I love a challenge. This week, I was asked to do something completely new to me – creating buyer personas. I have a psychology degree so it would seem that writing buyer personas would be easy, right? After all, I kind of know what makes people tick. Well, it’s more difficult than it would seem at first glance. I’d like to share what I learned in the hopes that it will help others who have to create personas (which is really anyone who is doing business online).
Let’s start with what a buyer persona is and is not. A buyer persona is a “semi-fictional representation of our ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” (Hubspot) A buyer persona is not a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on guesses and assumptions that have no factual basis. Here’s the hard part… How do you create a semi-fictional representation of someone that you only have small bits of information about? How do you fill in the blanks when you don’t know anything about their personal lives and decision-making processes? Well, some guessing is required after all, but it’s educated guessing based on knowing a bit about people and their needs.
Here’s what I realized in the process of creating personas – we’re all human beings and regardless of status, title, and demographics we all want basically the same things. We want to feel important, we want to feel safe, we want to be understood, and we want to understand.
When you realize that your buyer is a real person that leads a real life and has real needs, it makes it easier to understand them and to open the lines of communication with them through your website. It makes it easier to build a relationship with them and to start to earn their trust.
We all want to feel that we matter. Our desire to feel valued and significant is deeply rooted. It can be observed in people in different ways. It could be wanting to feel like we are acknowledged at work for being important to the mission of the company. It could be the desire for material possessions that are a sign of status. Those are two very different things, but both express the desire to “feel important”. Knowing what makes your buyer persona feel important and valued is key to knowing their intrinsic motivation for purchasing your goods or services.
Wanting to feel safe and comfortable in our environment is at the root of our human existence. We will go to great lengths to feel safe and free from fear and doubt. This greatly affects our decision-making. People choose the path that will lead them to a safe and comfortable outcome. For one person, choosing a business solution that will keep them from losing their job is just as valid as another person choosing home furnishings that will provide a place of comfort and serenity. They both come from the same need.
People want to know that they are dealing with someone who understands their wants and needs and has their best interests at heart. Here’s where empathy comes in. When we put ourselves in the shoes of our persona and really try to experience their life and the circumstances that shape their decision-making process, we can truly begin to understand them. We have to dig deep and ask, “what external pressures does this person face and what internal pressures do they put on themselves?” Again, these pressures can come from opposite sides of the spectrum. Someone could be facing a deadline and need fast solutions to a problem or they may be putting pressure on themselves to find products that will elevate their status within their social circle. A business that takes the time to understand its customers and provides solutions or products based on that understanding is going to earn the trust and loyalty of their customers.
A confused mind says “no.” If something is too complex we tend to move on to something that’s easier to comprehend. People want to understand quickly what is being presented to them. They want to be able to make decisions with the information that is given to them and not have to search too long for answers. They want to be able to grasp what a product or solution can do for them within seconds of landing on a website.
When you step into someone else’s shoes and see things through their worldview, you gain a deeper perspective on their motivation, their needs, and their desires. We have data on our site visitors and our customers. We know some facts about them based on their interaction with our site and information we collect when they purchase. But to really know our buyer it has to go beyond data. We have to understand them as human beings trying to live lives of purpose and importance. We also have to factor in the context of the situation that brings the buyer to our business. Their role in making a decision plays a huge factor. A project manager may be seeking a solution to a business need on one website, but go home at night and search for lighting fixtures on another site. It’s the same person, but their needs and desires in each situation will be different so context is key.
Buyer personas play a role in creating content that will connect with our audience, but that’s not all. Taking into account your buyer persona will also impact the design and user experience of your site. Knowing your buyers’ needs and decision-making process will guide you in creating a site that is user-friendly and leads to conversions.
I learned a lot this week about personas, about human behavior, and about web design and marketing. I hope that my observations help make it a little easier for anyone else approaching buyer personas for the first time.
For more information about creating buyer personas, check out this article. Be sure to download our Buyer Persona Templateto get started on creating personas that will help you connect with your ideal audience.
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