Most modern B2B marketers have invested resources to develop their customer personas. The next step is to put those personas into action, by creating useful content that resonates with your prospects and customers. Having documented personas is one thing; executing relevant content and marketing strategies is where the real art and science come into play.

Here are five common pitfalls that can emerge when a team puts their personas into action, along with tips to avoid the risks.

1. Persona-itis (-itis is a medical term used to describe inflammation or swelling. As in persona bloat, the affliction of creating too many personas.)

Blog_PersonaPitfalls_Personaitis.pngIn my work onboarding B2B marketers to a SaaS content marketing platform, we were teaching a new customer how to manage their content calendar across all personas within our tool. The VP of Product Marketing spoke up and said, “Is there a best practice for how many personas we should have? Because we have 28 personas…” Yes, you read that right, 28 personas!

It’s physically impossible to manage and build meaningful content for more than 3-5 personas at any given time. My recommendation is to identify the three most profitable personas and start from there.

2. Tag-a-Matic Approach to Content Development

I’ve seen organizations implement persona tagging rules such as, “all content must be tagged for at least one persona” or “we will create at least one piece of content for each persona every {week/month/quarter}.” The problem with these edicts is that, if not monitored properly, the team can get lazy and simply tag content for many or all personas with little regard to whether the content actually serves a purpose with that audience.

If a piece of content works for every persona, chances are it won’t resonate with any of them. This is what I refer to as the peanut butter approach to personas, trying to spread the content across all personas. Using the peanut butter approach offers no meaningful value for your customers and simply creates deceptive tagging reports for your marketing efforts.

A better strategy is to train your team to keep personas in mind as they are writing the content, not as an afterthought when they are tagging the content in your content management system. The real measurement is not how much content you create for each persona, but rather how well each persona is converting throughout your marketing funnel.

3. Binder on the Shelf Personas

“Personas: yep we got ‘em, but we don’t use them.” If you’ve invested the time and energy into creating personas, make sure they don’t waste away in a binder on the shelf. Again, focus on the three most profitable personas, (referenced in tip #1) and create content, drip campaigns and specific marketing efforts to entice them into your funnel.


4. Personas as an Excuse to Avoid Real Customers

I’ve seen marketers hide behind the comfort of their personas, and they avoid talking to real customers. Make sure you talk to real customers on a regular basis and insist that every member of your team follows your lead. Some ways to consider:

  • Spend some time with sales. Get out of the office, tag along on a face-to-face sales call.
  • Attend an industry event and work at your company’s booth so you can talk to real customers on the fly.
  • Choose five customers from your CRM and call them.
  • Listen in on SDR (sales development rep) calls to hear what prospects are saying.


Make it part of your new hire orientation, and make it part of your department’s DNA to get in the habit of talking with customers at least quarterly, if not monthly.

5. Personas for Prospects, but not for Customers

Guess what, the people who make the buying decision are often not the same end users of your product or service, and they often have very different motivations. Be mindful of buyer personas and user personas, and carry your customer experience beyond the buying funnel to help drive customer retention.

I once had a new customer tell me, “I feel like you served me just the right content at every stage in the buying cycle. When I was struggling with a particular problem, you would send me content on how to solve that problem. It’s as if you were reading my mind.”

What a great compliment to my marketing who team had nailed it when it came to developing the right content for the right persona, at the right time, and helped move this customer through the buying process. This sets a high, yet achievable, bar for all of us to strive for this kind of content nirvana with all of our prospects and customers.