An argument against buyer personas

Ok, before all you inbound marketing folks freak out, let me clarify, I love buyer personas. They can be hugely helpful! Personas are great… until they aren’t. When they aren’t, there’s a good chance they’re going to torpedo all of your content efforts.

First, let’s talk about why you should spend time developing personas:

  1. The exercise of focusing on your audience is always worthwhile. Especially if you haven’t been a customer-focused organization up until now, it’s important to take a good long look at who your customers are and what’s important to them.
  2. Segmenting your customers allows you to spot demographic, acquisition, and other trends that you might miss if you’re looking at all that data in a big jumble.
  3. Writing with a persona in mind can help you ensure your content will add value to their life. You can’t make your customer the hero of your stories if you have no understanding of what their dragons are.

Now, let’s look at why you might want to consider throwing those personas out the window:

  1. If they aren’t perfect, you’re going to optimize everything with faulty assumptions. That means a lot of wasted dollars.
  2. Every brand that’s doing content or inbound marketing even remotely well will have a defined set of personas. There are a lot of people out there creating content that your buyer will (hopefully) find valuable. This means one thing: noise!
  3. Personas are restrictive, and can not only filter customer voices but your voice as well.

How can you cut through the clutter if you’re writing just like everyone else?

I highly recommend reading “Why customer personas may be an outdated marketing technique” by Mark Schaefer. He provides a great overview of the problem, and the discussion in the comments is thoughtful and interesting. Plus, any article that ties The Grateful Dead in with content marketing always well worth the time!

John is the Founder & CEO of Wriber. He’s passionate about entrepreneurship, high-tech startups, thought leadership, content marketing, and artificial intelligence. John frequently volunteers his time at the University of Waterloo to help young entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. He’s also a faithful Toronto Maple Leafs fan, frequent Redditor, and lifelong learner.