Whether you are new to the world of marketing or have been in the game for a while, chances are you have heard of buyer personas. Perhaps you know what they are, or at least have some idea, or maybe you have no idea what on earth I’m talking about. Either way, here is a quick explanation to get you up to speed.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional depiction of your business’ ideal customer. They are based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating buyer personas, it’s important to identify how your customers research and buy. When it comes to buyer personas, the more detailed you are, the more useful they will be.
So why exactly are buyer personas important? They are integral to marketing success as they provide incredible insight that will ensure your marketing efforts are aligned with what your buyers are looking for. How? A very detailed buyer persona will help you decide where to focus your time, will help guide your product development and provide better alignment across your company. The benefit of this? You will start to attract the right visitors, leads and customers to your business. And after all, that’s what we all want, right?
Now that you know a little more about what buyer personas are, let’s go deeper and talk more about why buyer personas are important, how your business will benefit from buyer personas, how to start creating buyer personas, the difference between buyer personas and target audience and more.
To recap, buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your customers based off real data about how they research and buy your product or service. Basically, buyer personas are detailed descriptions of the different types of customers you have. And, by using this data and segmenting your customers into different personas, you can begin to attract more buyers just like them by personalising your marketing messages.
For example, say you run an online clothing store. Chances are, your customers buy from you for different reasons based on their different needs. Some customers might like the style of your clothes, while others might like how functional they are. You might have some customers that love your discounts. Already, you have 3 different personas: Stylish Sarah, Functional Fiona and Thrifty Tina.
By segmenting your customers into different groups and understanding what attracts these diverse groups to your business, you can more effectively begin to target these groups with marketing messages that are important to them. If a customer primarily buys from you because of your amazing discounts, they probably won’t be enticed by an email that talks about all the latest trends for the season. However, if you specifically targeted them with an email about your exclusive sale, chances are they’ll be on your website within a heartbeat.
Most businesses will have multiple buyer personas. However, don’t go overboard with your persona creations. It’s wise to start small and expand your personas as you begin to differentiate between your various customer types. Generally, 1 buyer persona is enough to start with. Buyer personas are a great tool to help you understand what your customers are thinking, feeling, worried about, hoping for, expecting, excited about and more.
Why Use Buyer Personas?
So why use buyer personas instead of just creating a list of demographics, psychographics, likes, dislikes and so on? Essentially, it’s much easier to think of an actual person rather than a list of information. Buyer personas are a way to better capture user types into more practical representations.
Buyer personas work for all business types. From large organisations to small companies, the automotive industry to the food industry, non-profits and beyond, buyer personas help organisations understand their customers better, which helps you sell your product or service in a more effective way. When organisations understand who their customers are, what they value and what their pain points are, you can better understand them and how your product or services fit into their life. Here are just a few additional reasons as to why buyer personas are important for every business.
Identify the Needs and Wants of Your Buyers
Buyer personas help you understand the needs and wants of your buyers. By uncovering the goals, challenges and objections of your customers, you can start determining what they need from your business and what they want from you. Understanding this is crucial for knowing how to sell to your buyers, and what you should offer them. And who knows, you might even identify ways to develop new products or services to solve other problems your customers may have.
Understand Buying Decisions
Understanding how customers go about buying from you will help you understand where, when and how to get in front of them. Perhaps you’ve developed a buyer persona who does most of their research online before approaching a company. Knowing this information will help you learn what to do in order to get on their radar early in the buying process. For example, you might create educational content that’s relevant to what they’re looking for and effectively ‘sell’ to them without directly selling to them.
Gain Insight into Their Behaviours
Developing buyer personas allows you to gain insight into where your customers spend time on the internet and outside in the real world. This will help you determine the best ways to communicate with them, how to reach new customers, what type of content you should be creating and where and how you should be promoting it.
Create Targeted Content
By understanding the wants, needs, goals and challenges of your buyer personas, you can better understand the kind of content that will attract them. This is because you have an understanding of what they value, meaning you can target your content towards those certain values and develop highly relevant content they will appreciate and relate to.
Understanding your buyer personas will help you to create segmented lists for your email marketing. If you segment your email contacts based on your buyer personas, when you are creating content that is specific to a specific persona, you can email that certain persona list and know that everyone who opens the email is going to find your content relevant and helpful. Furthermore, it’s an easy way to get valuable content in front of your customers without them having to find it themselves.
As an organisation, you may be wondering how your business will benefit from buyer personas, so let me ask you this: do you know why your customers bought from your organisation and not the competition? How did they find out about your organisation? What was it that attracted them to you? Why did they feel they could trust you? What information were they looking for when doing their research and making their buying decision?
It’s important to know how they make their buying decisions.
Most importantly, having a few in-depth buyer personas can significantly help you build a greater marketing plan, helping you specifically target your marketing campaigns and offers to the right people. So if you’re currently having trouble reaching your customers in a valuable and relevant way, now is the time to consider creating buyer personas. Here are 5 great benefits that highlight why building in-depth buyer personas is a good idea for your organisation and your customers.
