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Inbound Marketing Fails: 5 Buyer Persona Pitfalls Your Sales & Marketing Teams May Fall Into


As you develop your inbound marketing campaigns, you will first need to figure out who your customers are, who do you plan on targeting and the end-goals you seek as a measure of success, then identify your customers’ goals, challenges and traits, before even crafting the buyer personas. This may involve talking to different members of your team to form a basis for reference, which more often than not, are challenging in itself.

While buyer personas are meant to serve as the rallying cry and cornerstone for your teams in driving your campaign as an organization, there are pitfalls coming from within the same organization that may derail the intent and purpose of your campaign, especially when you develop the wrong buyer personas and your campaign fails. Let’s look at 5 pitfalls that may cause this.


Pitfall #1: Premature Conclusions based on Surface Answers

We have tendencies to jump to conclusions at the sight of the first clue or signal, it’s just how our brains are wired. If one customer says that he loves jogging, and another customer says that he goes to the gym regularly, we would assume that these customers are active in sports. But dig a little deeper and you’d find out that the customer who loves jogging jogs for only 10 minutes a day, while the customer who goes to the gym only visits it once every week. It’s difficult to then presume that they are active sportspeople but instead, they’re actually very busy people who doesn’t have time for sports. The difference between the two can easily derail your persona development and ultimately your campaign. This means you need to dig deeper in the way you collect your data, conduct your interviews and communicate the purpose of this task to your internal teams.



Pitfall #2: Old Habits Die Hard

A pitfall that threatens your persona development is reliance on old habits. The saying that ‘old habits die hard’ is prevalent here. There will be teams in your company, sometimes senior staff, who are used to how ‘things are done’ and choose not to deviate from the norm. If you ask them who should be targeted for a campaign, they may say that there needs to be a bottom-up approval process due to transparency and paper trail. But dig a little deeper and you’d realize that they choose this way because they don’t want to do the extra legwork or create the extra connection that would inconvenience them.


Most times, you’d get pushback from your teams, especially the ones who think they ‘know better’ or have ‘better experience for being XX years in the industry’. The easiest is to demonstrate the effectiveness of what you’re doing through example, showing several past preliminary pilot project results that worked and could be so much more if the rest cooperate. The hardest is to show what hadn’t worked in the past that involved ‘old habitual techniques’, emphasize a need to change, mindset-wise and show resistant ones out the door if they continue to refuse.


Pitfall #3: Influential Decision-Making

If you speak to both sales team and the marketing team, you’d probably get differing views on who they feel are your real customers. The sales team may view the one who holds the purse-strings as the true customer, as he or she makes the purchasing decisions and signs the contract, that will inevitably generate revenue for your company. The marketing team may view the one who holds all the sales and marketing data as the customer, because he or she will know which platform would best serve his or her needs.


Ultimately, each team is trying to exert influence on you as you struggle with who your customer really is. To balance this, you will need to then get additional opinions. There are a few. The first is to interview your customers to have a balanced perspective. The second is to cross-reference against your connections and do your own verifications. The third is to review third-party market data, which may consume more time than you can afford to. So work based on a combination of these three to form a personal baseline, and then match them up against what you’ve gathered from your internal teams.


Pitfall #4: Mission Creep

When you gather data about your customer from your internal teams, there are times when the data just do not match up. Call it a gut feel, or somehow, you’re just being extra eagle-eyed on the day you analyze the customer data. Why is this? Well, it’s easy to request for customer data from your various teams, but it’s not easy to make sure the data they send you makes sense or is even up-to-date.


One reason for this is that the department teams may not see this as a priority, so they may just send you what’s readily available to get the task off their hands as soon as possible. They may be busy with an existing program that is due soon or have to troubleshoot something urgent that could jeopardize their operations, so do not have time to sift through the data you’ve requested to make sure they are updated and relevant. It’s always good to check with them if they have a comfortable timeline in mind and leave your door open if they need an extended deadline to get back to you.


#Pitfall 5: Information Overload

On the extreme end of developing buyer personas is attaining the right information from the right tools. Your company may have the most sophisticated tools to capture customer data in real-time, or your sales team may have the best networking skills to provide with you such lurid details about your customers that they could fill entire cabinets. While this sounds like a good problem, it could also mean that you may spend more time sifting through too much data rather than nailing down the right persona in time to launch your campaign.


Sometimes, the problem isn’t really so much in the data itself, but in who is putting them together. Since the data and information come from your various teams, why not sit them down for several sessions and get them to provide you with key information points based on their experience and understanding of what they’ve compiled? At the end of the day, collecting customer data points is a machine-based algorithm, but developing a buyer persona is still very much a humanistic endeavor that requires the human touch, or in this case, a team effort.


Access Your Situation

It is more than likely that you will find yourself nodding to some of the pitfalls highlighted above. You could be facing difficulty getting a company-wide adoption of new technologies among your different departments or you’re dealing with different teams who are resistant to integrating with other departments’ systems and processes. By side-stepping these pitfalls in developing your buyer persona, you may be on the right track to successfully engaging your prospects with your next inbound marketing campaign.

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