When I founded Buyer Persona Institute a few years ago, I made it my mission to educate B2B marketers about how to develop and use buyer personas. So it worries me when I see so many people focused on “buyer personas” that are little more than a generic list of demographics and obvious business priorities. This information, while interesting, falls far short of what marketers need to build marketing content, messaging strategies, and sales tools that persuade buyers to choose their solutions.
In a new guest blog post for Content Marketing Institute (CMI), I look at four common mistakes that marketers will want to avoid when developing and using buyer personas as the basis for their content marketing strategies. (For those of you attending Content Marketing World 2012, hosted by CMI, I’m presenting a pre-conference workshop, “Building Your Buyer Personas,” on Sept. 4.)
My post was prompted by the confusion I see out there about buyer personas – what they are, what they aren’t and how to develop them – even among the experts. If we aren’t careful, buyer personas could become another empty buzzword. And that would be unfortunate because personas are such an essential marketing tool.
That’s why it’s helpful to go back to definitions. In my eBook, The Buyer Persona Manifesto, I describe a buyer persona as an archetype; a composite sketch of the real people who buy or might buy products like the ones you market based on what you’ve learned about how real buyers make decisions to buy your category of solutions.
Decades of experience tell me that you can’t get an accurate picture without actually talking to buyers. If you make stuff up based on second-hand information from internal sources, your content will be based on existing knowledge and look almost exactly like it did before you built buyer personas.
These helpful templates provide a framework for getting started with buyer personas. Most people require a little practice and coaching to hone the skills that lead buyers to disclose the non-obvious insights you really need. It takes a some skillful probing to uncover the information you need to position your solution as exactly the one your buyers are looking for.
What do you think? Do you think you can still develop buyer personas without interviews? What mistakes do you see made with buyer personas? Please share your perspective here and on my guest post, Developing a Buyer Persona? Avoid These 4 Common Mistakes.