What’s wrong with your personas?

Understanding common pitfalls with customer personas

All customer personas are not created equal. There are some key components that you need to get right, to make sure yours provide the results you need, not just a pretty picture.

So what if your customer personas do not seem to be gaining traction?

With recent clients, we have seen a number of common pitfalls with customer personas. The first pitfall is having too many personas. Most experts would suggest four to six personas are plenty. The problem with having too many customer personas is that the job of truly developing and tailoring useful content for a large number of customer profiles becomes massive. It is also much harder to prioritise your funnel efforts.

Another of the common pitfalls with customer personas that we often see is a lack of true depth of thought and insight. An organisation’s personas may be presented in a nice design, but the insights are too top-line and too basic to be useful. This can sometimes be the result of poor alignment between the sales and marketing function, where compromise rules over interrogating the facts or investment in detailed foundational research.

A third common pitfall with customer personas occurs where personas have been developed historically and are based on outdated profiling, in a ‘set-and-forget’ approach. This is understandable considering the effort that may have gone into developing detailed customer personas, and then achieving business buy-in. Yet customer trends, perceptions and expectations have changed rapidly in many sectors. Quality personas take these consumer changes into account.

And the impact for organisations with these pitfalls? Ineffective channel approaches, wasted resources, lower ROI, ineffective spend and messaging that no longer hits the mark with your current user base.

Sometimes in times of change, it is better to slow down to make sure the foundations of your marketing investments are solid, before you start spending on comms, advertising and promotion. Now is the perfect time to take a critical look at your customer personas. Are they really good enough? Have you taken a dive into one or more of the common pitfalls? Is it time for a strategic review or consumer research?

Or perhaps you’re ready for the next step – building quality personas.

So, what are the key foundations to building quality personas? Stay tuned for part 2 of our persona series, ‘4 Cornerstones of Building Quality Personas’.

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