If there is a golden rule to be obeyed in the world of digital marketing, it is this – you need to understand who your ideal customer is. The only way your marketing efforts are going to successfully make a connection with your customers is if you know what that customer specifically looks like in the first place. Without a clear buyer persona, you won’t know how to position your brand or products to connect with the right people.
In this article, we’d like to offer some direction to help you create quality buyer personas for your company. The value of your personas is immense. What you create will guide so many decisions around how you position yourself and talk about what you do. So, don’t hesitate to invest some time in this project. You might not be an expert on the topic by the end of this guide, but you’ll be a big step closer and you can get down to work on mapping out what your customers look like as accurately as possible.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a tool that will help you attract the right people to your brand, and as a result, will help you improve conversions and drive revenues higher. Rather than using an actual, real-life person as your buyer persona, you’ll be creating a somewhat fictional – but based in reality – avatar to use as your target customer. Once completed, you can use this avatar to make decisions about your marketing efforts and decide what is worth pursuing and what you should leave behind.
While it might be a bit of a cliché at this point, using a buyer persona is a great way to get into the shoes of your customer. In spending time thinking about and developing this persona, you can get more comfortable with what your customers are like and what they will want out of the products or services you sell. This persona is surely going to evolve and adapt over time as the market changes, but starting with something that is clearly defined will help you greatly.
Starting with One
For many businesses, it will ultimately be necessary to have more than one persona profile established for the brand. After all, you probably don’t sell to exactly the same kinds of people across the board, so you will want to have varied personas to reflect the diversity within your audience.
For example, you might sell products that are all in the same general category but cover a range of price points in that category. You have something for the entry-level end of the market, and you have a more advanced, refined version for the buyer with a bigger budget. These are not the same target markets, and unique profiles for each are the best way to go.
With that said, for the average small business, we recommend starting with just a single persona to get started in this pursuit. Aim to build a profile of the person that you would consider to be your main, or primary, target. Do a great job building that profile out to where it accurately represents your most common customer. Then, with the process completed and a clear persona in place for the core of your business, you can go back and repeat the process as many times as necessary to cover other types of buyers you might encounter. There is no limit to how many personas you can wind up building, but starting with a single target is the easiest way to jump in.
It’s a Research Game
If you just try to make up your persona profiles by picking ideas out of thin air, or off the top of your head, the finished product isn’t going to be very accurate. The key to getting value out of these personas is to make sure they are rooted in reality – you should be looking at actual data in order to build up the personas and create something that reflects what you are likely to see in the real people who make purchases from you.
So, where can you find data that you can trust in this pursuit? Here are some options –
- Internal sources. Unless we are talking about a brand-new business, you probably already have at least a few customers and some sales to your credit. Those existing customers are the best place to start with your persona project. You can mine data from these individuals in a number of ways. The most direct, of course, is to provide them with a feedback form or survey that they can fill out to answer some of the questions you might have about who they are and why they picked your brand. Also, look at the questions those buyers have had for you, as this will reveal what problems they are facing and how your product or service might be able to solve those problems. Finally, if you have a sales team, use them to get feedback on the types of people they have been talking to and who it is that seems to be most interested in what you sell.
- General market research. Looking outside of your organization and turning an eye to the market as a whole can be helpful. Google Analytics is a powerful tool for this kind of research, as it allows you to see how your audience is engaging with other sites and brands around the web. What else do your visitors seem to be interested in? Where else do they go and what do they consume? The habits of your existing audience will tell you a lot about the demographics of this group and what you can expect them to be interested in – and not interested in – moving forward.
- Direct interviews. This idea is a take-off of the point above, and it will be harder to execute than simply sending out a feedback form and waiting for the replies to roll in. If you have a few customers who seem to buy from you over and over again, consider reaching out to see if they would be interested in doing a direct, live interview so you could learn more about why they like your brand so much and why they picked you over the competition. You’ll get tons of great information from these kinds of interviews and they might be the best way to build a persona that you know is going to be accurate and reliable. Consider offering some type of incentive – likely a product discount – in exchange for their time so you can have the best possible chance of getting the help you need.
Creating a Character
Once you have done the legwork to collect as much raw data as possible for your first persona, it’s time to dip into the world of fiction a little bit to build a character that you can use to represent all of the needs and traits that you have uncovered during your research. Simply calling this “Buyer Persona #1” isn’t particularly catchy and will make it harder to talk about around the office. Instead, you’ll want to come up with an actual name for this persona, as if you were writing a movie script and needed a name for the main character.
Be creative and try to think up a name that is easy to remember and also sounds obviously made-up – you don’t want anyone on the team getting confused and thinking that this is a real person. Once you have a name for your first persona, assign that persona a range of characteristics to bring things into focus. Some of those characteristics include –
- Income level. How much does this person make each year? Knowing the general income range of your target audience can be extremely helpful when picking out marketing channels.
- Job title. This will be related to income level, of course, but having a good idea of what job your persona is likely to hold and how that impacts their buying habits is another step in the right direction.
- Family status. Is your ideal buyer likely to be married with kids or living the single life? This is another piece of the marketing puzzle that will make it easier to find them out there in the real world.
- Hobbies. For some businesses, it can be helpful to have an understanding of what hobbies the ideal buyer has away from work and how those hobbies and interests will impact their purchasing decisions.
This list is only a starting point, of course, and you’ll need to tailor it to include the kinds of things that are particularly relevant to your business and the things you sell. The key here is to get as far into the details as possible so you can get to know this fictional ideal buyer and have a detailed profile to provide to all members of your various teams.
The Updating Process
Your buyer personas should not be allowed to grow stale or stagnant over time. Instead, you want to make sure they are kept as up-to-date as possible as the months and years pass. If they aren’t updated, this is a tool that will quickly become dull and it won’t be nearly as useful to you as it should be.
For most companies, an annual review of the in-house buyer personas that have been created will be more than enough to keep up in this area. Set aside a time – perhaps during a quieter part of the year for the business – when the personas can be dialed in and any necessary adjustments can be made. For this, you’ll want to return to the fundamentals that you used to build the personas in the first place. That is, using things like internal data, market research, and live customer interviews to gather data. In that process, you will quickly see where things have shifted and where you might need to make some changes to what you already have in place.
If you don’t yet have buyer personas created for your business, now is the time to get started. And, if you do have some in place, this should serve as a good opportunity to dive back in and make sure they are as clearly defined, accurate, and useful as possible. We hope this page has been helpful and good luck with the project!
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