Effective marketing is about hitting the right people with the right message at the right time. To be successful, you need to have a deep understanding of your target customers and what makes them tick – from who they are, to where they go and what media they consume.
Buyer personas take this process to a whole new level and can help you develop a far more in depth picture of who you are aiming at. In simple terms, they are a detailed, fictional description of a person who represents a specific customer group within in your target market.
For example, if your product or service is software based and your ideal client is a business turning over £10M+ with its own IT department, then your buyer personas may include:
‘Tony, aged 40+, IT Director with over 10 years’ experience, married with kids, likes technology but not overly keen on social media. He reports directly to the CEO and his goals are directly linked to the wider company goals. His key challenges are minimising down time, ensuring systems are kept up-to-date and protected, and motivating his team.’
When it comes to content marketing, taking an approach that is driven by these buyer personas is key. The tricky part lies in producing strong and accurate definitions in the first place.
Defining your buyer personas
Many marketers will use a passive strategy to develop buyer personas. They may start by trying to put themselves in their customers’ shoes, to think what they would want, what their problems may be and how they might find information.
But there is a much simpler and more effective way to go about it and that is making a switch to a more active approach – interviewing them!
Actually talk to real people and ask the questions you’re trying to answer. It can be a truly enlightening experience and you are likely to be surprised by the answers – while finding out you may have misjudged or wrongly assumed things.
Here’s how to go about it:
Existing client database
Take a good look at your database and segment it in as many different ways as possible. What you’re aiming to do here is to dig into the numbers and find out:
- Which customers are bringing in the most revenue?
- Which customers are bringing in the most profit?
- Which customers are bringing in the easiest profit/revenue? (often this ties to the ones you will really enjoy working with)
After you’ve gathered together all the relevant info for your particular product or service, then break it down even further. Pinpoint the clients you wish you had more of and analyse them in terms of their similarities. What do they have in common?
Finding personas among your clients
Once you have a list of these highly-prized clients it’s time to figure out what kind of personas are at work there – who first found your product, who purchased it and who now uses your product. Be aware that depending on your type of business, these points may all be covered off by one single person, or they may be covered by lots of different people!
Map out their personas
Taking your key persona questions – such as personal demographics, work related info, what a day in their life looks like, the challenges and problems they face, what issues you can solve for them, where they get information, how you help them – first try to answer the questions for yourself.
Then identify at least two different people per persona among your existing top clients who you think fit the profile. You’re now ready to contact them and ask if they would mind sparing a short amount of their time for an interview. Depending on your relationship with them, this could end up being a short and sweet 15 minute phone chat, or you could use it as an opportunity to strength a relationship even further by offering to take them out for lunch for a more in depth chat. Here is a handy template to help you research and document your buyer personas.
- Conduct the interview
Explain to your clients what the interview is for and that you are trying to understand your ideal customer fit even better. Keep the whole thing short and to the point. Ask as many open ended questions as possible and ideally record the interview if they are happy for you to do so. If that’s not an option then make sure you take detailed notes, or even better have someone with you to take them while you concentrate on asking the questions.
Thank the client immediately after the interview and once again with a short email acknowledging how valuable their input was. Giving up time for someone is a big thing in today’s world, so make sure you let them speak and keep things on track by sticking to asking your questions, so you make full use of the time.
Your overall aim is to find out as much data as possible, to help you define their particular persona.
Using the information you uncover
The interview may have been a bit of an eye opener for you. Often the things we think we know aren’t the same as the reality. Or you may find you have nailed it perfectly. But it’s still good to get confirmation from a real person and you’re likely to have unearthed some hidden gems you hadn’t thought of before. Either way, you now hopefully have information you can use to better flesh out your personas.
If you have interviewed several people falling under the same persona but they have different demographics (which would be the most help to you when choosing who to approach) then pick one to focus on with your content.
You could create a combination of all of them if possible. It doesn’t really matter, the most important thing about this whole exercise is having a clear picture in your mind of an actual person you want to address with your content.
What to do when you don’t have customers yet
If you’re a start-up and in the beginning stages of building your business then you probably won’t have an existing client database to dig into. So what can you do?
While you will for the most part be confined to guess work, you could try and find people in your network who may be a close match to the personas you want to reach. If you have built up some sort of relationship then interviewing them may be possible. As soon as you deal with real clients however, make it an important goal to truly understand them, who they are, which ones are the good ones and where and how to find more of them.