How a Buyer (or User) Persona Can Improve Your Business
Have you ever tried to discuss the latest Mercedes or Range Rover model with your friend who doesn’t give a hoot about cars? What was the conversation like? You probably realized that your friend wasn’t even paying attention to what you were saying, and ended up changing the direction of the conversation to avoid wasting your breath.
This is exactly what happens when you try to market your products and services without checking whether your message is relevant to the person you are marketing to. The only difference is that on top of your message being ignored, you are also wasting your marketing budget.
To be an effective marketer, one of the first things you need to get right is to figure out who exactly you are marketing to. Knowing who you are marketing to not only helps you to determine if your products and services are relevant to the person you are marketing to, but also to figure out if you are marketing to them in the right way.
Instead of trying to convince customers why they need a product, you can focus on selling them what they actually want. In order to figure out exactly who you are marketing to and how to market to them in the right way, you need to come up with something known as a buyer persona.
WHAT IS A BUYER PERSONA?
A buyer persona can be defined as a fictional, generalized representation of your target customers. It is a detailed description of the kind of person who might be interested in buying your products and services. The buyer persona is written as if it is a description of a real person.
It should include everything about the ideal customer, including demographics such as age, gender, ethnicity, education, marital status and family size, personal and professional background, goals, challenges and concerns, hobbies and interests, past buying behavior, and so on.
The aim of the buyer persona is to help you understand your customers better. It allows you to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and to get a clear picture of every aspect of their daily life. It makes it possible for you to get inside the head of your customers and prospects and figure out how they think and behave, and what their motivations are.
Once you understand your customers completely, you can now tailor your messaging, content, products and services to their specific behaviors, needs and concerns.
With a buyer persona, there is no chance of getting it wrong, because you are not making guesses or assumptions.
You actually KNOW what your customers want and need and the messages they are most likely to respond to.
IS A BUYER PERSONA REALLY NECESSARY?
Many marketers ignore the buyer persona, and I can certainly understand this.
Creating a detailed buyer persona needs some time and effort, and after all, no marketer wants to spend time coming up with a buyer persona if they don’t think it will have a solid ROI.
What many do not understand is that lack of a buyer persona actually minimizes the ROI of your other marketing campaigns. Below are some of the reasons you need to create a buyer persona.
Helps You Identify Customers’ Wants and Needs
Customers don’t purchase products and services simply because they are available in the market. Instead, customers purchase because the product and service fulfills a certain want or need.
A buyer persona allows you to figure out your customers’ wants and needs and allows you to delight them with products and services that actually satisfy these needs.
Selling becomes easier when you are fulfilling customers’ needs instead of trying to convince them to buy.
Makes It Easier to Tailor Your Marketing Message to Your Customers
Imagine you are selling ladies’ shoes. Would the message used to sell the shoes to 20 year old ladies work for a 40 year old woman?
Probably not, because the two care about different things. Sure, both might buy the same shoe, but their reasons for buying the shoe are different.
In order to sell the shoe to each of them, you have to use a message that resonates with them and their reasons for buying the shoe.
A buyer persona helps you understand the personalities, desires, and buying motivations of your customers, allowing you to tailor your marketing message to appeal to each customer’s specific desires.
Helps You Understand How Customer’s Make Purchasing Decisions
Different customer groups make their purchasing decisions in different ways.
When buying a car, a 25 year old, single guy might go for things like speed and how cool the car looks. A 45 year old father of two, on the other hand, might be more interested in space and fuel economy.
Not only does this affect how you market to them, it also affects what extras you can upsell with the car.
The 25 year old dude might be more interested in styling and performance upgrades, such as turbos, superchargers and body kits, while the 45 year old dad of two might be interested in child seats for his kid’s safety.
The more you understand your customer, the easier it becomes to understand their purchasing decisions, move them along the sales funnel and increase their lifetime value.
