Marketing’s role is to build trust.  When people trust a brand, they are more likely to do business with them.  To build trust, marketing must have a good understanding of the needs, preferences, and motivating factors of its audience to best engage them through the buying cycle and beyond.  When done right, personas provide these valuable insights.

If you are new to personas, check out this post to learn how to get started on the right path.  For anyone in the midst of persona development or struggling with existing personas, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

No Top-Down Sponsorship

If there isn’t buy-in at the top, persona efforts could be doomed from the start. Executives need to be on board with persona development and champion the effort. Organizations will struggle to become customer centric if leadership doesn’t walk the walk. Leaders must help reinforce this and work to ensure personas are being used across functional areas, not just in marketing.

Confusing Personas with Segmentation

Demographic data does play a part in persona identification, but it is best used for targeting because demographic data doesn’t provide the insights needed to truly engage an audience.  Personas need to go deeper into the needs, intent and motivation of buyers to help us understand the human side of our audiences.  If your personas only include industry, title, region, age or gender information it is time to go back to the drawing board.

Creating Personas in a Vacuum

Marketing may be the driving force behind persona development, but marketing shouldn’t go it alone.  Personas created in a silo are often inaccurate and go unused. Engage multiple customer facing areas in the development process and validate assumptions through customer interviews.  Education and training on the use of personas across teams is also an important step to take.

Reliance on Anecdotal Information

It might feel like internal teams have a wealth of customer insights to build a persona but relying on anecdotal information can be misleading.  Organizations who do this run the risk of creating personas that are too narrow or too broad.  While sharing anecdotal stories can aid in the development process, be sure to back up any assumptions with data.  Dispelling myths about buyers can lead to improvements in content and engagement efforts.

Developing Too Many Personas

Don’t dilute your marketing strategy with too many personas.  The focus should be on the primary motivations driving the purchase decision rather than getting lost in the variations of every possible nuance.  Sticking with the common problems buyers have, or the types of roles involved in a buying decision allows for grouping of various titles into one persona.  If you are new to personas, start with one and build over time.  Trying to create too many personas at once is difficult and often leads to watered down information that is hard to take action on.

Let them Get Stagnant

Revisit personas at least once a year to keep them fresh.  Customers adapt and change.  What they think, where they research, how they buy, and what they expect will evolve over time.  Updating personas regularly will uncover opportunities to adjust content and engagement strategies in ways that are relevant to the audience.  Retraining teams on personas regularly is also important and helps ensure they remain useful for the organization.

Personas are an effective tool.  They influence content development by identifying critical needs of the audience.  When used in combination with journey mapping, efforts can be further targeted to the channels, stages and buying roles of the audience.  Quite a powerful combination when done right.  We’d love to hear your tips when it comes to personas.  Any lessons learned that you would like to share?  Please comment below or contact us.

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