Getting B2B Buyer Personas Right: 9 Mistakes to Avoid

Who are your customers? It’s a simple question that every marketer should be able to answer without any hesitation. However, it isn’t always as easy as it seems.

At the highest level, B2B marketers can answer this question by describing the types of companies that fall into their target markets. But therein lies the problem, because even though B2B organizations ultimately win accounts, their customers—the ones they need to attract, please regularly, and build trust and loyalty with—are individual people.

With that in mind, let’s ask that question again: Who are your customers? It’s a lot trickier to answer than you thought, right?

Identifying and Understanding B2B Customers Requires Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are essentially profiles of the different types of customers you have. These personas help you group all of the people you want to target into different buckets to better understand factors like who they are and what they’re interested in. Taking it a layer deeper, B2B buyer personas typically outline things like:

  • Job title and level
  • Role in the decision-making process (e.g. influencer vs. decision maker)
  • Day-to-day responsibilities and pain points
  • Professional goals
  • Ideal solutions to be more effective at work
  • Typical sources for staying informed, including specific publications and/or channels
  • Demographic information, including educational attainment

woman writing on a whiteboard

By helping identify and understand customers, B2B buyer personas deliver significant benefits to marketers. Unfortunately, far too many marketers miss out on benefits like these because of three potential pitfalls:

  1. They don’t have any buyer personas
  2. They make mistakes when developing buyer personas
  3. They don’t use buyer personas to their full advantage

If you’re reading this post, you clearly have an interest in buyer personas and recognize the need to create them (or improve what you already have in place), so that means we can cross the first pitfall off the list. Now, let’s help you avoid the second two pitfalls by reviewing the most common mistakes when developing and using buyer personas and how to fix them.

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Developing B2B Buyer Personas

Portrait of successful business people

Developing buyer personas is a time-consuming, resource-intensive project, but the results will be well worth the effort—as long as you don’t cut any corners. As you begin the persona development process, be sure to avoid these common mistakes:

Following a B2C Buyer Persona Model

Buyer personas are not unique to the B2B world. But even though B2C marketers use buyer personas for similar reasons, the actual persona model is quite different when looking at B2B vs. B2C. For instance, B2C models rely on significantly more demographic data (and different types of demographic data) than B2B models. If you follow a B2C model instead of a B2B model, you will end up focusing on somewhat irrelevant factors that won’t end up helping you very much when it comes to using your personas strategically.

Not Talking to Customers

There’s a lot of research that goes into developing B2B buyer personas. While this data can tell you quite a lot, it can’t tell the full story. To truly understand who your customers are, you need to talk to them. Specifically, you should pick a handful of representative accounts and talk to the different contacts your company has within those accounts. During these conversations, ask questions that align with the various points of information in your personas, such as: What are your pain points? What do you need to do your job better? Where do you turn to stay informed?

Not Talking to Your Sales Team

In addition to talking to customers, you also need to talk to your sales team. These internal conversations can provide an additional layer of insight that you can’t get from looking at the data and even talking to customers. Your sales team can fully close the loop by sharing details on the types of questions customers ask and their common objections to buying your product/service. Beyond having conversations about these factors with your sales team, it can also be helpful to listen in on a few sales calls to hear what’s happening firsthand.

Not Naming Your Personas

Naming your personas might seem like a silly exercise, but it actually makes a very big difference when it comes to seeing your personas as people and ensuring adoption. Giving your personas names helps everyone across the organization “speak the same language” and understand in an instant who the buyer personas are and which contacts fit each persona.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Putting B2B Buyer Personas to Work

Once you develop your buyer personas, you then need to put them to work. Once again, there are several mistakes that you need to be careful to avoid, including:

Not Educating Your Marketing and Sales Teams

Even if you have the best possible buyer personas, they won’t do you any good if no one knows who they are and how to use them. As a result, it’s imperative to do a “getting to know you” session for your buyer personas to educate your marketing and sales teams. During this session, you should provide detailed information on who each of the personas is (including what they’re interested in, how to reach them, the best way to talk to them, and common objections they might raise).

Not Segmenting Content and Campaigns Based on Persona

One of the biggest benefits of personas is that they help you better understand your customers and buyers so that you can speak to them on a more personal level. Therefore, you need to use your personas to make this personalization a reality. Additionally, you should recognize that different types of content and different levels of detail within that content will appeal to different types of personas. Across the board, whether you’re developing new content or launching a campaign on any channel, you should always design the output with a specific persona in mind.

Not Using Personas to Understand Gaps

Once you start segmenting content and campaigns based on persona, you can then begin to understand where the gaps exist. By mapping both content and campaigns built around that content to your personas, you can easily determine where you need to do more and where you might be a bit oversaturated. You can then use this insight to guide where you focus your efforts.

Not Using Personas Outside of Marketing and Sales

Although the initial focus for buyer personas is typically marketing and sales, these profiles can actually help everyone throughout the organization. For example, product teams can use personas to better understand areas for improvement to address customers’ pain points and eliminate common objections prospects have to buy from your company.

Not Reviewing and Updating Your Personas Regularly

Last but not least, your buyer personas need to be living, breathing profiles of your customers, not static documents. The nature of roles, including goals, pain points, sources of information, and everything else, evolve over time, and your personas need to evolve along with them. As a result, you need to revisit your personas on a regular basis to ensure you keep them up to date. This review should bring in users from marketing, sales, and any other teams that use the personas to discuss whether or not they are hitting the mark.

As a rule of thumb, you should take on this review about once a year or any time you have a change in business strategy, a new line of products or services, or recognize external factors that will affect your customer base.

Who Are Your Customers?

We’ll ask you one last time: Who are your customers? With the right personas in place, this question shouldn’t be so difficult for B2B marketers to answer after all. Nailing down the answer is just a matter of taking the right steps to develop and use personas in your business.

  • CRM. SugarCRM
  • customer experience
  • CX platform
About the Contributor
AJ Traver
AJ Traver As a professional and successful marketing manager, AJ has a strong foundation and experience in lead generation, customer marketing, marketing operations, strategic content management, branding, creative development, public relations and journalism in a global company supporting international objectives. With a data-driven approach, AJ thrives on the fusion of creativity and strategy to engage and excite every audience with which she engages.