When designing marketing initiatives it is common to start by defining your target audience and today’s marketer takes it the next step by building in-depth buyer personas. But what exactly is a buyer persona and what does the process involve? In this post, I will explain what a buyer persona is, why it is important, elements to include and how you can use a buyer persona when it is complete.
What are Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas are written documents that describe the people that make up your target audience. They are based on as much real data and market research as possible, but depict fictional customers who represent segments of your target audience. A well-crafted buyer persona digs deep into the characteristics of these fictional customers – describing not just demographic data but who they are and what keeps them up at night.
For instance, if your company sells cars you might create buyer personas that describe the ideal customers for each model. The target audience for your low end model is going to have very different demographics, needs, wants and concerns than those considering the luxury models.
Why are Buyer Personas Important?
Although the term “buyer persona” is fashionable this concept is not new. Marketers have been doing this for ages as part of a process called market segmentation. Buyer personas and market segmentation give us the insights we need to create meaningful, relevant and trustworthy communications for our target audience.
What has changed, however, is the way customers make purchasing decisions. They now research products and solutions online – long before engaging with your organization. This has elevated the importance of buyer personas. It is critical that we have a deep understanding of our target customers so we can meet them online and act as a guide as they conduct their research.
To expand on the example above, customers no longer arrive at a car dealership expecting to be informed of features and benefits. They do that research on their own. They also run comparisons, read reviews, gather pricing information and maybe even conduct a poll on Facebook.
It is marketing’s job to make sure that your brand appears in all of these places and a well-constructed buyer persona will help them do that. By the time the customer finally engages with a sales person they are well informed and may simply be looking for a test drive.
What Elements Should I Include in a Buyer Persona?
Buyer personas will differ based on the nature of your product or service. Do not download a template and blindly fill it out. You must carefully consider what is unique about your customers and market. Below are elements that are commonly included:
- Basic demographic information like age, gender, marital status and education level.
- Employment and/or financial situation including job title, description, company information, salary, etc.
- Special characteristics or skills this customer might have.
- Goals and challenges that drive their decisions, especially those that you can help them with.
- Objections or concerns they may have about your product.
- Habits and passions such as:
- Where they like to shop.
- How they like to communicate.
- The types of information they consume and where they consume it.
- Individuals or influencers who impact their decisions.
- Hobbies, sports or entertainment preferences.
- Political, religious, charitable or social leanings.
You can also find examples by typing “buyer persona examples” into Google and clicking on “images,” but you will see that the depth of information in the samples differs greatly.
Building a buyer persona is not about creating a pretty document, it’s about taking the time to deeply understand your customers and what is important to them. The finished product should trigger new ideas for how you can improve your efforts to reach and serve your customers.
How Can I Use a Buyer Persona When it is Complete?
Once you have created buyer personas you can use them to improve many aspects of your business, not just marketing. Below are a few examples of how buyer personas could impact your approach:
- Design messaging and collateral that highlight the features and benefits that matter most to your target audience and that contain imagery that will appeal to them.
- Create digital content (product descriptions, blog and social media posts, videos and pictures) that address your target customers’ unique goals, challenges, objections and concerns. This will make it more likely that your message will be heard and shared.
- Develop a digital or physical presence in the places that your customers frequent – specific social media platforms, popular influencer blogs or online publications, conferences, stores, sports events, etc.
- Provide your sales people with detailed descriptions of your ideal customers so they can determine how to engage in a way that builds rapport and establishes trust.
- Arm sales with a list of possible objections, questions and the appropriate responses so they can be prepared.
- Offer suggestions for how sales can best reach leads based on the common communication preferences and hangouts of your target audience.
- For opportunities involving multiple decision makers and influencers, perform pre-engagement research via LinkedIn, prospect websites and your CRM tool to ensure proper mapping to the buyer personas.
- Provide descriptions of the types of people who buy your product and why they chose you so those on the front line can address complaints with understanding and empathy.
- Provide a list of common concerns and offer suggestions for how they can remedy the situation based on what will be meaningful to your customers. For example – in some situations it may be important to resolve the issue, but in others it might be more impactful to move on and offer monetary compensation.
Clearly defining your target audience and creating buyer personas is important for many aspects of your business and can be a tremendous contributor to your success. It takes time, resources and patience but is well worth the effort. You don’t have to do it all at once, simply take the first step and let it be an iterative process that you fine tune over time.
I help SMBs improve their digital marketing efforts and creating buyer personas is often one of the first steps in this process. If you would like help or would simply like to discuss this in more depth please feel free to contact me.
Have you ever created buyer personas for your business? Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments below.