Do you really know your audience? Understanding who you are trying to reach is key in creating value added marketing solutions for your business. Each business and industry is unique and so are the people searching for the products and services from those businesses. Defining your buyer persona will help you target your audience with the right message at the right time.
So you may be thinking, “Alright I get it, I need to know who my audience is, but what the heck is a buyer persona?”
Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are semi-fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Creating buyer personas helps you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. In order to create content, messaging, products and services to meet the specific needs of your audience, you first have to understand who they are. So often we focus more on delivering our products and services without stepping back to ask ourselves, “Is this the best solution for my customer?” Creating personas will not only help you create better messaging, but also help you create solutions that your customers and prospects will enjoy. As Seth Godin so eloquently says, “Build something that people will look for, something that people will talk about, something we would miss if it were gone.”
Creating personas is so much bigger than just your marketing strategy. Truly understanding your buyers will shape every part of your business. It will help you create a sales process tailored to meet the specific needs of your prospects. It will also help you create products and services that meet the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of your current clients and potential customers.
When creating your buyer personas, research is key. The internet is a great place to find marketing research information, but there is no substitute for the insights you can collect from your actual customer base. To get started, ask a few of your clients if they would do an interview or create a simple survey for them to fill out on your website. You may have a very broad customer base, but start small. Focus on your main persona and add more later as needed.
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How Buyer Personas Help Build an Effective Marketing Strategy
The success of any marketing campaign or strategy begins with the message. Developing personas will help make sure that you create content that appeals to your target audience. Creating personalized marketing helps to build a better connection with your audience. When you get right down to it, people want to do business with people who get them. They don’t just want products and services, they want products and services that meet their needs on a number of levels. Marketing that adds value is one way to cut through all of the noise and build trust with your audience.
Building personas also helps you to map out your content to make sure that you have a clear path to conversion. By understanding the specific needs of your audience you can create messaging that encourages your prospects to continue in the buyer’s journey.
Taking the time to create negative personas can save you a ton of headaches. Not every lead or prospect is a good fit for your business. By understanding who your prospects are before you get too far into the process can save you a lot of your precious time. It also helps to refine your marketing to target your good personas. This lowers the cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer as well as increases sales productivity.
Creating Your Buyer Personas
Ok, so at this point you get it. Buyer personas are important, but how do you actually create one? While there are many ways to do this, we always find it easier to start with a road map.
You can create buyer personas using a mixture of research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. This should include your current customers, prospects, and even those who are not in your contact data base, but align with your target audience.
Here are some practical ways to gather information you need to develop personas:
- Look at your contacts database to find trends about how certain leads or customers find and use your content.
- Use form fields to capture important persona information on your website.
- Interview customers and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service
Like I stated before, research is key to developing quality buyer personas. Thankfully our friends at Hubspot have helped us out by creating a list of 20 questions to ask in a persona interview. These questions are organized into specific categories to make sure that you create well rounded personas for your business. It’s important to note that you don’t need to answer all of these questions. Some may not be appropriate for your target audience so add to the list or remove questions as needed. Think of them more as guidelines than a set of rules.
1) What is your job role? Your title?
2) How is your job measured?
3) What does a typical day look like?
4) What skills are required to do your job?
5) What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
6) Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
7) In which industry or industries does your company work?
8) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
9) What are you responsible for?
10) What does it mean to be successful in your role?
11) What are your biggest challenges?
12) How do you learn about new information for your job?
13) What publications or blogs do you read?
14) What associations and social networks do you participate in?
15) Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children).
16) Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?
17) Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?
18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in person)?
19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?
20) Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?
Turning the Research Into Your Persona
So you’ve done your research and collected a ton of really awesome data. But what do you do with it now? How can you break all of this data down to create a well rounded buyer persona for your business. This next step it critical in understanding your audience. Data is great and all, but unless we can digest it and make sense out of it, it really has no purpose. <– (Tweet This)
To help make your life easier, use our free buyer persona template to organize all of your research you’ve gathered about your personas. Many businesses and industries have many personas, but just start with one. Focus on the main persona for your business and take your time. No need to rush the process. This will become the base for your messaging and content, so doing a thorough job is essential.
Start with filling in the basic demographic information. While you may not have every piece of this information, you should have enough data to make educated assumptions. When you are finished, you will have a great looking power point presentation that you can share with your team. Go over all of your findings together and rework some of the areas as needed. Buyer personas are never finished. Because your persona is representing a real person, it needs to be able to change and adapt just like we do every day.
Lastly, make sure you name your persona (like Local Linda, Small Business Bob or Creative Carl), and always include a real-life image of your persona. This helps you and your team to truly envision your persona and connects your research to real life. If you need an image, Hubspot has some great free ones you can download on their site (Hubspot Royalty-free images) or you could always get a stock photo from another site. While this process can seem a little silly, it helps make your persona come to life. So have fun, let your inner creative loose and go create an awesome buyer persona. Your business will thank you!