The Hidden Dangers of Buyer Personas


Your customers are in the driver’s seat today, of that there is no doubt. There is more choice more access than at any time in our economic history.

This customer choice and control presents new and herculean challenges to marketers. Understanding who your customers are and how you speak to them in an engaging way is the forefront of modern marketing.

Enter the buyer’s persona.

Many companies spend time assembling personas who represent different buyer groups for their companies. And, in theory, this is great! Copywriters, designers, strategists all need to know to whom they’re speaking when trying to entice website visitors to buy.

And then the numbers go off the rails.

Customers don’t buy as much, conversion rates fall, customers don’t return and companies who’ve structured their buying process around their buyer personas scratch their heads.

What went wrong?


#1: Your buyer personas aren’t based on real customer data.

When the employees charged with assembling buyer personas started their project, they didn’t have any real data to base personas on.

Sure, the group did a usability study, a quick focus group, talked to friends and family and threw in a dash of who they *thought* would be in each persona but there was no real quantitative or qualitative data to back up their assumptions.

#2: Your buyer personas are as old as your grandmother

Not to diss your grandmother but customers’ values and their buying patterns change faster than your teenage daughter’s fashion style.

Leaning on buyer personas that are older than a year (in some industries, older than 6 months!) leads you down the wrong path.

#3: Faulty buyer personas drive your strategy

The buyer personas you’ve put together without meaningful data and are gathering dust are used as a foundation for your marketing strategy.

When your campaigns don’t work when you lose customers faster than you can acquire them and your balance sheet isn’t so balanced this is the reason why. You’re simply off target.

Your personas are based on data and they’re “good enough”, right?

Crafting personas based on data is good but if you’re just relying on behavioral data to drive your personas you’re missing out on a goldmine of information.

Here’s a quick, high-level example of why you need to dig deeper with your customers.

Let’s say your company sells bags. All kinds of bags: laptop cases, purses, backpacks and all the fun accessories that go along with the category.

You do a high-level behavioral analysis and put together buyer personas. One of these personas is a group of customers who buys two kid’s backpacks every year. You could easily make the assumption that this family has two kids.

If you dig in a little deeper and do some customer interviews you might discover that your customer only has ONE child. They buy two backpacks every year because they donate one to a local charity for underprivileged kids.

This changes your assumptions a little, doesn’t it?

Knowing this group of loyal customers has a strong, altruistic, side could change your marketing plans and encourage you to start a charitable giving campaign to attract more customers like this loyal group who, like clockwork, gives you their cash.



  1. Get some real data on your customers.

I’m not talking about surveys but a combination of behavioral data and qualitative (fuzzy gray) data.

  • Rely on your customer’s real-world needs.

    Use customer concerns and desires to craft your marketing messaging and merchandising. Answer the questions, “How does what we offer, help our customers? Where do they get real value from our products?”

  • Keep your segments fresh.

    Don’t start and stop the project in favor of tackling the next burning priority from the board. Segmentation is a process that shouldn’t ever stop. Your customers don’t stop changing and neither does your competition. The effort will pay off.


About the author

Sunny Hunt is the CEO/Founder of Hunt Interaction.

Sunny is not your average marketer. She combined 20+ years of digital marketing experience, and her position as a natural-born outsider to create Hunt Interaction, a high performing conversion rate optimization consultancy. Using a customer-centric focus, Sunny develops smart, achievable strategies and tactics that help her clients convert more website traffic and turn new customers into raving fans.

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