Sep 1, 2016

Are Buyer Personas Just a Time Suck?

The digital landscape is crowded. There’s no shortage of information, people and brands clamouring for your attention. If you want to get your message across as a Marketer, you know you need to make a genuine human connection.

This is where the buyer persona comes in.

According to The Buyer Persona Manifesto,

‘A buyer persona is an archetype; a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you market, based on what you’ve learned in direct interviews with real buyers.’

Buyer personas are a comprehensive description of your target customer or client. They’re fully fleshed out fictional characters that represent a segment of your target audience. Their hobbies, their work, their online behaviour, how they get their kicks.


Are buyer personas really that important?

Researching, analysing, and crafting a buyer persona may seem like a lot of effort.

Consider this, however: ‘out of 2000 US adults surveyed by Responsys, 34% said that they have broken up with a brand because of receiving poor, disruptive, or irrelevant marketing messages.’

A buyer persona is not merely a nice to have when time permits. It's a vital component of your arsenal if you want to communicate effectively.

Buyer personas help unveil insights about your target audience. You use these insights to tailor and personalise your marketing messages. This allows you to target your prospects with educational content, special offers or targeted ad messaging that speaks to their needs.

Content marketing is popular for a reason. It grabs prospects in the earlier stages of their purchasing decision process and makes the author (of the content) a trusted resource further down the track.

It enables you to be found by prospects searching for related keywords. Your buyer persona helps determine which of these keywords and educational content themes you best develop for the right attention.


Buyer persona or buyer personas?

You can certainly start with a single buyer persona to save time and effort at the start of this journey. Understand, however, that a single persona may not be capturing the diversity of your target audience. The purpose of buyer persona isn’t to lump all your customers in one basket, but to create personalised baskets for each category. So, one persona is unlikely to do the whole job.

Rather than creating many buyer personas, identify your three best-performing buyer groups and start with one persona for each of these. You can build out more later. Start small, but effectively.


How to create buyer personas

The first step to crafting a buyer persona is to do your research.

How does your idea customer generally make their purchasing decisions? What is a typical buying scenario that they face? You want to gain insight on their challenges and goals, their motivations and their pet hates.

Here’s how you can dive deep into your customer’s minds.

Buyer persona research tip #1: Social media research

Dive straight into social media or use one of a plethora of monitoring tools available to spy on your audience. Make use of Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags and LinkedIn profiles to draw on basic information about your customers, and then delve deeper into the research abyss through some nifty social monitoring tools. Make social listening an essential part of your research process. 

Buyer persona research tip #2: Google Analytics

Find out how your website visitors arrive at your website, what keywords drove them here, how long they stay and what they do on your site, all via Google Analytics. This data is crucial in identifying visitor intent and their level of engagement with your offering. 

Buyer persona research tip #3: A/B testing

Test existing content and marketing material to collect quantitative data. This data will help you understand if your current tactics are working or just draining time and resources. It can also help you analyse the current content consumption pattern of your buyers – pageviews, bounce rates, the type of content that appeals most to them, and so on.

Buyer persona research tip #4:. Interview your employees and customers

When you’re starting out, talk to EVERYONE! That includes your staff, partner vendors and the postman who delivers your mail each day! Interview your sales rep, the product manager, everyone who interacts with your customers. Get their perspective on the workings of your target audience.

Once you’ve exhausted preliminary research, actually interview your customers. This is an essential part of conducting research for buyer personas. Actually pick up the phone, or conduct an email questionnaire and get the more detailed opinions and preferences of a handful of customers to help shape your personas with real information.

Buyer persona research tip #5: Figure out who to talk to and what to say

Generic observations about your buyers will not help you in any way. You need to find out real information about them by engaging in direct communication. Email, phone call, Skype, even a letter would work if it means communicating directly with your existing and potential customers.

Furthermore, don’t make the grave mistake of just highlighting the buyer and not focusing on aspects that describe his buying process.

Buyer persona template

Talking to your customers directly results in insights that online research fails to get. Even talking to product experts and sales rep can only get you so far; the real meat is with the customers who’re doing business with you.

Make it a weekly goal to interview your recent customers for 20 to 30 minutes. Make a list of questions beforehand, and ask them everything.

A few questions to get you started are:

  1. Demographics – It includes gender, age, education, etc.
  2. What does their job entail, prior job experience, company size, etc.?
  3. How did they end up here? How would they describe their career path?
  4. What are their pain points and primary challenges that they’re trying to overcome with respect to your products and services?
  5. Where do they get most of their information from for research and decision-making purposes?
  6. What are their goals and aspirations?
  7. How would they measure success towards meeting their goals?
  8. How do they spend their work day? What decisions do they make? What tasks are they responsible for?
  9. What offline/online associations or online networks are they a part of?
  10. What do they value most while making a purchasing decision? Are they easily swayed by low price points, high value, expert advice, support, etc.?
  11. How do they select the companies they want to purchase from? Do they give more regard to proven experience or an industry expert? Or do they skip this part entirely, focusing on the product itself and not the vendor?
  12. What mode of communication do they prefer when dealing with vendors? Skype, phone call, in-person meeting, email, etc.?
  13. What authors, speakers, industry experts do they follow?
  14. What blogs and publications do they love to devour?
  15. What prevents them from purchasing your products? What objectives do they generally have?

Buyer persona questions template

The information you glean from these conversations will allow you to regularly update your persona for best marketing results.


Filling buyer personas with the information you’ve collected

This is the part where you first need to decide the number of buyer personas you’re going to create. Each persona then needs to be carefully crafted so that it engages the right audience and compels them to become a buyer.

Now, let’s get cracking.

Buyer Persona Template

1. Give your persona a real name so that it feels like a person and not a fictional character. It makes you feel connected to the persona, which is always a good thing.
2. Add a real picture. Since we’re crafting a fictional character, you want them to resemble your audience as closely as possible and a human picture helps.
3. Add the person’s job, company, role, etc. Answers received from online surveys will help you the most here. Short, to the point answers work best in this part.
4. Add in the demographic information you collected through Google Analytics. Here’s where you can find demographic insight via Google Analytics.

Demographics overview

5. Add in the goals and challenges as described by your customers. While you’re writing these, write down points of how your brand can help them overcome it. Having both these points together will help you construct highly targeted marketing messages.
6. Using all the information you’ve gathered, create marketing messages and an elevator pitch. Highlight pain points and desires to hook your target audience in.


Buyer Persona Example

Here’s how a completed buyer’s persona will look.

Buyer persona example

You can play around with different buyer persona templates and choose ones that speak to you. The template doesn’t matter, but make sure you include all the important details.


Still on the fence?

According to Mark W. Schaefer, 3-4 personas usually account for over 90% of a company’s sales. Business Grow

Buyer personas account for 90% of sales because they allow you to target people who are genuinely interested in your offering and don’t need much convincing. They’ve been looking for your service everywhere and will not hesitate to buy it. These folks are your best customers – the chances of them loving your product/service and doing business with you are sky-high.

So go on. Start working on it.

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