You’ve heard of buyer personas before. These are the little profiles that sales lead generators use to categorize different prospects. This makes it easier to predict exactly what a customer might be looking for. It makes for faster qualification process and it serves as a springboard for speculating future customer demands.

Still, sometimes you can have one too many because you’ve grown to have so many different kinds of B2B customers. Could it be high time to cut down on the categories and maybe start mixing them up?

It’s actually a very risky idea. If you want an unlikely example, look at McDonald’s. It’s not news that the brand continues to struggle in the face of not only other fast food giants but also growing discontent among consumers, employees, and political activists.

Despite that, the criticism itself doesn’t seem to be helping. After announcing the redesign of its popular mascots (this week, they’ve just released the new Hamburglar), the reception is still found wanting and not entirely through the brand’s fault. Why? It’s because mixing up buyer personas can turn out to be another form of trying to please everybody and only end up pleasing none.

Even an armchair marketer will realize that at least half the problem with the redesign has more to do with the history of McDonald’s than anything to do with the new design itself. On the one hand, you’ve got a bunch of marketing people who could’ve simply been tasked with trying to create an icon that appeals both to kids and adults. On the other hand, the reception has more to do with critics bringing up big people problems to a brainstorming session. It’s like attending a kiddie party but all of a sudden you’re arguing with the mascot about global warming, the upcoming elections, and minimum wage laws.

You have to be careful about averting embarrassments like this when you’re trying to mix personas and mix audiences. Take a similar situation and apply it to any conversation in the sales process. What can you do to keep things under control?

  • Directly and indirectly lay down the topic of the discussion – Whichever you do first, you need to establish what precisely is going to be discussed and only going to be discussed. This applies to the design of your marketing materials as well as the content of your presentations and scripts.
  • Try to funnel a space for more personaspecific queries – If a particular segment of the audience insists on a particular set of issues then that’s the time you start separating them from the main body and qualify them with a matching buyer persona. Redirect them to a sales rep or create a private line of communication to prevent their concern from imposing on the rest of your target market.
  • Make it clear that you’re fighting on different fronts – Another thing you need to make clear is that you are already at a stage of dealing with so many different kinds of customers. It can be hard enough as it is to stay focused on your selling points with so many people wanting too many different things. Let them know that you draw the line when it comes to trying to please everyone.

McDonald’s has been touted by many as a large brand that serves as bad marketing and business example. But then again, perhaps the real problem is that people who decry such brands aren’t any more helpful. They’re forcing you to comply while another one competes for your compliance as well. In the end of the day, you can only merge buyer personas so many times without trying to please everyone.