Helps You Develop And Improve Products and Services
The better you understand your customers, the easier it will become to understand the shortcomings and challenges they face when using your products and services.
You can then use this information to improve your offerings or come up with new products and services to eliminate these challenges, thus allowing you to strengthen the relationship with the customers and increase their lifetime value.
Helps You Determine Where Your Customers Spend Time
In order to effectively market your products and services, you have to figure out where your customers like to spend their time, both online and in real life so that you can reach out to them and have conversations with them in those places. If your buyer persona is a senior executive who spends most of their online time on LinkedIn, it won’t make much sense marketing your services on Facebook.
If your ideal customers are young ladies who spend their evenings in coffee shops, you won’t have much success promoting your services at the gym. Developing a buyer persona helps you figure out where and how you can reach your customers easily and effectively.
Ensure Everyone In The Company Is On The Same Page
If you think a buyer persona is only beneficial for the sales and marketing departments, think again.
The product team needs to know exactly who they are developing the product for. Your customer service representatives need to know the personalities, behaviors and desires of your customers in order to keep them happy.
Developing a buyer persona ensures that everyone within the company is on the same page on how to please your customers, which in turn helps boost customer satisfaction and retention rates.
Helps You Segment Your Marketing Efforts
Sometimes, a business might have a large target customer group. For instance, let’s consider companies that sell shaving razors. The razors marketed to men are fundamentally the same as those marketed to women. However, if the marketers use a general campaign to market to both audiences, the product will not appeal to either men or women.
If they focus on one audience, they stand to lose sales from the other audience. What such companies do is to create buyer personas for the two audiences and then come up with segmented marketing campaigns that appeal to each persona.
The companies end up using different colors on the razors, different packaging, and different messages. By segmenting their marketing efforts to each buyer persona, their marketing campaigns become more effective compared to a general marketing approach.
Helps You to Pre-Qualify Leads
Developing a buyer persona also helps your business to focus on attracting better leads who are more sales- ready. Rather than trying to push your products to customers who are not sure whether they actually need the product, you can focus on leads that actually want the product.
Taking the time to develop negative personas (personas representing the type of customers you don’t want) can also make your marketing efforts more effective and lower your customer acquisition costs by weeding out the ‘bad apples’ during your marketing efforts.
These are just some of the reasons why you need to create a buyer persona. Not convinced yet? What if I told you that businesses using buyer personas experience a 55% increase in organic search traffic, double the open rates of their email campaigns and increase their email click-through rates 5 times?
In addition, 71% of businesses that surpass their lead and revenue goals use buyer personas. Need I say more? The benefits of developing a buyer persona for your business are endless. Question is, how do you come up with a buyer persona?
HOW TO CREATE A BUYER PERSONA
Creating a buyer persona involves collecting information about your target customers. While the type and amount of information gathered will obviously vary depending on your business, there are some questions you need to answer about your ideal customers. These include:
1. What is Their Gender?
Many products are gender specific. You don’t expect to sell products like wedding dresses, heels, cosmetics and beauty products, handbags, and so on to a predominantly male clientele. Similarly, you don’t expect to sell products like shaving kits, ties, and so on to a predominantly female clientele.
Even for products that are not gender specific, such as smartphones, television sets, cars, computers, and so on, the language and message used to sell to men might not work for women, and vice versa.
Therefore, it is important to know the gender of your ideal customers so that you can tailor your marketing to suit them.
2. What is Their Age?
Knowing your ideal customers’ age is crucial in determining the kind of products they might be interested in. If you sell home maintenance products like lawn mowers and wheelbarrows, it might not make a lot of sense marketing them to 20 year olds who are yet to buy their own homes.
On the other hand, if you sell baby products, marketing to 20-30 year olds might be effective since it is at that age that they are getting married and getting their first kids.
Age also influences how you market your products. For younger customers, you might focus on the ‘cool factor’ while older folks will be more concerned with the utility of a product.
