Before we get too far, buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research. A buyer persona helps you target your prospects, develop products that meet both their current and future needs, and aligns the work across your organization.
By following these simple steps, you can create a high quality buyer persona that will help increase the likelihood of retaining your customers over time.
More specifically, having a deep understanding of your buyer persona- be it one customer type or many- is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.
While researching buyer personas can be difficult, the end result is a tool that's invaluable in developing your business.
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Why are buyer personas so important to your business?
Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. The key to using buyer personas effectively is to provide information that speaks directly to the needs, behaviors, and concerns of the individual members in your target audience through tailored content, messaging, product development, and services.
There are many facets of an individual's life that might affect their preferences for products and services. It's only by understanding what these may be, and applying a methodology such as buyer personas to glean key data, can you begin to find out more about your customers with the result of being able to create content or provide relevant offers that will keep them
When creating a buyer persona, the strongest foundations will be built through research and gathering insights from your customer base.
Depending on the demands of your business, you may need as few as one buyer persona or as many as 10 or 20. If personas are new to you, start with a few at first. You can always come back and develop more if the need arises.
How your business can use a buyer Persona
Developing a buyer persona allows you not only to communicate effectively with your audience, but it also helps direct the decisions and offers for your product. High-quality buyer personas can help you not only craft an appeal to your audience but tailor this pitch for specific segments.
Unique Selling Proposition
A buyer persona informs your unique selling proposition. One marketing principle is to have a unique selling proposition, which can be tailored to the specific needs and wants of each unique buyer Persona.
This is important because your unique selling proposition should be different than the competition's. You need to stand out from the market in general, and having a
Buyer personas are useful in a number of ways, but they're especially helpful for marketers who need to understand their target audiences so that they can develop appropriate messages and content that resonates with them. Buyer person
After you have defined your target audience, and a description of the person, you can then create specific targeted content for social media. Social Media requires the human feel, and using a buyer persona to define the content, tone, and language will improve you're interactions with you're potential clients.
The more you know about each buyer persona, the better you can communicate with them on different social media platforms.
Marketing Assets are those tangible items that you're company controls and owns to communicate and present your brand. This includes things like: Email campaigns, SMS Campaigns, Website, infographics, blogs, case studies, and much more.
The effectiveness of all of these depends on getting the correct message in front of the people you're engaging with.
It's only by understanding the needs, behaviors and concerns of your audience that you'll be able to create marketing assets that resonate.
A common misconception is that marketing only applies to sales and conversion. Marketing involves so much more than that! Effective marketing also involves (and includes) the customer service / customer success team.
Engaging with your buyers (once the have bought) in the way they prefer helps to show them that you care. You should tailor your marketing efforts to their needs and wants. This can include personalization such as - which communication channels they prefer (email, text, phone call), what the messaging is, and what their desired results look like.
By really nailing the content, tone, and message - post purchase your company can convert your "buyers" into "customer promotors" people who love your company and brand and share with their colleagues.
One of the most obvious places where a buyer persona is critical is for advertising.
Advertising is about communicating the benefits of your product or service to consumers, and it's usually done in a way that gets them excited. Buyer personas are key for this because they'll guide you as to what the audience wants and needs to know before buying from you. Ads should be written with the buyer persona in mind.
If you're not using buyer personas, it's tough to know what message is compelling or relevant enough for the consumer.
How to Make a Buyer Persona
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A good buyer persona can be created through research and surveying customers. Interviewers must ask questions that reflect the interests of this target audience.
There are generally 3 categories of information to use when creating a buyer persona; Survey, Analytical, and observational.
Survey information is gathered directly from people who are likely in your target audience, and match your persona. This can be current clients, prospects, and even people in industry or market specific forums. We will revisit surveys again later.
Analytical is factual data based information. Something like "income of $75000, or greater" is analytical. You can gather demographic data, and consumer data from many sources and help fill in the buyer persona's typical range. For example age range of 21 - 30.
Observational is the hardest one. This is where you need to observe without people realizing that you're watching. One of the easiest ways, is reading posts in social media, watching comments in a blog, and reading reviews. While, survey data may seem like observation data, it's merely what the person themselves is sharing. Henry Ford once said "if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
Or let me spin a cautionary tale about lack of observational information:
In 1985, The Coca-Cola Company's share lead over its chief competitor, in its flagship market, with its flagship product, had been slowly slipping for 15 consecutive years. The cola category in general was lethargic. Consumer preference for Coca-Cola was dipping, as was consumer awareness. That changed, of course, in the summer of 1985 as the consumer outcry over "new Coke" was replaced by consumer affection for Coca-Cola classic.
The fabled secret formula for Coca-Cola was changed, adopting a formula preferred in taste tests of nearly 200,000 consumers.
Protest groups — such as the Society for the Preservation of the Real Thing and Old Cola Drinkers of America (which claimed to have recruited 100,000 in a drive to bring back "old" Coke) — popped up around the country. Songs were written to honor the old taste. Protesters at a Coca-Cola event in downtown Atlanta in May carried signs with "We want the real thing" and "Our children will never know refreshment."
What these tests didn't show, of course, was the bond consumers felt with their Coca-Cola — something they didn't want anyone, including The Coca-Cola Company, tampering with.
Which is where Careful Observation should have come into play.
Gathering Analytical Data
If you have an existing website with customers, then a simple place to start is google analytics. If you have a store, or another brick and mortar location with customers, then they will usually keep records of who comes in.
