By Mike Wolfe

Buyer personas are an integral part of any inbound marketing strategy. They help you understand your audience so you can create spot-on messaging that effectively speaks to their interests, motives, goals, and pain points. But if you don’t clearly define personas in the development process or if you take on too much at once, you may end up with too many personas—making the most critical component of your marketing strategy more of a distraction than a helpful guiding point.

Take a moment and consider your personas in healthcare marketing. Are each of them clearly defined in a way that helps you achieve optimal inbound marketing results, or do they overlap and complicate your marketing message? Let’s explore a few symptoms and solutions for having too many personas.

Signs You Might Have Too Many Personas

How many personas should you have? That really depends on things like your available resources, the variety in your products or services, and the possible number of audience segments. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, here are a few indicators that you have too many personas:

  • Personas are based on job titles or roles. Buyer personas should be based on pain points and buyer interest, not job titles or roles. If you have a persona for every job title or role encountered in the buying process, consider what those people have in common when it comes to behaviors around making a purchase. You may be able to condense multiple job titles into a smaller number of overall personas.
  • You have more personas than you can target. To effectively target, attract, and convert an audience, you need to have a marketing message (and content) for each persona in every stage of the Buyer’s Journey. It requires a lot of marketing resources to hone efforts for one persona. Multiply that by more than three personas and you may end up with several incomplete Buyer’s Journeys simply because your marketing team can’t keep up. It might be best to start out with one to three personas, build out a rich Buyer’s Journey for each of them, and then expand into more personas if necessary.
  • Persona messaging isn’t clearly differentiated. With well-defined personas, it should be easy for you and your team to create thoughtful messaging that addresses interests, needs, and how your product or service resolves pain points for an audience segment. If you find yourself crafting a message for one persona that ends up speaking to the other personas at the same time, consider whether or not the personas should be combined. You should be able to read an email you’ve written (or blog, landing page, content offer) and know which persona you’re targeting by looking at the message alone.
Not sure where to start on developing your buyer personas? Download: The  Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Personas    

The Impact of Too Many Personas on Your Marketing Efforts

What’s the negative impact of having too many personas? Your message quality and overall efficiency can be negatively affected. Serving more than two or three personas at once can divide your focus, muddy up your target messaging, and lead to lower quality campaigns because they’re not focused enough on the audience(s) that truly matter.  

You Have Too Many Personas … Now What?

Once you realize you have too many personas, the next step is to look for ways to consolidate them.

Here are a few questions to think about:

  • Which audiences are the most relevant? Not all personas are valuable to your sales and marketing teams. Consider whittling your list of personas down to one or two primary audiences that are most relevant to the purchase of your product or service. Categorize each audience based on what they are struggling with and whether or not they’re going to lead the charge when it comes to finding a solution. You may have a few personas that are merely influencers in the buying process without a lot of distinctive traits that set them apart enough to have their own focus.
  • Who are your best customers? When narrowing your audience focus, it can be helpful to start with your most successful customers and what they all have in common. Identify where they came from, the questions they had in the buying process, the solutions they were seeking, and what makes them a great fit. Customer case studies can be great sources of information.
  • Are they personas or micro personas? Personas have unique goals, challenges, wants, and/or needs, but micro personas differ based on more subtle features such as specialty, expertise, or preferred means of communication. If there are overarching similarities in more than one of your existing personas, perhaps you can explore micro personas as a subset. A benefit of using micro personas could be that you spend the majority of your focus on high-level messaging based on similarities and then pinpoint the subtle differences in more advanced, bottom-of-the-funnel content.

What If We Can’t Combine?

A lot of times, especially in the healthcare vertical, there are a lot of significant personas that can’t be combined. Doctors, hospital administrators, patients, and healthcare payers, for example, are all very unique roles with different goals, challenges, and pain points.

Here are a few tips for working with multiple personas:

  • Don’t tackle them all at once. Avoid spreading yourself too thin by using some of the criteria above to start small with one or two primary personas and expand into others later. Spend a few months building out content and messaging for the entire Buyer’s Journey of a primary persona. If you’re utilizing a marketing automation platform, such as HubSpot, build lead nurturing campaigns using automated workflows that run continuously as you shift focus to other personas.
  • Don’t set it and forget it. Industries (especially healthcare) change over time, which affects your audience’s needs, goals, and challenges. Your personas should be revisited regularly to ensure your message continues to resonate. Make note of industry-wide changes that might affect personas in new ways and add to your persona descriptions over time.
  • Expand your resources. For anyone creating or reworking their personas, there are lots of helpful resources you can turn to. HubSpot has an interactive Buyer Persona Generator that walks you through some steps to get you started and our Persona Template can help you visualize and process persona information at a glance—and share it with your team. A quick Google search will refer you to countless other materials that can help. Of course, if you need help with any of the heavy lifting, partnering with a trusted agency or consultant can expand your efforts dramatically.

Remember, the purpose of marketing personas is to help you understand segments of your core audience and reach them with the compelling message that you are the ideal solution for them. If your personas aren’t helping you do that, they might just need a little work.

For more information on creating and using personas, download The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Marketing Personas.

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Mike Wolfe

About the author

Mike Wolfe is a Marketing Strategist at SmartBug Media helping clients find success through inbound marketing. Read more articles by Mike Wolfe.

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