3. Where Do They Live?
Your customers’ location also influences your marketing campaign.
For instance, if you run an online business and realize that majority of your buyers live in California, you can increase your budget for geographically targeted ads in the region.
Knowing the location of your ideal customers also influences the location of your business. For instance, if you want to launch a luxury car dealership, it might not be wise to locate it in a low income area.
Finally, your customers’ location also influences the kind of products they prefer. For example, automotive dealers might notice that people who live in rural areas lean towards trucks, whereas urban dwellers might prefer sedans.
4. What is Their Level of Education?
Your customers’ education level influences the kind of message and information you provide in your marketing material.
For instance, if your customers are highly educated, you might provide study results and graphics about your product and leave them to make their own decision.
If their education level is low, on the other hand, you might use testimonials and other forms of social proof to influence their decision.
5. What is Their Occupation?
A person’s occupation might influence the kind of products they buy.
For instance, if you sell high end, high performance computers, it might be more effective to market them to designers, animators and video editors rather than social media professionals who only need a device that can connect to the internet.
If you provide email marketing services or SEO services, online business owners might be very interested in your services, whereas a nurse or a civil engineer might not care about your services.
6. What is Their Income Level?
This is another important consideration when coming up with a buyer persona. Remember, your customers will only buy your products if they can afford them, therefore you need to know the income range of the people you are targeting.
For example, if you are a car salesperson, you wouldn’t spend your time trying to sell cars to students who don’t have any income. If you sell real estate, you wouldn’t spend your marketing budget advertising to people in entry level jobs since they might not earn enough to spend on a home.
7. What are Their Interests and Leisure Pursuits?
You might be wondering why you need to know the interests, hobbies and leisure habits of your buyers.
This information helps you to better understand their personalities, which in turn makes it easier for you to connect with them. It also allows you to know where they hang out, so that you can easily reach out to them.
For example, if you realize that majority of your customers go to the gym, you can partner with gyms around your locality to promote your products and services to them.
8. What is Their Relationship Status?
Are your target customers single or married? Do they have kids? What ages are their kids? This information is very crucial.
The wants, needs, preferences and leisure activities of single people are very different from those of married people.
Similarly, the wants, needs and preferences of people with toddlers are very different from those of people with teenage children. This information helps you position your products and services in a manner that resonates with your ideal buyer.
9. What are Their Goals and Objectives?
What are the goals and objectives of your ideal customers? What are they trying to achieve using your product or service?
Understanding why customers purchase your product will help you refine your marketing strategy and promote your products the right way.
10. What are Their Challenges?
What concerns and objections does your ideal buyer have about purchasing your products and services? Knowing these concerns and objections allows you to address them and convince your ideal buyers why your products are best for them.
11. What is Their Purchase History?
This information helps you understand what your buyers consider to be important and also helps you further refine their demographic information.
For instance, if you notice that most of your customers are buying outdoor home equipment, you can deduce that they are middle class and they live in rural or suburban areas.
12. What are Their Social Media Tendencies?
How do your customers use social media? Which social media platforms do they prefer? This information helps you to determine the best social media channels to focus on in your marketing and the kind of content that will resonate with them.
These are some of the questions you should try to answer when coming up with a buyer persona. Once you find answers to these questions, aggregate the average data for each question and then use it to create your user persona.
Finally, come up with a fictional name to go with your buyer persona and choose a photo to go with the name. Doing so makes your buyer persona feel like a real person, rather than a collection of data.
Obviously, you might be wondering where the heck you will get all this information. Below are some approaches you can use to get this information:
Conduct traditional market research: If you do not have budgetary constraints, conducting market research about your target customers can help you come up with great data for your buyer persona.
Conduct surveys: Sending out questionnaires with the above questions to your existing customer base can also provide you with a lot of information for your buyer persona. You can encourage your customers to take part in the survey by offering a small incentive, such as a discount coupon.
