The Marketing Strategist:

How Many Buyer Personas? Fewer Than You Think!

July 15, 2016


Marketing leaders are often surprised when we tell them they only need one or two buyer personas to guide programs for services and solutions. They appreciate that fewer personas would be easier to manage. But they worry that they may be painting with too broad a brush if they don’t create distinct messaging and marketing activities for a larger number of distinct buyer types.


Too often, though, marketers think about personal and professional attributes such as role, geography, and industry rather than digging into the actual dynamics of how and why buyers buy. The key is to do the research and create personas based on deep customer insight, not superficial profiles. Differences in personal profiles become insignificant as you do the research to understand the buyers’ motivations, concerns, expectations, and processes for solution provider evaluation and decision making. The research, not demographics, determines when you need a distinct buyer persona.

You Might Only Need One

In our experience conducting buyer persona research at ITSMA, we often find that our members and clients only have three or fewer distinct personas that really matter for marketing and selling a specific solution. In some cases, there might be only one persona.

The rule of thumb is this: Only create a buyer persona if the persona can help you make marketing decisions that will result in selling more solutions.

Will having only one persona help you sell more? Absolutely. The real power of personas in B2B marketing is in shaping the types of content required by key audience groups and highlighting the best way to present content and information to meet the varying needs of these groups. Even if you have just one persona, the profound insights from the research will help you maximize the relevance of your value propositions and content.

Understanding differences and similarities across buyer personas makes it much easier to focus marketing energy on the insights that truly matter for purchase decisions. A fewer number of personas to address won’t necessarily reduce your overall workload. But you’ll be able to spend more time fine tuning the value propositions, thought leadership content, and campaigns for each one rather than cranking out needlessly customized versions of material for only superficially different profiles.

The 80-20 rule also applies. If one or two personas cover 80% of the buyers, those are the ones you really should address. You’re better off optimizing programs for those one or two than spreading yourself thinner for only marginal possible returns.

Are you actively using buyer personas now? ITSMA is interviewing marketers that have developed personas and are using them in their marketing initiatives. Contact me at if you want to be included in the interviews.

Interested in learning more about buyer personas and ITSMA’s Buyer Persona Research? Check out our recent articles and publications.


Want the latest news from ITSMA?

Subscribe to our newsletters and alerts for ITSMA blog posts, research publications, events, and more.

Further reading