Ask most businesses who their target audience is and they’ll typically rattle off some age ranges and a rough gender split. They may even list family status or even a salary bracket if they’ve given it some thought. You may also hear the response, “Our product is for everybody!” Not many businesses invest the time needed to really get to know their ideal target audience in a way that helps them identify their customers as living, breathing human beings. Creating buyer personas (a.k.a. “avatars”) for your ideal customers is your opportunity to get to know your customers at a personal level so you can better market to them.
Creating a buyer persona means taking statistical filtering of a demographic one step further by delving deeper into your customer’s profile to create a fictional personality (you’ll even give each buyer persona a name!)
This “typical customer” and the personality you identify will help you better market to that type of person. So, how do you go about creating a buyer persona and is it worth the time? Let’s find out.
Why create a buyer persona?
A buyer persona exercise is a character creation task, but it’s based on facts and drivers for your ideal audience. It is a great way to help your business understand your audience and their pain points better. It’s also an ideal place to start when you need to identify what motivations and needs compel a customer to purchase your product or service.
Creating a buyer persona is not new, and there’s lots of research that confirms the validity of this technique. Many large businesses even use buyer personas in customer service training to help reps get a handle on common customer gripes and how to deal with them.
If you’re wondering whether it’s worth it to create a buyer persona, ask yourself these questions:
- Does your business genuinely understand the needs of its ideal audience?
- Can you list your typical customer’s common interests, traits and pain points?
- Do you know what their immediate lifestyle priorities are?
Developing detailed buyer personas for your business will help you to answer these questions. Ultimately, this means you understand and therefore can communicate better with your prospective customers. Think of it as speaking to them in their language.
Buyer Persona: Mothering Maggie
To put the creation of buyer personas into context, let’s look at an example of a travel client. The buyer persona created was named ‘Mothering Maggie’. (Now would be a good time to mention that when creating buyer personas there is an unwritten rule that you need to give them cheesy names!) Mothering Maggie represents a female between 28-40 years of age. She lives in the outer Chicago suburbs.
So we have gender, age and a rough geographic location for this customer. This is a pretty standard demographic filter, but what does it really tell us about what Mothering Maggie is looking for when she travels? To create a persona around Mothering Maggie we need more depth.
Mothering Maggie — as you can probably guess — is a mom. To be precise, she’s a mom of two children who are both under the age of 13. She is also a stay-at-home mom who’s married to the household’s breadwinner. The combination of where she’s geographically located and her financial comfort situation would suggest that her partner probably works in the city.
Now we have a much better picture of Maggie from the extra depth provided by these few details. For more detailed personas, you’ll want to know a little more: Maggie is a relatively selfless mother who takes pride in providing for her children and keeping a beautiful home. Her spending habits revolve more around the children and housewares than products for herself. With a full-time working husband and the kids’ best interests always at heart, she is most likely the planner and overall decision maker when it comes to family vacations.
For Maggie, trips must be child friendly and effortless to organize. This is important because then she gets a break, too. Since the family has a comfortable financial lifestyle, cost is a lower priority than convenience and booking a trustworthy brand to travel with. She is also more likely to book an all-inclusive travel package and roll airport transfers and other add-ons into a single booking as opposed to building her own travel inventory.
As you can see, the deeper you go the better you understand your potential customer and can tailor your service, products and digital marketing to their trigger points. If we were a travel company with lots of inquiries from customers fitting the Mother Maggie buyer persona profile, and our main marketing message focus was on being cheap, would our marketing match this customer’s needs? No. Understanding our customer by developing this persona makes it easy to identify where we are going wrong and what our customers actually want from us. We can then change our messaging to better resonate with our clients and address their needs, giving us more sales.
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The need for multiple personas
Brands or businesses with very niche offerings may only need to create two or three different buyer personas. Businesses with a greater range of offerings or tailored solutions will want to create more personas to genuinely capture an accurate view of the prospect customer pool. It’s best to start small and prioritize your buyer persona creation based on your most valuable audience segments.
Look how buyer personas can influence digital marketing and content development
Having a deeper understanding of your prospective customers makes it considerably easier to create relevant content that can genuinely resonate with your different groups of customers. Knowing your audience’s pain points and how they relate to what you’re offering will help you to establish a suitable tone of voice for your brand. It also means you’ll be able to select and prioritize your content creation to catch their attention and hold on to it.
How do you start building buyer personas?
The best place to start creating your buyer personas is with data. If you’re an established business, you should have plenty of data from your existing customers to draw on. Look at the type of people that are buying from you, what they’re buying and then who they are. Where in the world are they buying from? How old are they? Which products are your best sellers and what does this tell you about your customers?
If you’re a large brand or you have many different departments within your business, play it smart and prioritize your buyer personas. Look at your most valuable customers and create those buyer personas first. This isn’t simply selecting the largest basket value – you also want to consider customers who have long-term value and regularly purchase products and services from you. Start by creating long-term, high-value customers first then build outwards from there.
Data alone will help you get a demographic profile together along with some insight on top products, but this is far from a complete persona. Now comes the tricky part — the investigation. You know the basic vitals of the customer you want to know better, now it’s time to ask all the important questions. (Yes, that means interviewing them.) Get out there and ask these people what makes them tick. If they do buy from you, why? What are their primary drivers and concerns related to your business, product or industry?
Emailing surveys to your existing customer base and sales pipeline is an easy way to start filling in the blanks. To get a higher response rate, you may want to provide an incentive, such as a prize or a coupon, for people who complete your survey. Social media is also another great way to gather this type of information. Use your organic social media reach first by reaching out to your existing fans and followers and then supplement with paid social advertising if needed. (Given the targeting capabilities of most social media platforms, you can be very precise about who you approach.)
Creating buyer personas provide valuable insights and a greater understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach and convert. Having buyer personas to refer to can play a major part in adjusting your digital marketing approach to be more in line with your potential customers’ needs. This means more conversions, more sales and a more loyal customer base.
What do you think?
Have you ever created buyer personas? Do you find them a useful part of your digital marketing strategy? We’d love to hear what you think and what your experiences of buyer persona development look like. Let us know in the comments!