When you’re creating or marketing a product, you're likely to have a target audience in mind. The target audience is the ideal customer you’d like to attract to your product or service through various marketing efforts. However, in today’s global marketplace, customers have nearly unlimited options, and if you don’t properly understand what your target customers want and what their motivations are, then in all probability, someone else will give them what they're seeking.
In order to deliver what your audience members want, you need to understand their true needs and desires. This practice of recognizing your target customer and why they would choose your product or service over others can help you send out marketing messages that connect with them.
This is where buyer personas/marketing personas come into play.
A buyer or marketing persona is a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal customer(s) based on data and research. Essentially, it is a document that contains details about your target customers’ who, what, where, when and why, as well as general demographics information such as age, gender, job title, job description, other work details (such as business size), other needs, challenges and pain points.
Buyer personas can help set the foundation for your marketing efforts. With properly defined personas, you can figure out who your target customers are; what they want or need from you; which message will resonate best with their needs; how, when and where to reach them to build awareness and drive them to your business/website; what to write about in your content marketing efforts; how to talk to them on social media; and so forth. It’s simple: If you don’t know or understand someone, how can you market a product to them?
Having a deep understanding of your marketing persona(s) is often the key to driving product development, marketing content creation, sales follow-up and anything that is related to customer acquisition and retention. Marketing personas help you focus your time and efforts on qualified prospects, steer product development to suit the needs of your target audience and align all work across your business. As a result, you can attract high-value leads-turned-customers to your company who you'll be more likely to retain over time.
Are You Ready to Build Your Own Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas aren’t difficult to create. It all depends on how you acquire your customer data and market research, and then apply that information within your company. Follow these four steps to build your very own buyer personas:
Step 1: Research Your Target Audience: The first step is research. Knowing details about your ideal customers will help you create a realistic persona, and possibly find interesting details about them — things you didn’t know or might not have thought of before.
Start with looking at your current customer base. Identify your best and repeat customers. Note any commonalities among them. By finding similarities between your best customers, you will be able to create a persona that will help you attract more such customers.
To gather information, try to set up an in-person interview or a phone call with someone you enjoy doing business with. These people will be more likely to take follow-up questions and you’ll be able to get a lot more detailed information.
In addition, don’t forget to research customers you’ve had a not-so-good experience with. This will help you learn what kind of people are not the right fit for your business, its product or service, and weed them out.
To gather information from multiple (current) customers, you could create and send a survey email to them. This survey could have questions such as:
- What time are you most likely to read your emails?
- What kind of content would you like to receive from us?
- Do you have any questions about (insert your industry) industry?
- Have you faced any challenges while dealing with us, or with our product/service?
Remember, conduct new research every year or two to refresh your buyer personas with updated information.
Step 2: Narrow Down the Commonalities: After completing your research, narrow down your results by uncovering the most common answers you received from your customers and subscribers.
Then, filter your research to establish the most important details that are likely to affect how you communicate with your target audience. For instance, if the majority of people share similar timing for reading emails, this will be an important detail to include in your buyer persona.
Some details you should determine in this step are demographics (age, occupation and so on); behaviors (skill level, what they watch and read, level of interest in your product or service, how they use your product or service, etc.); email preferences (how often they would like to receive emails, what time they open their emails, etc.); and interests and challenges (this is how you find their pain points).
Step 3: Create Multiple Personas: After narrowing down the most common details about your customers, the next step is to organize those details into separate personas. And to do this, identify those in your audience with the same goals and challenges, and group them into their own category. These segments will represent different personas. For example, if you’re running a gym, you may have clients who wish to lose weight and others who may want to increase muscle and gain weight. Since these two are absolutely different goals, two separate personas should be created for these clients.
In a Forbes article, Bob Ruffolo, CEO of inbound marketing company IMPACT, says, “Most businesses should have at least a couple of buyer personas, but you don't want to have too many, either. If your business is targeting multiple industries, or verticals, you definitely want to have a unique buyer persona for each one.”
If you realize that you need more information regarding a particular persona, you can always go back and carry out more research to find the missing information.
Step 4: Name Your Personas: Giving your buyer persona a name will remind you that you’re speaking to an actual person when you write your marketing content. This will help you write more personalized copy. You can even find a photo to represent your buyer persona.
You Have a Buyer Persona — What Can You Do with It?
Marketing personas can be extremely valuable because they are based on real data and you can use them to apply a vast amount of information into a story that can be read and interpreted quickly. The data that you obtain for your buyer personas represents a powerful tool in your company’s marketing arsenal. So, how can you put all that information to work for you? Here are eight ways you can use your buyer personas to drive results:
1. Let Buyer Personas Guide Your Content Creation: Since marketing personas are designed to give you an idea of what kinds of things your ideal customer will respond to, it makes sense to use this information while creating content, including email marketing material, blog posts, ebooks, video content and other items. Not only will this content be more likely to get a response, but the information contained within will also help you develop pieces that are more relevant and valuable for your intended audience.
2. Write Personalized Emails: With a buyer persona that has a name, face and other details, you can start writing your content and emails with this persona in mind. This should make your subscribers engage with your emails more, because you will have created more personalized and relevant content for them.
3. Audit Your Existing Content for Persona Alignment: Ultimately, in order to attract the right audience, you need to create the right content. Therefore, perform an audit of all your existing content and try to determine which persona each item aligns with. If you find content that doesn't sit well with any of your personas, you can consider updating it, or if it hasn’t generated any leads, you could simply get rid of it.
4. Use Language That Your Personas Use: If you know how the people in your different personas like to communicate, you can start interacting like them.
5. Link Personas with Lifecycle Stages to Map Out Content Ideas: Lifecycle stage refers to how far along a potential customer is in your sales cycle (that is, how close they are to making a purchase). Therefore, by adding the “lifecycle stage”
dimension to your marketing mix, you can ensure that you’re not only creating the right content for the right people, but that you're also creating it for them at the right time.
6. Optimize Landing Pages for Specific Personas: Every time you come up with a new piece of targeted content, make sure that the accompanying landing page relates to your intended audience, in the language that they understand, as well as how that content can add value to their lives or help them solve a problem. One good way to do this is to run A/B testing on the content.
7. Reallocate Your Ad Spend: Once you have created your persona(s), you’ll be able to better understand how and where your target audience spends their time, both online and offline. In the best-case scenario, you’ll also have information about their favorite news sources and publications. Equipped with this knowledge, you can identify where you’re currently spending resources (for example, on Facebook ads and the like) and reallocate those resources based on your persona research.
8. Increase Social Media Focus: The above principle can be applied to people and social media. For example, if you know that the majority of your target audience uses Pinterest, make sure you are regularly monitoring that network and engaging with those who belong to your target persona.