1. Understand The Needs of Your Customers
Say you’re looking to buy the perfect gift for a family member or a friend. In your head you can clearly imagine their needs and wants, things they love or things they dislike. Buyer personas are essentially the same thing. They help you better understand the needs of your customer – the things they want and would love. Furthermore, knowing the needs of your customers can help you better tailor your marketing strategy towards them, and align your marketing with information your buyers find valuable.
2. Know Where You Customers Spend Time Online
Once you begin to understand the background of your buyer personas, you will be able to have a better understanding of where they spend their time online. You’ll also be able to determine where they go to get their information, and which social networks they use to keep up-to-date with their connections. This information will help you better target your content and promote it in place you know your prospects are likely to see it.
3. Generate Quality Leads
With your buyer personas, you’re able to identify what interest your customers, what kind of content topics they’re searching for and where you can find them online. But what does this mean and how does it help? Basically, it means you’re now able to better cater your marketing to the right people in the right places, which is a great opportunity to generate better quality leads.
4. Close more leads into customers
Once you understand your ideal customer through your buyer personas, your sales team will have a greater understanding of who they should spend time working on to close the sale. This is much more efficient and reduces time wasted on leads that were never going to buy in the first place. You can use marketing analytics to determine which of your leads will make the best customers and focus on the ones that are most likely to buy.
5. Product Development
Buyer personas also help you build future products or services that will help your customers. Well-defined buyer personas allow you develop products and services that are more aligned to what your customers want, which means you’re better catering to their needs.
OK, so where do you start when it comes to actually creating personas for your business? Generally, buyer personas are created through a mix of research, surveys and interviews with people who have bought from you and those who have gone through the buying process but not purchased anything. Below are some of the key questions you’ll need answers for to define your buyer persona.
In addition to these questions you need to create a list of questions that are relevant to your buyers and your industry to determine why they need your product or service, and what information they’re looking for at each stage of the buying process.
Once you have your questionnaire ready, call 5-10 customers, or people who didn’t buy and go through this questionnaire over the phone. It’s important to take note of the words they use, how they describe their need, challenges, pain points and what keywords they use to search online for solutions.
Once you have 5-6 completed surveys you can begin to build a profile of your buyer persona.
A target audience brings together common demographics traits like age, gender and geographic location to provide you with a broad summary of the type of people you’re marketing to. Buyer personas, on the other hand, offer detailed insights into your buyers’ behaviours. Let’s go a little further and look at the differences between buyer personas and target audiences.
Your target audience is a set of demographic insights that define your buyers as a group. For example, a target audience for an online clothing brand might look like this:
You can see from the above information that these are just very basic traits. They describe demographics more than actual behaviours. Other data you might include in your target audience might be gender, relationship status and home ownership – it really depends on what information is important to know based on what you’re selling. Your target audience is a summary of data, trends and some research – it isn’t a detailed breakdown of your customers’ buying process. It offers a big-picture look at who your business is targeting.
Then, we have buyer personas, which are less of a big-picture look and more of an up-close portrait of your buyers from an individual’s point of view. Your buyer personas will provide an insight into your customers’ buying process, what’s important to them during each stage of the buying process and why. Buyer personas usually include:
These are just a few of the key pieces of information you want to gather when creating buyer personas. Having buyer personas lets you create highly developed and targeted content that speaks to real people, rather than to all potential buyers in general, which generally leads to increased user engagement and conversion rates.
When it comes to effective content, one size hardly ever fits all. Therefore, to make sure your company’s content is successful at generating and nurturing leads, it’s important you deliver the right content to the right people and at the right time, which is where content mapping comes in. The goal of content mapping is to target content according the characteristics of the person who will be consuming it (this is how buyer personas help content mapping), and how close that person is to making a purchase (their lifecycle stage). We now know a lot about buyer personas, so let’s look at lifecycle stages.
The buyer persona you target with your content is only half of the content mapping equation. While you need to know who someone is, you also need to know where they are in the buying cycle (how close they are to actually buying from you). This location in the buying cycle is what’s commonly known as a lifecycle stage, which can be broken down into three stages: awareness, consideration and decision.
By using your buyer personas in conjunction with lifecycle stages, you can really be effective in targeting specific segments of your audience and create content that is relevant to, and resonates with, each of those segments,
Mapping Your Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Once you have defined your buyer personas and determined which stages of their buyer journeys are relevant to your content marketing plan, your next question probably is: how do they prefer to consume content and through what channels?
To answer these questions, you need to map the content you can deliver throughout the buyers’ journey to move people closer to your goals. Your messaging will vary at each stage, and so too might your content distribution channels (e.g. social media, email newsletter). Below are a few tips for creating content at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Here you’ll want to focus on your buyers’ pain points and not your product of brand. Think of content that is educational or inspiring, things like blog posts, guides and industry reports. This is also the stage you want to prioritise SEO because when your buyers are aware they have a problem, they’re going to be heading to Google next to begin their research.
This is arguably the most important point in the buyer’s journey because it’s where prospective customers are going to begin eliminating solutions that aren’t the right fit. That’s why now’s the perfect time to create content that shows you’re the expert in your industry. Effective types of content include: expert guides, webinars, live interactions and whitepapers that compare your features and benefits with your competitors.
At this stage of the buying process your buyers are now ready to learn more about your organisation. Share information that is product/brand specific like product features and benefits, case studies and comparison charts.