“Know your customer!” It’s an accepted wisdom that we’ve all heard at one time or another, and we all know it’s pretty important to the success (or otherwise) of our business.
But how many of us can truly say we live by it? Do we really know our customers – who they are, what they want, and what shapes their buying decisions?
If your answer is ‘no,’ then creating buyer personas may be the quickest and most effective way for you to change that.
Buyer personas can provide a solid, data-driven foundation to your sales and marketing efforts – from the production of tailored content, through to lead generation, increased sales and boosts in customer loyalty.
In this article, we’ll explain what buyer personas are, why you need them, and how to go about creating them.
What’s a buyer persona?
HubSpot defines a buyer persona as ‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.’
In other words, it’s an archetype – a person, not entirely real, but not entirely fake – made up by trends and patterns you’ve gathered from studying your real customers.
As opposed to a simple, somewhat faceless ‘target customer,’ your buyer personas have names, genders, ages and even professions. They have a clear financial situation, purpose, maybe even a level of education. They also have particular interests, ambitions and shopping habits.
For a good example, let me introduce you to HubSpot’s example buyer personas…
Why should you create buyer personas?
The information that goes into creating a buyer persona really helps to personalize your target customer, building a clear picture of the real people who buy your products or services.
This improved understanding, in turn, leads to many other significant benefits.
- Meet the needs of each Micro-Segment. Creating buyer personas helps you move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. It’s unusual that one buyer persona will fit across your entire customer base, and by identifying a number of particular segments of your audience, you can ensure you’re able to meet the specific needs and interests of each segment.
- Create more appealing content. Increasing your understanding of your customer gives you a far greater opportunity to provide them with content that’s relevant and useful. Of course, this is highly beneficial for your customer relationships. But, as an added bonus, it can also grow your social shares and back-links, making your content much more appealing to search engines.
- Improve your reputation. High-quality, targeted content and communications that delight your customers can have a huge impact on your reputation and your standing as an industry authority.
- Win customer hearts and minds (and boost sales!) By better understanding your customers’ motivations, concerns and interests, you give yourself the best possible chance to win their hearts and minds – a crucial part of more complex sales cycles. You’ll be able to consistently speak in the right language, directly address any recurring stumbling blocks, and talk up the most attractive selling points. This gives you a tremendous advantage in trying to generate and close sales.
- Add consistency to your marketing strategy. You simply can’t overstate the power of consistency in marketing. Buyer personas help you determine what information your audience is looking for, where and when you should deliver it to them for maximum impact, and how they prefer to engage with your business.
- Generate higher quality leads. Once you’re set on your buyer personas, you have a clear and actionable profile to seek out and prospect. This should give you some new ideas in terms of lead generation, and the fact that these leads are targeted means they’ll, in all likelihood, be higher quality. Focusing on high-quality leads is far more efficient than a scattergun approach – it can free up the time of your sales team so, instead of speculating, they’re able to concentrate on nurturing relationships that are likely to generate sales.
How to create buyer personas
Creating buyer personas requires a certain investment of time and energy. The last thing you want to do is rush through the process and end up with inaccurate profiles – do this and you run the risk of addressing the wrong people, alienating your real customer base.
Buyer personas need to be based on actionable insights. Stating the obvious, or making assumptions, just doesn’t cut the mustard.
You may already have some information in your database that can form part of your personas. But, at the same time, not every bit of information you already have (or will gather in future) is going to be useful. The best personas are fairly simple, and they avoid making obvious statements or including information that isn’t particularly relevant.
Some useful elements to include
- Job titles and functions, professional challenges and goals
- Firmographics – industry, location, customer size, status, structure, verticals
- Demographics and Background – age, gender, family status, income
- Personality – interests, hobbies, motivations and passions
- Goals and Challenges – what are they looking to achieve, and what obstacles do they face?
There are a number of ways to gather this kind of information. The most obvious way to do so is by modelling your existing customer data. You may find that short interviews are the best way to go, or you may choose to carry out focus groups or surveys.
However you choose to gather the data, make sure you’re led by the data. Review the insights you find and seek out any recurring trends or patterns; these – rather than your preconceptions – are what should form the basis of your buyer personas.
As we’ve previously mentioned, you’ll often end up with a few different personas, but if you’re just starting out, keep them to a minimum; you can always add more later. Once you’re done, validate these personas with the stakeholders of your business, and then roll them out.
- Give your personas names, and use them when you’re making decisions.
- Define content topics and messaging for each persona
- Map out the buying cycle of your buyer personas, and address their pain points and motivations to purchase in alignment with that cycle.
And, one final (but crucially important) point – don’t forget to keep your buyer personas up to date. Your business constantly evolves, and so do your customers and their needs. As the old saying goes, if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse!
Although buyer personas take time and effort to produce, the value of ‘putting a face’ to your customer more than outweighs that investment. They’re a valuable way to segment your audience, tailor your content, and always keep the customer at the heart of all your decision-making.
Here at Wheelhouse Advisors we’re a strategic marketing service, using advanced analytics to help you discover your highest potential opportunities to deliver success. Whether you need some help creating buyer personas, or you’re just looking to identify opportunities, drive revenue or cut costs, we’d love to hear from you.