Check your web and social media analytics: Your web and social media analytics contain a wealth of data about the people currently interacting online with your business or brand. This data can be useful in creating your buyer persona.
Talk to your employees: Employees who interact with your customers can also provide you with useful information about your customers. Give them surveys with the above questions and use their responses to come up with a buyer persona.
When conducting surveys, especially on customers, it is important to use open ended questions and where possible, follow them up with a ‘why?” Doing so will give you better insights into their behaviors, goals, and challenges.
Open ended questions allow people to talk about their true feelings, which is important since you want to completely understand your customers.
It’s also good to note that if your customer base is too wide, it is alright to come up with two or three buyer personas. Still, avoid the temptation to come up with a buyer persona for every possible target customer. Just come up with buyer personas for two or three of your best performing customer groups and you are good to go.
SAMPLE BUYER PERSONA
To make it easier for you to understand what a buyer persona should look like, let’s take a look at a sample buyer persona from a web design agency that focuses on building and maintaining websites for freelance writers.
Persona Name: Freelancer Fred
Location: Remote (lives in an urban area)
Relationship status: Single, no kids
Occupation: Offers freelance writing services online
Income level: $50,000
Goals: Build a thriving freelance writing agency that brings in over $200,000 annually.
- Wants a modern website, but does not have a huge budget to spend on building and maintaining the site.
- Is not very conversant with SEO practices.
Social media habits: Spends a lot of time on Twitter and LinkedIn, mostly networking with other freelancers and reaching out to prospective clients.
Hobbies and interests:
- Online gaming
HOW TO USE YOUR BUYER PERSONA
Obviously, you are not going to use all this effort to create a buyer persona just to leave it at that. You need to make use of it. Below are some tips on how to make use of the buyer persona you just created.
Classify Prospects by Persona
Every time you get a new prospect, you should classify them by their respective persona. This allows you to tailor any further interaction with the prospect to suit their persona. Come up with a question or series of questions that will help you determine in which persona a prospect fits.
You can then use these questions to classify the prospect during your first interaction with them, regardless of whether the interaction happens in person, through a phone call, or on an online opt-in form.
Of course, not all prospects will fit neatly into your buyer personas. Just classify the prospect into the closest persona. If you realize that some clients are too detached from any of your current personas, you can use their data to create additional personas.
Tailor Your Content to Buyer Personas
Address your buyer personas: Now that you know who you are selling to, customize your messages to address your buyer persona instead of addressing everyone. For example, instead of saying “are you looking for a power suit,” you can now say, “Are you a 35 year old female CEO looking for a power suit?” The second question will resonate and connect better with your customers.
Address their problems: Since you now know the specific problems of your buyer persona, you can address them rather than addressing general problems that your ideal customer might not even be experiencing.
Appeal to different points of view: Instead of creating general content, create different content that appeals to each of your buyer personas.
Serve dynamic persona-based web content: There are tools that allow you to show different content based on the buyer persona you have placed a prospect in. Whenever they visit your website, they will only be shown content that is relevant to their buyer persona.
Place prospects in persona-based drip campaigns: Once you assign a buyer persona to a prospect, you can then place the prospect in a drip email campaign that is customized to suit their persona and their current phase in the buyer’s journey.
Find the appropriate marketing channel: Now that you know where your customers spend their time online, you can use the appropriate marketing channels to market to them. Since you know their interests, it becomes easier to determine which influencers your customers are more likely to follow and trust.
Track Your Personas
You should also track information and data about your buyer personas. For instance, is one buyer persona generating more leads than the other? Is one buyer persona spending more money than the other?
This information can help determine if you are spending your advertising budget optimally or if you are using the best methods to reach out to prospects.
Knowing who your customers are, how they think and behave, and what their problems and concerns are allows you to effectively connect and communicate with them and build engagement, trust and loyalty.
By creating a buyer persona and basing your marketing strategies on this persona, you will be able to boost your sales efforts and accelerate your business’ growth.
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