At SiriusDecisions, we look at a lot of persona work, including best-in-class usage of persona information. Based on our research, here are some dos and don’ts to consider as you embark on your persona journey:

DO focus on the key personas involved in the decisionmaking process for your offering. Complete pre-work to understand the buying process and the personas involved at each step. Work with the sales team and account managers of current customers to ensure you understand each persona’s process and level of engagement.

DON’T profile every persona in the department that uses the offering if they are not involved in the buying process. Select the key personas that require deep focus. Personas can change over time, and if the project is too broad, it will not be well maintained.

DO gain a deep understanding of each persona’s job role objectives. Ask specifically about their objectives for the year to gain a deep understanding of what motivates them. For example, if you offer a marketing automation platform, personas who are measured by number of leads may require different messaging than those who are measured by annual revenue.

DON’T talk to one individual and assume every persona with the same job title has the same objectives. To ensure you fully understand the range of objectives by job role, talk to several people with the same role, understand the various titles used for each role and read job postings for additional insights on annual objectives.

DO segment your personas by market when necessary. A marketing director for a Fortune 500 company is different from a marketing director for a $100 million company. Develop personas for each segment.

DON’T assume every persona must be segmented by business size. At the same time, be careful not to overcomplicate persona work. After doing persona research, you might find that for your offering, IT managers at midsize to large companies are similar to IT managers at enterprise companies and can be marketed to similarly. The key words here are “after doing persona research…”

DO dig into the challenges faced by each persona. Ask personas what stands in their way of achieving objectives. A day-in-the-life exercise can also reveal challenges. When possible, match personas’ language in your messaging.

DON’T do personas just for the sake of completing them. Persona information is critical for developing offerings and constructing messaging that improves inbound marketing and resonates with buyers.

Finally, even if an external agency handles persona development, be sure the offering’s marketers and product managers are heavily involved. While a completed template or report is great input, there is no substitute for directly hearing feedback from customers.