3 minute read

Why Personas Don't Work

Written by Jim Perren

People understand that a really important stage in a marketing automation strategy is building out your key personas

But that sometimes means they rush away to ‘bash out’ a series of customer caricatures to tick the personas ‘box.’ Then they wonder why their marketing campaigns just aren’t getting the engagement that they hoped for.

So, let’s look at a few reasons why personas seem to not work, and see if there are some ways to turn these around.
Done properly, they really are the key that unlocks successful marketing to your audiences.


We can’t get them to catch on

Getting all of the stakeholders to engage with the process and with the new thinking around personas is a really important step. But, if persona creation is seen as just a fluffy marketing thing, that could be detrimental to your cause.

Often the reason can be that so-called marketing personas can seem a little generic. That is why we recommend going really deep with personas.

Our persona creation course is an intensive three days with a Marketing Automation expert and psychologist.

So, building deep personas that go into why your customers buy from you including the emotional reasons is invaluable, and much more likely to be accepted by the rest of the business.

Another reason why personas may not “catch on” is that they have been set up by the marketing department alone.

It is a great opportunity to get the sales team’s perspective and input. They are the closest people to the customers and buyers and should have a pretty good idea of the kinds of people that they are meeting.

Similarly, with your customer services teams - involve them all in the process to get agreement from all quarters.


We set them up a few years back

It’s important that the building of your buyer personas is not a box ticking exercise. Many businesses that have gained a great deal from marketing automation, say that building in-depth personas is some of the most important thinking about their business that they have done.

Because, without really understanding why customers buy from you, and what their issues are, how can you expect your content to engage them?

As with many things in marketing, building your customer personas is not a one-time thing. It is something that you can (and should) review regularly. Most markets are constantly changing.

So keep reviewing your customer personas to check that your business’ understanding of the reasons that customers buy from you is right up to date. And that this is reflected in your marketing communications.


Our key Persona could be any age

One of the dangers in setting up personas is that they are too generic. One of our key personas at Intergage was Bill the Business Owner.

But Bill was of indeterminate age…

And this matters because a baby boomer nearing retirement is very different to a 32-year-old entrepreneur using Marketing Automation to build a business with as few staff as possible.

What we had to do was further segmentation – we created three business owner personas. They have different challenges and they use different channels of communication. We now have:

William Old – Business Owner – Age 55 – 65 (Baby Boomer)
Channel Usage

  • Institutions and associations
  • Networking groups
  • Referrals
  • Industry experts
  • Industry publications
  • Industry exhibitions 
Bill the Business Owner – Aged 35 to 55 (Generation X)
Channel Usage
  • LinkedIn / YouTube / Twitter
  • Expert Blogs
  • Networking
  • IoD / Chamber of Commerce / Industry Groups and Forums
  • Expert public speakers
  • Mentors
  • Event invites
  • Referrals
  • Webinars 
Will New – Business Owner – Aged 18 to 35 – Millennial
Channel Usage
  • LinkedIn / YouTube /Twitter
  • Expert Blogs
  • Networking
  • Podcasts
  • Referrals from peers
  • Uses closed networks such as Slack & WhatsApp 

But clearly, we can’t expect to engage William Old on Twitter, and nor are we likely to catch Will New’s attention by advertising in Industry publications.

But without that level of detail we could be sending out marketing messages that wouldn’t resonate with our various audiences or that are through the wrong channels.

To summarise

  • Involve as many of your teams as possible to get their buy-in to your personas
  • Review personas regularly to check they are still up to date and relevant
  • Make sure that your personas are as specific as they need to be

If you'd like to start looking at your own personas, why not download our free ebook?

Download Your FREE Persona Guide Now

Originally published on Wednesday 1 February, 2017 | Last updated Saturday 6 March, 2021

Tags: Personas