type of companies you want to attract, the problem they are trying to solve, the ideal customer that they are trying to attract are individual people.
Keeping that in mind, describing your ideal customer might be a bit more difficult than you first think.
When done right though, creating engaging content for your ideal customers can become a lot easier. And since creating engaging content is what we all want, you should take your time to figure out what your buyer personas are.
Everybody’s got their process for putting together buyer personas. We’ve even shown you before how you can use Google Analytics and social media to help you build better buyer personas. And although “All Roads Lead to Rome,” there can be some common mistakes on your way out there.
So as you start building your buyer personas, be aware and avoid these common mistakes that can ruin your marketing strategies.
What are Buyer Personas
Buyer Personas, According to Wikipedia personas are
“Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude and/or behaviour set that might use a site, brand or product in a similar way.”
In other words, personas are a kind of imaginary persons, with a name, a history and specific story who have a way of doing things.
Buyer Personas are helping everyone within your organisation (from marketing to sales, from product, to support) visualise the ideal customer for which your company is trying to solve their problems.
Having a deep understanding of who those ideal customers are is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow-up, everything in your business that has anything to do with customer acquisition and retention.
So they are kind of a big deal.
What mistakes are often made
Of course, the most significant mistake is not using buyer personas at all, but what are mistakes are people often making when trying to create personas? Let’s dive into them.
Mistake #1 Profiling ideal customers, not existing customer and their buying habits
The first mistake and immediately one of the bigger ones is that people first start thinking what their perfect customer would look like, instead of defining what their real customer looks like.
When you’re just starting out with your business, and you have no customers yet, sure you create a set of assumptions about your customers. You give them silly names, careers, attitudes; you find a good enough stock photo to go with it, and might even create the entire backstory around them.
But assumptions need to be validated. Buyer personas are designed to help you understand your real or existing customers. They help you to uncover their problems and the motivations that drive them to buy from you. The essential item in a buyers persona is the buyer’s journey.
Things to include are what problems they face on a regular basis, what they spend their spare money on, where they spend their time, different tactics they respond to and which ones push them away, what types of offers they like, what kind of products they purchase, and more.
Especially in the B2B space, a lot of times there is a difference between the person who wants to use your product or service and the person who writes the cheque. Most of the times there are multiple people involved in a purchase process. Do you frequently have to speak with a financial decision maker? Who are your typical influencers? Are there any gatekeepers that must be won over before the deal can go through?
When you understand your real buyers better, this allows you to bring a clear focus to your marketing strategy. If you only focus on users, you will miss all of these key stakeholders and won’t have any messaging strategies for them.
Use the insights from your buyers, so you can learn from this and attract more of the same, more potential buyers.
Mistake #2 Using a sample size that is too small
When doing any form of research you want a decent enough sample so you can for sure say that what you think is correct. You can draw parallels to statistical analysis with this. The smaller your sample will be, the least representative it will be, and the less valid your conclusions will be.
When starting to research your buyer personas, the more customers you can survey the easier it will be to get a decent enough sample size to conclude from.
The problems for most startups, though? You’re not having access to a lot of customers. In this case, you need to make up for quantity with quality. Taking the time for proper customer interviews can do wonders for both your customer development in general at this point as well as building buyer personas.
Try to figure out as much as possible about them. Who they are, what problems they are facing and what they are currently undertaking to try to solve those problems. Maybe they already used competitors, what worked and what didn’t work for them? Spending time with them will help you get all the knowledge you need for your product development as well as validating those buyer persona assumptions.
Mistake #3 Not talking to customers
Although you can do a lot of research behind your desk, looking at Google Analytics data or social media data, looking at your sales data, to learn about who your customers are, what makes them tick and how they are engaging with your marketing campaigns.
While this data can tell you a lot, nothing can ever replace a good interview talking to your customers. Talking to your customers will give you the full story.
There are two advantages of this.
The first one is a selfish one. Of course, by having a conversation and asking questions that align with the information you’re already having like their paint points, how you can help them get better at their job, what places they get their information from etc. you can learn and adapt the information you’re having. This will help you better align those sales messages.
The other one is, the fact that taking the time to have a conversation with your customers will make them feel valued. It makes them feel listened to in a way that a standard contact form on your website will never be able to do. In the end, don’t forget to offer these customers something in return, like a gift voucher for their time.