Other Sources include the Bureau of labor statistics, Think with Google, Similar Web, and many paid sources.
Gathering Survey Data
One of the first tasks in establishing a high quality buyer persona is interviewing potential buyers to gather necessary information.
To ensure that you're providing the right products, your best bet is to conduct some interviews. Some of them should be with your target audience.
Finding people to Interview
Use your current customers.
Your customer base is a perfect place to start with your buyer persona research because they've already purchased your product and engaged with you.
Don't just talk to people who are happy with your product, or want to spend lots of time discussing it (although that feels really satisfying). Customers who have complaints about it will show other patterns that will help you form a more solid understanding of what personas you should focus on.
You may or may not need to offer incentives (e.g., gift card) for current customers to participate in an interview. Customers love to be heard, so interviews allow them to tell you about their challenges and what they think of your product.
Customers often like to have greater control over the products they use. Once you have interviewed customers and clearly identify their needs, they will likely be even more loyal to your company. Be transparent about your intentions when reaching out to customers and emphasize that their feedback is valued.
2. Use your prospects.
Taking the time to interview people who are not your current customers can give you a better picture of their motivations and desires.
Interviewing prospects is a great way to identify how they think about your company.
The problems that you notice in the interview will save time when it comes to product development and marketing campaigns, as well as even help with customer service issues.
3. Use your referrals.
In addition to meeting with existing customers and performing surveys, you'll probably also need to solicit referrals. These can be helpful when you're entering new markets or don't have any leads yet.
Tap your network for leads. Talk with coworkers, existing customers, or social media contacts and find people you'd like to interview who fit your persona traits. It may be difficult to find a large number of potential customers by this method, but you’re likely to get some very high quality interviews.
Searching on LinkedIn for members who might fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you.
Another source of
4. Use third-party networks.
For interviewees who are completely removed from your company, there are a few third-party networks you can recruit from. Craigslist allows you to post ads for people interested in any kind of job and UserTesting.com allows you to run remote user testing (with some follow-up questions). Another great option is Upwork, or finding reviewers on Fiverr.
UserTesting.com is a quick and cost-effective way to recruit users for your product, but you'll have less control over your sessions than if the testing was managed in-house.
Tips for Recruiting Interviewees
When contacting potential interviewees, here are a few ways to improve your response rates.
Incentives can help people participate in an interview you organize as they have incentive to talk to you if they do not already know you. A company may offer a gift card as their reward.
Be clear that this isn't a sales call.
This is even more important when doing research for a non-customer. Explain you're just gathering data and want to learn from them. The goal of creating a buyer persona is not to get them to commit to an hour-long phone call; the goal is for them tell you about their lives, jobs, and challenges..
Make it easy to say yes.
Potential interviewees need to know how much time they will need, so work with them! Suggest a time right away (but also be flexible), send a calendar invite with a reminder, and give then the option to make their own appointment.
In order to create a high quality persona, make sure you interview enough people.
But how Many? The answer to this question is difficult because it varies based on the person. For each buyer persona, perform at least three-to five interviews for research and development purposes. Interviewing prospects and customers may provide insight about the needs of those who know and interact with your company. You can also conduct interviews with people from outside your industry to get a wider array of input on buyer personas.
The more time you spend preparing, the more you prepare for, and anticipate your interviewees responses.
Eventually, you'll start to understand their motivations and speak with them (not AT them), in their own language to paint a clear picture of who they are as consumers..
As you gain more and more intended insights from interviewing respondents, it becomes easier to anticipate what they are going to say. This is your cue that you understand the Persona.
Sample Questions to Ask
The following questions are grouped by eight categories. Feel free to adjust this list and include any other questions that may be appropriate for your target customers.
- What is your job role? Your title?
- How is your job measured?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What skills are required to do your job?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
- In which industry or industries does your company work?
- What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
- What are you responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges?
Watering Hole Questions
- How do you learn about new information for your job?
- What publications or blogs do you read?
- What associations and social networks do you participate in?
- Are there any people you look up to in the industry?
- What are some of your favorite books?
- What tv shows, or YouTube channels do you watch?
- What are your favorite movies?
Personal Background Questions
- It is often easier to design and develop your buyer persona, if you know more about them. Ask their age, whether they're married, have children, etc.
- What schools and levels of education have you completed?
- Describe your career path. What brought you to this exact point in your life and Career?
Shopping Preference Questions
- How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in person)?
- When conducting research online, do you search for information using the internet?
- What type of websites do you use to look up vendors or products? Have you taken any courses that teach about your industry or occupation?
- Are there any sites where you might conduct more general searches like images, videos, and others?
- Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase? What was the evaluation process to narrow down your decision, and how did you decide on this product or service
The "Why?" Question
This is the most important tip for interviewing a prospective buyer persona.
Questions are good, but the follow up question to every question should be "why?" These questions help you understand your customers (or potential customers) goals, behaviors and motivators. But keep in mind that people may not accurately reflect on their true motivations for buying something so it's worth asking why they do still buy it just to make sure you're not missing something.
A buyer persona is a fictitious representation of your ideal customer. They are used by marketers to help understand the needs and wants of their market.
Buyer personas can be created through interviews and surveys with potential customers, by gathering customer analytical data, and observable data. The more time you spend preparing, and researching the better your message to your audience will be. Once you have interviewed enough respondents, it becomes easier to anticipate what they are going to say. Using this cue, you can customize your marketing efforts through the entire lifecycle.