A sign cautioning of the dangers of b2b buyer personas

4 Common Pitfalls of B2B Buyer Personas

There are a number of guides out there on creating B2B buyer personas. We have one, HubSpot has one, Moz has a lengthy article by Mike King about it. Personas are touted by marketing gurus as being a must have for your content strategy. But if you’re careless, personas can lead you down a bad road or have you following behind your competitors. I’d like to alert you to these 3 Warning Signs of B2B Marketing Persona Misdirection. In your drive for developing buyer personas, follow the signs of success and avoid these hazards:


Persona Detours and Delays

“Because your business is evolving, so are your buyer personas.”

– Marcus Sheridan (The Big Problem With Buyer Personas in Content Marketing and What To Do About It)


It takes time to do the research and create in depth buyer personas for your company. Just reading the excellent guidelines in Mike King’s 12K word post takes time! Unless you plan to build “buyer’s journey” content around each persona they won’t get you any closer to where you need to be. And as your business evolves so will your buyer personas.

Are you going to use personas to inspire and guide you to create more relevant content? If not, your time might better spent following your best assumptions about what information would be most helpful to your customers and prospects and creating content around that.

Just focus your energies on creating content that you think your audience needs. You can develop polished personas further down the road based on your observations of what’s working and what’s not.


Content Congestion Ahead

“After all, aren’t our competitors creating content to cater to the same personas?”

– Mark Schaefer (Why Customer Personas Might Be An Outdated Technique)


Personas are supposed to help you hone in your marketing efforts on specific people that are right for your company, but if you’re not careful, they could do just the opposite. Just when you think you’re personas put you on the fast lane to success, Mark Schaefer points out some potential problems ahead.

If you haven’t differentiated yourself enough from the competition with strong branding, you might be targeting the exact same buyer personas as your competitors with similar content. Without good branding your personas will always fall flat. Make sure you know who you are before you try and define who your buyers are. Need help with branding? Check out this post: How Important Is a B2B Brand?


The Dead End

“What’s curious to me is that the personas aren’t being used. At all.”

Ardath Albee (Why Marketers Are Keeping B2B Buyer Personas In The Closet)

B2B marketers that have personas often times aren’t using them. If you don’t use your personas they aren’t doing you any good. Personas need to be front and center and tweaked every time they start to get irrelevant. If you lay them aside for very long at all they will become irrelevant as your company changes and you will have to start all over.

A lot of times personas aren’t used because they contain information that doesn’t affect the decision to buy. Don’t get caught up in trying to create a cute story about Marketing Melvin being married with three kids. Details like that are often included in personas, but are absolutely pointless.

Not sure what details you should include in your personas? Try to answer this acronym for your personas: GPCTBA/C&I (what are your persona’s goals, plans, challenges, timeline, budget, authority and what are the negative consequences and positive implications for your persona achieving their goals?).


The Path To Persona Peace and Love

“When it comes to your content (be it a blog article, video, etc.), do you clearly know who you’re NOT trying to talk to?”

– Marcus Sheridan (Why Anti-Buyer Personas Are Essential To Content Marketing Success)

Peace and love are generally good things. One of the only times peace and love are not good things are when they are fake. If you are trying to do everything for everybody your peace and love is fake – you’re actually doing nothing for anybody.

Defining negative personas, or people who aren’t right for your business has three benefits:

  1. It helps your prospect – It’s up to you to let people know who you are and who you are not. If a mechanic only knows how to work on Toyota’s he’s doing his prospect a disservice to agree to work on their Suzuki motorcycle. Your prospects might appreciate it if you told them clearly what isn’t in your wheelhouse.
  2. It makes you look better – Knowing who you are makes you look knowledgable and confident: knowledgable enough to understand your limitations and confident enough to accept those limitations.
  3. It saves you money down the road – Attracting attention from people who would never pay for your product or service, or trying to work on something that isn’t in your skill set wastes a lot of time and money.

Peace and Love are great things, but don’t let yourself fake it when it comes to your personas. Avoid persona misdirection and define some negative personas.


In the end, personas are a tool for knowing your audience. This blog is to help you make sure you’re using your personas and that they aren’t using you.

To summarize:

  • if you’re getting bogged down with your personas move on and develop them as you go.
  • Make sure you know who you are before you try and develop your personas.
  • Once you have personas, use what you’ve got or they will become irrelevant.
  • Make sure you know who you are NOT and who you are NOT marketing and selling to.

Need some help creating personas? There are a lot of great resources out there. Here are a few:

Feel free to check out our persona tool that we created with Ardath Albee below.

Start creating your B2B Buyer Personas today!