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How_well_do_you_know_your_audience-.jpgSuccessful inbound marketing and sales campaigns must be built on a solid foundation. The best place to start is to define your target audience. We do this by creating "buyer personas." A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. (HubSpot).  While there is a lot of good content about personas online, most of the execution in creating personas is less than satisfactory. So how can we create buyer personas that go deeper than basic demographics and assumptions? Watch the video below to learn more.

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Video Transcript: 

Hey, what's going on everybody? I'm Ryan Shelley and you're watching the SMA marketing minute. In this episode I want to talk about buyer personas and why, in my opinion, we don't really do enough homework when developing them and trying to understand who our target audience is. For those of you who don't know, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional character based off the characteristics and traits of our ideal customer. Basically it's our target audience. It's who we're trying to start a conversation with. Marketing is just a conversation, that's all it is. It's a business trying to open up a conversation with another business or an individual about products and services that it has, that it hopes will make the other party's life better. We use marketing to share with others what we do and why we do it.

The reason defining your audience is important is regardless of what we would like to think, our product isn't for everybody. But it is for somebody. Defining that person is the key to effective marketing.

Getting started with trying to figure out who your personas are, the best place to look is your current customers. Look who you are currently doing business with. Understand what kind of makes them, them. Why do they come and shop at your store? Why do they engage at your site online? What is it about you that drives them to you and then what are some commonalities that exist between all of your customers? Do they live in a certain area? Is it localized business? Do they all like a certain type of dog or do they all like a sweatshirt? What is it about them that makes them come to you? That makes them part of your tribe and your group, the people who shop for your products and services. Starting to write out what these common traits are is going to help you understand who your clients are.

Also think about who you like to do business with. Maybe you've got a subset of clients that are really hard to work with. Maybe you start to veer away from them and towards the people you do like to work with, what are the things that draw you to those customers?

If you don't have a customer base yet, look at your possible customer base. Look at other businesses that are in kind of the field or niche that you're going into. The types of things that they do to drive customers in and how their customers react. Now every business is unique so just copying someone else's model isn't necessarily going to work for you. But you can learn from their model and learn from their audience to understand a little bit about how you could possibly share your message with a similar group of people.

Demographics have drastically changed in the United States. If we base all of what we think about our personas on assumptions we can come up short. Family dynamics are changing, education is changing, the economy as a whole is completely different. So basing our beliefs on assumptions from the past is not a very good thing to do. We need to do our homework to understand how people are living in our certain audience, what they do for fun, who they interact with, who the influences are within that community and begin to understand a little bit deeper of why they do what they do.

We're all emotional. We're human beings - it's just part of our nature. Whether we like to show emotion or not we still are extremely emotional and all our decisions really come down to meeting emotional needs. Understanding the emotional makeup of your personas and defining the personality types can actually help you go even further in your search of understanding them and helping to create messages that resonate with them. You don't want to take a message that is very bold and eccentric and put it in front of somebody who's an introvert. That's going to push them away. You want to be softer, you want to be more subtle, you want to help make things more intimate so they don't feel so overwhelmed. This is the type of tactic that's really going to help you contextualize your message a little bit better and make it even more of a personal connection. Because again, marketing is about communication and communication is in the hands of the communicator. If your audience doesn't understand, it's not their fault, it's your fault.

To understand a persona we really need to put ourselves in their shoes. This is where empathy really comes in. Empathy is a really hot topic around the web and people talk about leading with empathy and using empathy but sometimes we can feel, or put ourselves in somebody else's shoes and still lack compassion. Just because you can empathize with a person doesn't mean you are necessarily going to draw them into communication with you or create a relationship. You have to act on that empathy. You have to take a bold step into that person's life and actually show them that you care. Marketing isn't about manipulation or lying it's about telling a story. Real marketers tell good, truthful stories that connect with people. It's about creating that connection.

We're in this connection economy where we have so much content. People are always reaching out to try to share more and more and more but it's the ones that are authentic that are going to last and stand the test of time. The key is not just using empathy, but acting on empathy. When you see a need that your prospect, or your lead, or your customer has, stepping into their shoes and actually feeling the pain that they feel. Trying to walk through what it would be like looking for a solution for that. Then looking for what you would want somebody to say to you if you were in that situation.

By using empathy mapping, and trying to put yourself in their shoes and seeing the world through their eyes you can begin to put a plan together of how to reach your target audience in a more personalized way.

One other thing that we use here at SMA marketing is "buyers are personas too". We like to see everything that we do as interacting with human beings. Our motto is "Personalized marketing for a personalized economy". We believe in taking a one-on-one approach with our audience. They're not just numbers or leads in a system, they're human beings that need help. We believe we have services to help them but before we can effectively reach them we have to know who they are. It's like trying to shoot at a target that you're not even looking at. By defining our audiences and going beyond our basic demographics we start to think the way they think, we feel the way they feel, and we try to talk to them and meet their needs on a more personal human level.

I challenge you when you're doing your buyer persona research, your buyer persona homework, to dig a little bit deeper. To push yourself. To actually stand in that other persons shoes and the types of action you would want to see as a result.

I hope you guys found this helpful and informational. As always we have great content on our blog at blog.smamarketing.net and we'll see you next time. Until then, happy marketing!

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Ryan Shelley, CPBI

By Ryan Shelley, CPBI

Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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