A step by step guide to defining your buyer persona
Partner @ Demandbay
Do you think you could sell a fur coat to a vegan? Or a pet grooming session to a person with no pets? Exactly, probably not. Why? Well, they absolutely don’t have a need, a challenge, or a problem that your offer solves. Your solution does simply nothing for them. In other words, they don’t fit the profile of your buyer persona.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is actually a semi-fictional person, with all their characteristics. When defining it, you create a story that includes demographics, behavior (patterns, habits), interests, challenges, needs, goals, etc. This information is gathered based on data and research, and it’s essential for an effective inbound marketing strategy. Here’s why.
Why is a Buyer Persona Important for Your Business
If you want to connect with someone on a personal level, you really have to understand them. It’s the same in business. Understanding all aspects of a person will help you learn who they are and how to talk to them in order to achieve your goal - creating demand. Understanding what resonates with your customers, what their problems are, and how your solution helps them, will guide your marketing and sales strategy. With these insights you’ll be able to:
Craft a message that speaks to your customers - find your message-market fit
Personalize messaging based on different buyer personas
Create content that aligns with your customers' stage in the buyer journey
Present your solution in the right way to show how it solves your customers' problems
Help your sales team develop the best language to approach and aid your customers
Make prospecting more efficient and save marketing and sales resources
Besides marketing and sales, a buyer persona can and should influence all parts of your business in some way (product development, resource allocation, etc.) Having customers' needs and challenges guide all your business decisions has proven to be the best approach. In fact, 82% of companies reported being able to improve the quality of their value proposition by using buyer personas. Their website traffic increased by 210% and organic search traffic increased by 55%.
Who Should Have a Defined Buyer Persona?
If you’re selling a product or a service, a defined buyer persona will help you understand what drives your customers to purchase. No matter which industry you are in, understanding your customers is never a bad idea. It will help you optimize how you target your customers and ultimately give better results.
Luckily, creating a buyer persona is not such a daunting task as it may sound even if you’re not a marketing expert. Here are the steps you need to take.
Creating a Buyer Persona
With a carefully crafted, step-by-step plan, you’ll be able to define a buyer persona pretty quickly. In the following section, we’ll provide a way for you to create your own buyer persona template, so you can fill it out with information related to your offer.
Understand your existing audience
If your business already exists and operates, you can use this to your advantage. Look at your existing customers, referrals, and even prospects to see who your audience is. You need a mix of internal interviews, data collection, research, and surveying to gain enough insight. Here are some tips on doing audience research.
The first step in understanding your audience is talking to your teams who directly (sales) and indirectly (marketing) communicate with your audience. Here are some questions to ask your sales team:
What type of customers do you deal with on a regular basis?
Is there one or more types/can you group customers?
What is the reason our customers choose us over our competition?
Why do they decide to make a purchase at all?
What are some of the most frequent questions they ask?
What are the most frequent praises/complaints?
All of these insights you will later use when creating your buyer persona. On the other hand, you can ask your marketing department this:
What is our current marketing strategy approach, and how effective is it?
Which of our campaigns have been the most successful?
Which topics interest our customers the most?
Where do you see most engagement?
Additionally, you can talk to the customer service team as well. They will also be able to give you insight into the most common problems and concerns about your offer, as well as challenges the customers face when using it.
Take into account any sales and marketing reports and online tools data such as Google Analytics, social media analytics, marketing campaign insights, etc. You’re looking to find information about your customers, prospects, and referrals that include: age, sex, location, job, social status, financial status, income, education, language, stage of life, challenges, pain points, needs, and goals, etc.
You should also get more technical and discover all the details on how your customers are using your website, what are your landing pages, and exit pages, what type of content your customers prefer, what they view the most, etc.
You can survey your existing audience by scheduling a call, having a form to fill out on your website, or asking them a couple of questions in-store. There are multiple ways. This is a great way to validate the insights you gained from internal conversations.
It’s important you craft the questions you ask carefully so you can get the most insight in the shortest amount of time. During this process, you’ll be able to collect their personal answers which is the easiest way to determine challenges, pain points, needs, etc.
First, you need to choose who you’re going to talk to. Ideally, you would include your customers, but also people who chose not to buy from you or turned to your competitors. This will tell you more about how prospects evaluate your offer.
