Are “Made Up” Buyer Personas Costing You? (and What To Do About It)

buyer persona interviewTell  the truth — how good are your buyer insights?

“Made up” buyer personas can be very alluring … and dead wrong.

Before you base your content strategy on educated guesses (as I once did!), consider the alternatives …

Maybe it’s time to scrap the made up stuff. There’s something much more useful.

Real Buyer Personas, vs. “Making Stuff Up

Unfortunately, “made up” personas are very common.

The problem is company-centric bias. It assumes we really know what’s going on in a buyer’s head.  But, do we really?

  • Buyers might not always tell your sales people what they actually think.
  • Selective hearing might create a gap between how internal stakeholders believe decisions get made, and what actual buyers actually care most about during their buying process.
  • The result can be a laundry list of buyer concerns, without knowing which matters most in the actual buying process. (Or the ever popular, “all the buyer cares about is cost” — almost always wrong!)

This filter between marketer and buyer can lead to fictional buyer personas that can approximate the real thing … or may be way off.

As they say … close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. In content marketing and lead generation, we need precision.  A scalpel, not a hatchet.

For this, we need actual buyer insights.

Getting Sharper Buyer Insights:  The Buyer Persona Interview

To do this, the framework I use is the “5 Rings of Insight” (see #1-5, below), from Adele Revella, of the Buyer Persona institute, a leader in buyer persona research.

In each interview, the goal is to understand:

1. Why is this a priority? What events triggered the buyer’s search for a solution?  Why was it important to do something about this problem … what changed to create urgency?

2.  Success criteria: What are the positive outcomes of implementing a solution to the problem —  as seen thru the buyers eyes?

3.  Perceived barriers:  What are the buyer’s top concerns? Why would they decide NOT to choose your solution and go with a competitor?

4.  Buying process:  What steps did the buyer take to make a decision? What’s their role in the company’s decision process?

5.  Decision criteria:  What specific factors are most important, when it comes to choosing your solution vs. a competitor? What do they care about most?  What questions do they have/information do they need?

After conducting probing interviews with half a dozen buyers or so, who have recently considered your company’s services, patterns should begin to emerge.

Bottom Line: For Better Content, Refine Your Personas

Know Your Buyer PersonasYour entire content marketing strategy rests on the buyer persona you create. Being off the mark can be a very expensive mistake. 

It’s like plugging an incorrect address into a GPS – you’ll get somewhere, but not where you need to go — or without using up a lot of gas!

To see the results you want, create more effective personas … with real buyer insights … for better messaging, content that resonates, and improved campaign results.


Have you ever had to rethink a persona?  What did you do?  Share your experience in the comments.

P.S. I’ll report back after a few months, on whether we get more … and better … leads as the result of this change.


About Rhonda Hurwitz

Rhonda Hurwitz is a content strategist and marketing consultant who helps mid-sized businesses develop more effective online strategies. @rhondahurwitz on Twitter, and on
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2 Responses to Are “Made Up” Buyer Personas Costing You? (and What To Do About It)

  1. Meyer Baron says:

    Good stuff, Rhonda! I’m looking forward to reading the update. Especially interesting to me will be your interactions with those who didn’t buy and their willingness to participate.

    • Thanks for commenting. Surprisingly (perhaps), people love to talk about their experiences, and are very forthcoming once you put them at ease and let them know that their feedback will make improvements.

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