Don't Make These Mistakes with Buyer Personas

Do you use buyer personas in your marketing? They can be quite helpful when you're trying to figure out what your ideal customer needs and wants. But if you're not putting them to work, they're just fancy fiction. Here are a few mistakes you want to avoid when it comes to using buyer personas for your business.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona spells out the type of buyer you're trying to attract as your ideal customer. It includes demographic information, likely activities, concerns, and preferences. You want to build them out for each type of customer you have so that you can make marketing and sales decisions based on them.

While that sounds simple enough, you can get yourself into trouble if you do the following things:

Act Like a Frustrated Writer

Buyer personas can be fun to dream up but if you're using a lot of conjecture to build them, they're better off as characters in your first book. Instead, use the data you do have about your customers and begin building demographic information and preferences from those.

However, if you're entering a new market feel free to use a little creativity. In this case, it's not so much about getting the buyer persona correct as much as it is brainstorming on the type of person you want to pursue in your marketing activities.

Being too Boring

The opposite problem of the advice above about being too creative in your personas is not giving enough detail. For instance, let's imagine your ideal customer is in their 20s and a male. That's not a solid buyer persona because that's a very wide demographic. In your twenties, you can be married with small children or a pet owner who treats their pet like a child. You could live at home or be a digital nomad. One could be working in their chosen field pursuing a graduate degree or working in a job that pays minimum wage. You could have lots of spending discretion because you have few responsibilities or be so buried in student loan debt that you can't cover expenses.

How you market to each of these people will be different so make sure you go into more detail than simply someone's age and gender.

You Forget Your Research

Now that you have the right amount of detail in your buyer personas, do the research of where those ideal customers are. This is not the time for guesswork. Do your research based on stats. For instance, let's say your ideal buyer is a woman over 60. Don't assume she's on Snapchat unless that is part of a niche you're trying to market to—cutting-edge, techno-savvy grandmas. When in doubt go with the average stats. There aren't a lot of over 60 people on Snap. Maybe that's what you're looking for. But if your ideal customer is your "average" grandma over 60, you're not looking on Snapchat. Find out which demographics fit which social media platforms and start with the ones that cater to yours.

Ignore What Worries Them and Makes Them Happy

There are two ways to appeal to your demographic: by offering them a solution to the things that keep them up at night and by assisting them to achieve their dreams. You can't do either without knowing what bothers them and what their passion is. Once you know these things, you can use them as centerpieces for your marketing. Don't be shy. If your ideal customer is struggling with not having enough time in their day for instance, show them how you can help by speaking directly to that issue.

Forget Your Knowledge as it Relates to Your Story

Now you know who they are and where they are. You also know what they're most concerned with or want to achieve. Now you want to use this knowledge to find ways to tie it into your business story and your communications, particularly on the platforms you know they visit. Use the approach so many politicians do by introducing them to someone they can identify with. Dieticians and workout facilities use this idea all the time by featuring before and after pictures of clients they've helped to shed those pounds. This allows your potential customers to self-identify and think "they're just like me. If it worked for them, it can work for me."

Finally, if you're looking for local customers, seek out the advice of your chamber. They are business experts in your town and can help you add another dimension to your buyer personas.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.