Once you determine who you’re going to interview, it’s time to ask the questions. Generally, we can group questions into several categories: demographics, career questions (industry-specific questions), daily life questions, habits as a consumer, questions about pain points and challenges, goals questions, etc.
Bonus tip: This list isn’t conclusive, nor do you have to have all of this information defined for your buyer persona. The selection of information will be determined by your business’s needs. For example, you can add a group of questions related to the family and their dynamics if this is relevant to your offer.
Let’s look into each individual group of questions and list out what you can use.
What is your age/sex/gender?
Where do you live?
Do you rent or own?
What is your educational background?
Do you have children?
What is your income level?
What is your marital status?
What industry do you work in?
What is your current job?
Do you have any aspirations for a higher job level?
How long have you been working at your current position?
What challenges do you come across in your industry?
Tell me about the type of sales is preferred in your industry?
What type of product/service do you offer?
What are your customers' most frequently asked questions/praises/concerns?
Questions about daily life
Describe your typical day
How much time do you spend at home/at work/with your family/free time?
What do you do in your free time?
Do you own a vehicle/how do you use it/which type/why that type?
What do you watch on TV?
Do you listen to music/which kind/where?
Do you have social media/how much do you use it?
What do you do with your children for fun?
How do you choose to spend quality time with your spouse?
How do you find what you need to buy?
How do you learn more about an offer that interests you?
What online/offline resources you use when researching an offer?
Where do you shop?
How do you shop (online/offline)?
Do you prefer online/offline shopping and why?
Do you ask for recommendations and who?
What is the best campaign you can think of?
What is the criterion that helps you decide between two seemingly equal products (price, bundle, deal, customer service, sales experience etc.)?
When you splurge, what do you buy?
What do you try to save on the most?
Pain points and challenges
What frustrates you the most in a day?
What is a complete deal-breaker when you’re buying something?
Have you ever had a bad customer service experience? Describe it.
What is the most stressful part of being you?
What angers you?
Do you dislike anything about your job?
What do you worry about?
What is preventing you from reaching your goals?
What are you most proud of?
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Do you have any goals set? What are they?
Do you set your goals and plan how you will reach them?
What are you doing right now to reach your next goal?
Is there something that can help you reach your goals?
What To Do if You Don’t Have an Audience
If you’re starting from scratch, you won’t have customers to interview, or any data/reports to look at. But there are still many ways to create a buyer persona. You need to develop a hypothesis and test it out until you reach your target audience.
The first thing to do is look at your competition. Check their website, look at their marketing campaigns - who are they talking to? What seems to be bringing them the most success? Have they excluded a part of the market that you may think would be a great target audience for your offer? With all this in mind, create several assumptions. Then find people to interview. You can survey them through various websites that offer this service. Or you can offer incentives for participation. In any case, try to gather enough people so you can see a pattern emerge.
Compiling Insights and Writing
The part that takes the most time and work is now done. You have pages and pages of qualitative and quantitative data that now need to be sorted, grouped, and used to describe your buyer persona. Here are some of the best ways to approach your next task.
Your buyer persona will be used by your entire organization. It will guide decisions in almost every department, regardless of the size. Therefore, you need to present all this information in a way that everyone will understand. What has shown to be the best practice is to tell a story about your buyer persona, which includes all the relevant information for your business.
To do this, you first need to organize all the data you have. This can be done in different ways, but make sure that it makes sense to you. The goal is to start seeing patterns and commonalities among customers so you can determine the profile of your ideal customer. For example, you can divide all info you collected (numbers and descriptions) by category, and have demographics under one roof, consumer habits under the other, etc.
Decide on the Types and Number of Buyer Personas
After organizing your data, patterns will start emerging. At this point, you can decide how many buyer personas you will have. There’s no magic number to go for. You can have 1 or 10, depending on your business needs. But we recommend starting with a smaller number and you can expand easily later.
You also need to decide on how to segment your buyer personas. You can do so by industry, job title, or any other category which you find suitable. However, what we find most useful is to divide personas by pain points/challenges and goals. It doesn’t make sense to have 3 personas for 3 different industries if all of them encounter the same challenges and you can help them all in the same way.
Create a Story about Your Buyer Persona
After you have made these important decisions, it’s time to write. Start by giving your personas a name, a job title, and maybe even attach an image. Then fill out all the relevant information and try to tell a story to make the persona as realistic as possible.