Mistake #4 Creating too many buyer personas
When using buyer personas in your organisation for a more extended period, you might start to uncover some different trends in your data. Your first reaction might be to start creating more different buyer personas. Each having their quirks so you can better target them based on various buying habits. And while this might be a good reaction at first, when you’re starting to have too many you will begin to lose focus, and it might turn into a severe problem for your business.
The more focused you are on something, the fewer problems it ends up creating. Having too many different marketing messages for all those different buyer personas will create a confused message to your customers. They don’t understand, who you are and what you stand for.
When you start using buyer personas at your company, start small. Start with one that covers the majority of your customers. Add a few more when there is enough evidence that proves it is worthwhile to do so. If you can see that some personas are not up-to-date anymore, update them or just throw those buyer personas away. It is better to start with a blank sheet, then endlessly trying to keep on tweaking.
As an organisation you need focus, so you can give the personas that will help your company success all the attention they need.
Mistake #5 Not talking to your sales team or the rest of your organisation
Your customers are not the only people you need to talk to about your buyer personas. Buyer personas are useful for so much more than just the marketing department.
One of the traits of a good inbound marketing organisation is that the sales teams are working closely together with the marketing department and the other way around. Not just handing over leads to the sales department and tell them to have fun with it. If you want to convert those leads into buyers, you need to work together.
By working together, you can get an additional layer of insights as well that you can’t get from just looking at data or even talking to your customers. During sales meetings and calls, the sales department probably get a lot of questions from leads and are confronted with the objections people have for not wanting to buy your product or service in the first place. Maybe listen in to some of the sales calls they are having.
And what about the support department?
As part of training sessions each year, Jeff Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers, including himself, to attend two days of call-centre training. This way everyone in the organisation is aware of the problems real customers are facing with your product or service.
Things like this, using personas throughout the entire organisation is beneficial for the whole company. For example, it helps the product teams to better understand their customers’ pain points and eliminate common objections potential customers have to buy from your company.
If you want your entire company to flourish, make sure to share all persona-related information you have (including necessary details what a buyer persona is and how they can use them for their job) available to everyone.
Mistake #6 Not thinking about negative buyer personas.
For every person that you want to target with your marketing messages, there is an equal, no bigger set of people that you don’t want to target. There might be the people who can’t afford your service; they may be students, they may be customers who could use your product but are just too expensive to acquire as a customer.
For these type of people, you can create negative buyer personas. It might be a bit weird at first to think of the people who you don’t want to have as a customer, but in the long run, this will benefit your company greatly. By identifying these people, you won’t be wasting your precious time marketing the people who will only drag you down.
The best place to start to build negative buyer personas is by talking to the people that churned. The people that used to be your customer, but not anymore. Even better, the people that churned but also had a very low average sale price.
Another group of people to start talking to is the people who are turning out to have a low customer satisfaction score. Maybe these customers might not be a good fit for your company, by talking to them you can help them guide towards a competitor that is better suited. It might sound weird, but who do you think they are more likely to talk positively about? The company that is delivering them a not so good service, or was always having their back and even recommending a competitor?
Mistake #7 Not updating personas
The last mistake we want to talk about is not updating your buyer personas. Just like the real humans they represent, buyer personas need to be living, breathing, changing profiles over time, not static documents.
People evolve, and so do their problems and pains that you’re trying to fix for them. As a result, put aside time in your schedule on a regular basis to revisit your personas. Talk with the different people around your marketing department and the various departments in your company. See if they are still accurate and if not adapt.
For the adaptation, you don’t need to go into so much detailed research as the first time you created them, but you still should set time apart to look at all the data, maybe interview one or two people.
The best time to do this? Try to do it at least once a year, or at least when part of your business strategy changes. When adding a new line of products, that might need a different target audience, etc.
Although the biggest mistake of them all is not creating buyer personas to start with, it can be just as terrible for your business to make buyer personas the wrong way.
If you’re aware of these most common issues, it can help you to prevent making them and developing better buyer personas.
After you’ve developed them, make sure to adapt your marketing messages so you can talk to your customer the right way and start growing your business.
Any mistakes you’ve made using buyer personas in your organisation that we might have overlooked? Drop us a comment below!