(Seventh in a series about fundamental marketing documents every business needs. The sixth was: Writing a better elevator speech — it’s called a story)
“Buyer persona” is a relatively new term in marketing that many people are not familiar with. It takes the target market to a whole new level, drilling down to the ideal customer and painting a picture of a specific archetype — or persona — to represent that customer. A business can have one or numerous buyer personas, depending on the markets it is targeting.
Creating buyer personas are important for your business for several reasons. They help you understand your business from the customer’s perspective, giving you insights that you may not have had if you only marketed your business from the perspective of demographics alone. You will be more sensitive to your buyer’ pain points, economic factors and motivation for buying after creating personas. And personas help your business because it’s easier to identify with a person — even a fictional one — than it is a concept.
To create personas, you must do research. Ideally, you should talk to current customers who are happy with your product/service (“good” customers), customers who have not been happy (“bad” customers), prospects (people who are in the pipeline), referrals (people introduced to you by employees, customers, others) and third-party networks (they don’t know you from Adam … use LinkedIn or Craigslist.org to find people).
Realistically, if you spend time talking to three to five actual customers for each persona, you will be doing more than 95 percent of the businesses in the world and will be ahead of them.
The persona interview
Here are the kinds of questions you need to ask your customers to find out how to build your personas:
Demographics: What are their ages, gender marital status, number of children, location, etc.?
Job: What is their title, company name, industry, education, size? Number of employees in the company? Number of people who report to them? What skills are required to do their job? Where are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? Their biggest challenges? Goals? What are the most common objections to your product/service?
Professional: What professional associations are they members of? Where do they learn new information? What blogs and publications do they read? Describe your career path. How did you get to where you are today?
Shopping: Where do they shop? Do they buy online? How strongly do you depend on word-of-mouth recommendations when you are considering products or services? Do they do research online before they buy in stores? Do they prefer to do research by phone, in person or online before they buy? Describe a recent important purchase. How did they reach the decision? What was the deciding factor? Was it price? Quality? Design? Utility?
Values: Do they have strong values that influence their shopping habits or is your company’s product oriented toward a certain value, such as an environmentally conscious segment?
Once the interviews are complete, you are ready to begin writing you buyer personas. You have lots of raw data to sift through, and you should begin to see patterns. Hubspot offers a free template to help you distill information and keep the data straight that may be helpful.
What you should find is that the data types will sort out primarily around the customers’ goals and challenges. This will then help you see how your product or service can fulfill customers’ need, creating the basis for your marketing plan. You probably will not want to write personas for every type of customer, but only for the most important ones.
Once you have identified your personas, you need to write them using the information you have gleaned from the interviews. Outline your personas first to include a list of attributes you want to include, then write them in narrative form. To make them even more relateable, you should give them descriptive names, such as “Business Owner Susie” or “Stay-at-Home-Dad Sam,” and find stock photos or avatars for them. You should even make up some quotes that your personas might say to make them come to life.
Your personas should be used as the basis for creation of all the content on your website, social media content, outbound marketing — literally everything that your business does to communicate with customers. Your sales team should be involved in their creation and their efforts will be much more effective if the leads they are pursuing were generated by personas.
Personas are one more building block in the business owner’s foundation toward constructing a solid foundation of important documents she needs to successfully market her company. Have you written yours yet?