Conventional wisdom used to hold that buyer personas were something only large businesses needed to bother with.
Small and mid-sized companies often didn’t (and still don’t) develop buyer personas, for a variety of reasons. They’re time-consuming, for one thing, and some managers feel that time spent on a buyer persona could be better spent actually selling.
For another, they can be very difficult to do correctly. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself: you sit down, ready to create your first buyer persona, when you realize that you know a lot less about your customers than you thought you did. Naturally, this can be a disheartening feeling.
What do you do with this feeling? Do you tamp it down and switch to working on something else – analyzing data from your company’s latest social campaign, or writing a new whitepaper, perhaps?
Or do you get down to business figuring out what you don’t know, and making the best buyer persona your company’s ever seen?
If you’re in the latter group, then this blog post is for you!
First, what is a buyer persona?
If you’ve never created a buyer persona before, then you may not know where to begin.
Let’s start with what a buyer persona actually is. Buyer personas are profiles of potential customers that you create using details like age, gender, and demographics as well as more nuanced information like values, hobbies, likes/dislikes, etc.
You can do these in a couple of ways.
First, you can create buyer personas for your existing customers to better hone in on what they want and identify new ways to sell to them.
Second, you can create buyer personas for the customers that you want to attract. This is very helpful if you’re trying to break into new markets or launch new products.
To achieve maximum efficacy, you’ll likely find yourself using both of these approaches at some point. After all, businesses can’t grow without attracting new customers, but they can’t sustain themselves without keeping their current ones.
Why are buyer personas important in digital marketing?
As consumers’ internet experience becomes ever-more personalized, buyer personas are becoming more and more vital for reaching your customers effectively. As the capabilities for ultra-targeting grow, we’re becoming better and better at filtering out what doesn’t apply to us.
If my browsing history shows that I’m a woman who loves shopping for high-end clothes with subscription boxes, I don’t want to see a bunch of ads pushing brick-and-mortar, budget clothing stores.
But what’s more, if those ads did show up as I was surfing Facebook or Twitter, I’d probably just tune them out. And that means that that company just wasted their money on me.
If you want to make the most of your digital marketing dollars, you’ve got to know who you’re targeting and you’ve got to get as specific as possible. Hence the need for accurate buyer personas.
Step 1: Identify your buyers into broad, generalized groups.
Before you can start coming up with specific individual personas, you need to start big.
Who do you sell to? Let’s use a hypothetical company for an example.
Let’s pretend you work for a company that sells premium ice cream to gourmet grocery stores.
Your broadest personas would therefore be:
- Wholesale purchasers for major gourmet grocery chains
- Wholesale purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery stores
Now let’s zero in on each category.
Step 2: Decide what questions about each persona you’re going to answer.
For each persona, you’re going to be answering several questions. The important thing is to decide which questions are relevant to your business, as well as how you’re going to get the data you need to answer those questions.
For the purpose of this blog post, we’re going to focus on the second one: purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery chains.
Let’s begin with the basics. We want to know:
- Job title
- Job functions
That will give us a good start. So how do you find this information? Well, you probably already have a good deal of it. If you use a CRM, then you likely have demographic data on the people you deal with as well as job title information.
Your digital analytics tools can also offer lots of this information. Look through Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and any other third-party tools you use to draw demographic information about the people who are interacting with your site.
Your sales team will be able to answer many of these questions, as well.
Once you’ve gotten these simpler questions out of the way, it’s time to start looking at more nuanced information.
For example, what kind of frustrations or obstacles does this person confront in their job? What makes their job easier? What does he or she need from a supplier?
Step 3: Go to your customer to get answers.
When you’re looking for answers to these sorts of questions, analytics will only get you so far. A better way to get real information is to interview prospects and current customers, and, if you can, former customers or customers who have had complaints about your product or service in the past.
Doing so may not be that much fun, but it will give you valuable insight into areas that your business needs to improve.
To find people who might be open to being interviewed, start with your sales team. They’ll likely have a good feel for customers who would be interested in talking with you, and who would give you candid answers.
Another option is to create an online survey that you place on your website.
Online surveys do have some inherent issues. For one thing, people are self-selecting to take a survey, so you’ll likely get people who really like your product or who really hate it, rather than those who feel lukewarm about it.
However, since you’re creating buyer personas and not doing strict statistical analysis, you are still extremely likely to get some helpful information from your survey responses.
If you’re creating a buyer persona for a customer you don’t yet have – if you’re entering a new market or launching a brand-new product – you may have to get a little more creative in finding interviewees.
Referrals from current customers, contacts who’ve signed up for new product notifications or your email newsletter, and social media can be a few good sources.
Step 4: Use the information you’ve garnered to answer your persona questions, and voila! You’ve created a buyer persona.
Now that your research is done, it’s time to put all those answers together to create a full picture of your customer.
Pro tip: before you start answering your questions, consider giving your persona a name, and better yet, an image. This will help you feel like you’re talking about a real person, rather than just a collection of characteristics.
Here’s a brief, simplified example. We’ll call this persona Purchasing Peter.
Location: Harrisburg, PA
Job title: Owner/purchaser for independent high-end grocery store
Job responsibilities/functions: Manages the day-to-day operations of the store. Decides on and purchases products for the store on monthly basis.
Requirements for products he carries: Reliable supply. Ability to order small quantities. Excellent, personal customer service. Some payment flexibility. Extremely high-quality product.
Frustrations: Difficulty reaching suppliers. Suppliers who can’t offer the small quantities he needs. Suppliers geared only toward large accounts.
That’s just a start, but as you can see, this persona has already answered some important questions about what’s important to one of your customer groups. If you can get more detailed, do – it will help you immensely when it comes to targeting your digital ads, honing your social media message, and improving your overall business success.
Creating buyer personas is an important aspect of developing a strong digital marketing strategy. Want to up your game even more? Get better at talking to your customers by developing an outstanding brand persona.