7 ways to fail in buyer persona development

Many B2B companies want to create more insight in their buyer. One way of doing this is to develop buyer personas. This is actually a good thing. Unfortunately, we often see how buyer research fails. Sometimes the buyer persona profiles are completely ineffective. We have been developing buyer personas for more than 15 years, and here are the 7 common mistakes in buyer persona development.

1. Buyer persona, why? I already know my buyer!

You often think you know your target group, whilst this is usually not the case. Or you have asked an intern to set up a profile based on online research. Does this provide in-depth insight? Not really…. Do you know what really worries your buyer? How does he/she buy? And, what information does he/she like or dislike? Thorough buyer persona research can help answer those questions.

2. An interview? No, we’d rather do an online survey

Understanding your buyers is harder than you think. On the one hand, because you have to use the right research method and ask the right questions to arrive at a high-quality buyer persona. On the other hand, it is difficult because you often have multiple target groups or buyers. It is not easy to focus your marketing activities on all those target groups at once, let alone to create insight into all those buyers. Qualitative interviews, possibly supplemented with online research, provide the best picture of the underlying motivation of a buyer.

3. Copy-paste personas for international use?

Let’s say you received buyer persona profiles from your US or European headquarters. What can you do with that in e.g. the Netherlands? In any case, do not copy the profile 1-on-1. Every local market has its idiosyncrasies. Research whether the information applies to your Dutch buyer and complete the profile with a Dutch buying process.

4. Buying a ready-made persona profile? Don’t

There are standard customer profiles for sale. This way you can buy a profile of a typical CEO. He/she drives a blue Tesla and likes to play tennis. Such standard profiles work reasonably well in a B2C market, where the buying process is simple and short. In B2B, however, a buying process is much more complex and, above all, longer. So you want to know a lot more about your buyer.

5. More than a profile! the value is mostly in the buyer ‘journey’

You can put together a buyer persona profile based on extensive research, but forget why you are actually doing it. Do not forget to pay attention to the buyer journey. Don’t get stuck in a job or personal profile sketch. A good buyer persona offers a starting point for your marketing activities, your plans, for content and your promotion plan. You’d better have proper insights in the entire process of buying.

6. The more buyer personas the better?

Many companies deal with multiple types of buyers and prefer to create a profile for each buyer. But less is more! No one can implement many buyer personas at the same time. Keep in mind that per defined buyer persona you should have a marketing plan and marketing content. So ask yourself how big your team is and how much time and resources you need to create and execute a campaign.

7. It’s all about the base

Existing customers are easy to reach and often willing to cooperate in your research, especially if you have a good relationship with them. Yet you miss out on a lot of valuable insights if you develop buyer personas based on conversations with only existing customers. A buyer persona should represent a group of buyers, not just buyers who have already chosen you.

By interviewing a mix of existing customers, suspects and lost prospects, you gain better information. Wouldn’t you like to know why a prospect chose the competitor and not you? And wouldn’t you like to know what other criteria in the buying process were important to them?

Often organisations think it will be difficult to connect with lost prospects for participating in a survey. In the past years, however, we’ve found that this group of lost prospects is very willing to talk about their buying process experience.

Buyer Journey

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