B2B Marketing blog

Buyer personas in B2B: 3 most common mistakes

More and more, B2B companies want more insight in their target buyers. A buyer’s profile (buyer persona) is made before marketing plans are developed. So far so good. Building a buyer’s profile however might sound easy but it isn’t always as easy as it seems. A buyer persona is a fundamental step though. In this article I’ll describe pitfalls and the 3 most common mistakes when creating buyer personas.

Creating buyer personas: why does it sound easy?

It seems easy to create a buyer persona, but the opposite is true. Often you think you know your target group, while this is not always the case. Do you know what keeps your buyer awake at night? How does he/she buy? And which information do or don’t they appreciate? A thorough buyer persona analysis can help with answering those questions.

Insight in your buyers: why is it difficult?

Getting insight in your buyers is more difficult than you think. On the one hand because you have to use the right research method and asking the right questions to get to a good quality buyer persona. On the other hand it is hard because you often have several target groups or buyers. It is not easy focusing your marketing activities to all target groups simultaneously, let alone creating insight in all those buyers.

3 most common mistakes

Mistake 1: copying international buyer personas point-to-point

Let’s say you received buyer persona profiles from your American or European head office. How can you use the information in e.g. the Netherlands? In any case do not copy the profile point-to-point. Every local market has its own characteristics. So what do you do? Find out if the information is applicable to your Dutch buyer and complement it with a Dutch buyer’s process. From a buyer’s process you can get your content marketing plan off the ground. Your colleague from the head office couldn’t possibly know that a financial advisor in the Netherlands has to deal with a newly realized law. Or that he scans The Insurance Magazine every week. It’s up to you to add this information to the buyer persona profile.

Mistake 2: buying a standard profile of your target group

It is possible to buy standard customer profiles. For instance, you can buy a profile of a typical Dutch CEO. He/she drives a blue Volvo and likes to play tennis. Such standard profiles are all right in a B2C market where the buyer’s process is simple and short. You quickly understand who your target group/buyer is and with approaching the mass market you can use such formats easily.

However, in B2B the buyer’s process is a lot more complex and above all longer. Therefore, you want to know much more about your buyer than a B2C marketer wants of his buyer. The difference is particularly in the buyer’s journey of the B2B buyer and the information that you are able to offer during the longer time of the buyers process. How can you nurture your lead for a longer period of time? That’s why you need to have a deeper knowledge of your target group in order to fine-tune your B2B marketing to your buyer in a unique way. So the more you know about your buyer and his/her buyers process and information need, the more chance you have to succeed.

Mistake 3: a buyer persona profile without ‘hooks’ for your content marketing

You can make a buyer persona profile based on extensive research but forgetting why you are doing it. I often see profiles without giving any thought to the buyer’s process – how someone actually buys and what information he is looking for. Don’t linger on a profile. A good buyer persona offers direction for your marketing activities. During the research on your target group be aware of what you are looking for and why at all times. Look for “hooks” for your plans, “hooks” for content and “hooks” for your promotion plan. You don’t make a buyer persona profile because you want a profile but you make a buyer persona profile because you want to develop a successful marketing plan.


Finally: how do you deal with several buyers within your market?

Besides the mistakes mentioned above, many companies deal with several kinds of buyers. Once a B2B marketing director told me that he wanted to create 20 buyer persona profiles. I wished him luck but advised him to start with 2 or 3. No one can implement that many buyer personas simultaneously. Imagine having one marketing plan and one content strategy per defined buyer persona. For twenty buyer personas simultaneously? Dream on!

Ingrid Archer

Ingrid Archer is a marketing and communications professional ‘pur sang’ with more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing and communication. She is co-founder of spotONvision and the B2B Marketing Forum. She initiated successful campaigns in various sectors and is one of the experts in the field of content marketing, buyer personas and lead nurturing in B2B.