Updating your personas
Personas are people - therefore, they are dynamic, ever-evolving, and changing constantly. Your business needs to keep up with that. As you grow, you will discover more information about your core customers.
While your company is still in the early stages, revisiting buyer personas at least once a month ensures you keep up with significant changes. Once you notice that your buyer persona profiles became more stable, you can increase the time between reviews. However, make sure you revisit your buyer personas at least once a year and check if they are still aligned with your goals.
There are several situations in which you should consider updating or changing your personas:
You’re not seeing success with your current personas
You changed your offer substantially
There was a change in a company structure
You discovered potential in another part of the market
Getting Your Buyer Personas to the Next Level
Now that you have a buyer persona (or several) created, you have defined your core ideal customer. But remember, buyer personas are people. Even similar people tend to be different in many aspects. And they constantly evolve. This is where micro-personas jump in.
Micro-personas capture these differences within the same type of customer. Whether they are at a different stage in life, prefer different means of communication, or their challenges are slightly different, micro-personas can present that distinction. Here’s an example of micro and macro personas for a freelancing platform:
Freelancer Fred is a self-employed worker in web design whose main goal is to keep himself busy and maintain the constant influx of work opportunities so that he can alleviate the worry of being left without income.
A: Beginner Fred: inexperienced in the freelancer space, doesn’t yet know how to access clients and all the ins and outs of freelancing. They’re looking for a platform that can provide as many details and reviews about the client, as well as freelancing tips on the way.
B: Fully-Booked Fred: experienced in the freelancer space with a long portfolio of successful projects behind him. They’re looking for a platform to display their amazing work so far and a large enough high-quality client base.
C: Leader Fred: highly experienced in their niche, takea on leadership and managerial positions in the web design space. They’re looking for a platform where they can find such long-term opportunities.
Another step further when creating a buyer persona is actually creating a “negative” buyer persona as well. As the name suggests, this is the opposite of your ideal customer - they can’t benefit from your offer so you don’t want to sell or market to them. Having this profile defined will save your business a lot of resources and improve prospecting.
Buyer Persona Examples
There is work to be done when defining a buyer persona, but it is completely doable even for beginner marketers. To get a better idea of what your buyer persona should look like, here are a couple of examples.
Example 1: Working Parent Parker
This persona is created by a B2C food delivery service providing fresh and healthy meals for families with children, including the delivery service.
This company is bringing back invaluable time to parents to spend with their children, instead of spending it in the kitchen. Therefore, their buyer persona has challenges and needs that this offer can meet.
Example 2: CMO Sandra
This persona is created by a B2B photo and video studio which offers original visual material of travel destinations and travelers’ experiences to luxury travel agencies who are looking for unique content for their web presentation.
As you can see, B2B buyer personas may contain different information than B2C. Additionally, B2B buyer personas are usually a part of a wider, company-related ideal customer profile. So what is the difference between an ideal customer profile and a buyer persona?
ICP in the B2B context is a fictitious ideal company that would benefit the most from your offer. For example, an ideal company profile in our case is a luxury travel agency. Note the “luxury” part. The studio that offers these services probably has luxury prices, but also offers luxury content in return. They have experience with luxury aesthetics and have the equipment to produce content that’s up to industry standards. Therefore, they only target businesses that have the need and the budget for this type of service.
However, since the offer is pitched to a living person, not a company as a whole, having buyer personas in a B2B context is useful. It helps you find the right person within your ICP to talk to in order to make a sale.
Evaluating Success of Your Buyer Persona
As always in marketing, we need to determine which key performance indicators to look at when we make a change, test out or introduce something new. When it comes to your buyer personas, you need to make sure that you’re not missing a crucial persona for your business. You may even determine that an aspect you defined was not understood adequately. Here are some of the KPIs to look at:
Tracking marketing and sales qualified leads
Revenue you get from a buyer persona
Metric connected to your website (traffic, unique visitors, acquisition etc.)
Besides numbers, talking to your marketing and sales teams will always provide invaluable insight into the effectiveness of your buyer personas.
Reaching your customers on a deeper level is the key to a successful marketing and social strategy. Knowing what they need and how you can help them will help you save your resources while ensuring better results for your business. Let’s recap once again. With a defined buyer persona you will:
Create better and more effective content that targets the right audience
Improve prospecting and save invaluable resources
Make your marketing campaigns more efficient
Help your sales team achieve their goals
Help your customer service find the right language when talking to customers
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