What is a buyer persona?
The key to attracting the right people to your business is being attractive to them. A buyer persona is a fictional character you create to represent each of your ideal customer types. Once produced they can be used to guide your strategy, helping ensure you reach the right audience, in the right way, with the right message.
Far from being simply a job title in a certain demographic of business, buyer personas take an in-depth look at what may be influencing a potential buyer’s decision making. Pulling together buyer personas is essential if you are to truly understand your target audience, what their needs and preferences are, how they prefer to communicate, and where they go for information. Importantly, they can help you pinpoint how best to influence your potential buyers.
Buyer personas are essential for any marketing strategy and should shape everything you go on to do. They can help you create effective and engaging marketing campaigns that are based on exactly the type of buyers you want to attract.
Why use buyer personas?
Having clearly defined and documented buyer personas will help you to:
- Get to know your target market better
- Create a consistent tone of voice in your communication
- Create tailored marketing campaigns
- Achieve better company alignment
- Generate more high quality leads
- Close more sales
How do you create detailed buyer personas?
Here are the steps you need to follow to develop your buyer personas:
- Define your buyer personas
The best starting point when trying to define your buyer personas is to look at your existing client database and ask yourself the following questions:
- Which clients are bringing in the most profit?
- Which clients are bringing in the most revenue?
- Which clients do we enjoy working with the most?
Put a list together of your ideal customers and break down the information that you hold about them. See what all those ideal customers have in common and how they might be grouped.
The different types of customers that emerge from this exercise will be a good starting point for developing your buyer personas.
What to do if you don’t have any clients yet
If you’re a start-up and don’t have an existing client base, then research as much as you can. In this instance, your buyer personas will begin as quite a lot of assumption and guesswork, but as you move forward, you should check those assumptions and update your personas accordingly.
You could also reach out to people in your network who may be aiming at a similar audience to you. Forming mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses who aren’t in direct competition but who want to target similar buyers can be very beneficial in many ways.
Form an idea of what your buyer personas are and once you have some customers, find out as much about them as you can and work hard to really understand their needs and challenges.
- Do your research
Many marketers take a passive approach when developing their buyer personas and will start out by trying to imagine what their target audience is like, what they want and what their challenges are. However, there is a much simpler way – speak to your target audience!
Reaching out and speaking to the people your business is trying to attract is the surest way to learn what their needs and goals actually are. There are many ways in which you can do this – conducting short interviews being one of the simplest. If you have the budget for it, then consider paying an external consultant to run a small focus group for you with some members of your target audience. They should provide you with an impartial view and a professionally created and written report containing valuable insights.
Once you have conducted interviews with your ideal customers and have gathered loads of information about their challenges and goals, pull it all together in a usable document. Create your buyer personas in a format that can be accessed by your whole team and distribute it across the company. Make sure everyone agrees and understands what the personas are and how they can be used.
Everyone within the business needs to be aware of the types of people and companies the business wants to attract. Each team will have different insights and ideas, which can all be useful in creating your personas. To start putting the information together, you can use our free buyer persona template
- Revisit your personas regularly
Make sure you keep your buyer personas up to date. You may discover new information about an existing buyer persona, or a new product might need to be targeted at a new type of buyer completely. For your buyer personas to continue to be useful and effective, you need to treat them as a dynamic document that is revisited and revised regularly.
What information should you include in your personas?
If you are wondering what exactly needs to go into your buyer personas and how much detail is required, then you can use this example framework:
- Name – Give each one of your buyer personas a name that is memorable. Often people use a first name and a job title as their buyer persona name, for example, “IT Ian” or “Marketing Meg”
- Personal details – Flesh out your buyer persona by providing some personal details. Are they male or female, married or unmarried? Do they have children? Where do they live? What is their household income?
- Education – What is your buyer persona’s educational background? Did they go to university? What might they have studied? Were they required to do additional professional qualifications?
- Personal interests – Think about your buyer persona’s personality and social life. What are their favourite pastimes? How do they spend their time outside work? What media do they follow? What websites do they visit? What clubs and organisations are they part of?
- Career history – What is your buyer persona’s career history in their current role? Have they been at their position for a while, or are they fairly new? What likely career path did they follow to get to where they are, and what did they need to achieve to get there?
- Employer – Provide information about the company in which your buyer persona works. What is the industry, size, revenue, and location?
- Job role – Outline your buyer persona’s current job role. Include information on what their key responsibilities are, how senior they are, who they report to, and whether they manage a team.
- Skills – Describe what professional skills your buyer personas have and need in their roles, what training they have received, and what they do for their professional development.
- Typical day – One of the best methods to get a better understanding of your target audience is to put yourself in their shoes – imagine what a day in their life will look like.
- Successes – It is key to understand what your buyer personas’ goals are since your job should be to help them achieve those goals. Understand how their success is measured, what evidence and figures they collect, and how they present that to their team or management.
- Challenges – What are the problems that your buyer personas face in their jobs, how do they feel about them, and what are they doing to overcome them?
- Preferences – How do your buyer personas prefer to interact? Do they prefer to speak in person, do they want to be reached via email or on the phone, or do they prefer to seek out help on their own only when they need it? Overall, what would their ideal sales experience look like?
- Research – Where do your buyer personas go for help when facing a problem, where do they look for information or recommendations on certain solutions? Who do they ask, what networks are they part of, what online and print publications do they read?
What is the buyer journey?
The buyer journey is the process that any buyer goes through when making a purchasing decision. It is a path made up of four different stages – Awareness, Consideration, Decision and Post-purchase.
Your marketing efforts need to reflect this journey, so when creating a marketing strategy – especially when looking at your content marketing planning – it is essential that you have mapped out the buyer journey. That is how you will ensure you are answering all the questions that buyers may have at each stage.
Awareness stage – At this stage, potential buyers will be aware of a problem or opportunity that your product can help them with. At this point, prospects looking at your website, social media and blog are interested in general information regarding the problem or opportunity. They aren’t yet thinking about buying your product. The most suitable content formats at this stage are eBooks, whitepapers, blogs and reports providing neutral top level information that will help buyers identify possible problems and opportunities.
Consideration stage – By this stage buyers will have put their finger on what it is they are struggling with and will have started researching solutions in more detail. Here it is important to provide accurate, factual data that helps buyers understand their options. At the consideration stage buyers are still not ready to buy, so it is important to keep providing detailed information about your solution, without actively trying to sell it. Marketing formats that work well at this stage of the buyer’s journey are technical reports, comparison whitepapers, expert guides, webinars and in person meetings.
Decision stage – In the decision making stage the buyer is deciding which supplier they will work with. This is when you need to show them why they should choose you over your competitors. Buyers will be trying to get a good feel for your experience and what it may be like to work with you. Formats such as case studies, client testimonials, product literature and live demos will all be helpful here.
Post-purchase stage – Once the buyer has signed a contract with you, they enter the post-purchase stage. Many marketers wrongly believe that marketing ends once a sale has been closed, but this shouldn’t be the case. You should take advantage of every chance you have to delight your customers and keep them happy.
Don’t forget that the best marketing channel around is word of mouth. Happy customers can become your most powerful marketing tools. At the post-purchase stage, show genuine interest in how your new customer finds the process of working with you. Provide useful content and guidance to ensure they are making the most out of your product and offer troubleshooting support if it’s needed.
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