Ever publish something awesome and the only person who shares it on Facebook is nearly always your Mum?
Yeah, we've all been there.
As much as we all appreciate the unconditional support from our family members, for your business to be successful, you need more than just their support. If it seems like the only people who care about your marketing are your family and friends, then it’s time you took a bit of a closer look at your marketing strategy.
After all, do you really know who wants to buy your products?
If you don’t, then listen up - it’s time you got acquainted with the ol' buyer persona and how it will improve your user experience, inbound marketing program - and the lives of your marketing teams.
What Are Buyer Personas?
In short, “buyer personas” are a fancy term for target audience. But yes, you’ve guessed right, it does go a bit deeper than this.
Buyer personas don't involve simply saying “this product is great for people who work in advertising” or “you remember Jamie who worked in design? He’d love this”. It’s building up a profile of a fictional customer or client (based on the types of buyers you have) and using that as inspiration for your marketing.
So, let’s say you’re marketing safety equipment for dogs - things like leash covers that say “I’m nervous” or “I’m aggressive”, or harnesses that state that a dog is in training and shouldn’t be approached. You already know that your main customer base are people who have dogs that are reactive, aggressive, or are dog trainers.
When you’re building customer personas, you need to go deeper than this. So, for example, one persona might be “Polly” who:
- Just adopted a Labrador mix from a shelter,
- Her new dog is dog reactive,
- She’s worried about unfamiliar dogs approaching her dog, despite it being on a leash,
- She’s scared that if they do, her dog might become aggressive out of fear and hurt another dog, its owner, or her,
- She wants something bright she can use to alert other dog owners to keep their dogs away,
- She ideally wants something that goes on the dog’s leash so it’s easy to spot from a distance,
- She also likes buying her dog matching accessories, so would also like a patch or tag for her dog’s harness,
- She prefers to buy from small businesses.
In this example, you’ve delved into who Polly is, what problem she’s trying to solve, and how your product will solve that problem for her. You’ve also looked at some of her other preferences, like buying from small businesses and buying matching accessories.
This gives you a load of ideas for your marketing and content. To target Polly, you could write a blog post about the small team behind your product, share training tips for dogs that are dog reactive, or run a limited-time promotion on matching accessories.
Why Are Buyer Personas Important?
In short, buyer personas are key to understanding your core customers, and your audience, a whole lot better to better shape product development, establish the right type of content, marketing messages, and improve your overall conversion rates.
You might be wondering how you can broad-stroke your target customers after I was just talking about a very specific example of a customer who may shop with a dog safety accessory business. So, allow me to explain.
Okay, so going with the example above, you already know that the people who buy these dog safety accessories are people who own dogs that have behavioural issues and want to keep them safe on walks. But, do you know, specifically, who these people are?
After all, they might be like Polly, who’s scared that her dog will harm another dog or person if an unfamiliar dog approaches and corners hers.
Or, they may be like another persona, “Gemma”, who is training her puppy to be a service dog for her medical needs and wants to make sure people don’t distract her dog while he’s focusing on his training.
These are both customers who need dog safety accessories, but both have different problems that they want your product to solve. Polly is hoping your product will be bright enough to make sure other dog owners keep their dogs away, and Gemma wants to make sure that no-one approaches her dog while he’s working. Both are driven by anxiety to some degree, but Gemma is more driven by a need to avoid frustration.
These personas might be about fictional people, but they represent real problems that your customers are likely to have.
It's important that you don't just pluck these buyer personas out of thin air. A key part of persona development is figuring out who your people are through market research, insights from customers, and even good old-fashioned surveys. Using all of the customer data you have at your disposal is vital to building detailed profiles for your marketing persona development.
Building Buyer Personas: Step-By-Step
So now you’ve got a better understanding of buyer personas and why you need them for your business, it’s time we took a closer look at how to build personas that are so detailed you could paint them with your eyes shut!
Step 1: Choose Your Methodology
Because a key part of building buyer personas is collecting information, you need to think about how, and where, you’re going to get your information. Thankfully, there are loads of different options depending on how much time and money you’ve got available in your marketing budget.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Interview different types of current customers and prospective customers with buyer persona questions.
It’s time-intensive, but it works. You’ve just got to be careful how much information you ask as part of your series of questions for because getting too personal can weird people out.
Use your metrics.
Google Analytics is great for showing you the approximate age and location of your website visitors, as well as which pages were most frequently visited. It’s not the most accurate method, but if you don’t have the time to talk directly with your actual customers, it’s a start.
Gather data from email list sign-ups and customers.It’s super easy to include fields asking where people heard of your business, why they’re purchasing, what they're looking for in their customer experience or even something like what their dog’s name is when they’re checking out or giving you their email address. Just don’t go overboard, otherwise, you risk your customers abandoning the whole process.
Talk to your sales teams.If you’ve got a sales team, ask them about the customers and leads they talk to, what their deal is and what their buying decisions are looking like. They’re in the best position to learn about your customers, so why not learn from your sales team?
Use surveys.Yup, the humble survey is a great way to get real customers to hand over useful information and even make them feel great about contributing to your organisation.
There’s no real one-size-fits-all approach to persona development because every business, their ideal customer and their overall customer base, is different. If you’ve got a sales team that handle your clients, then interviewing them directly or asking your sales team to collect data will likely work for you better than using your Google Analytics data, which will work best for small businesses with a limited timeframe and budget.
Step 2: Determine Your Format
With your methodology pencilled in, you now need to think about how you’re going to create your personas, what information matters to you, and where you’re going to store your persona “library”.
If you’re not sure where to start in the buyer persona development process, then I definitely recommend using HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool. Essentially a buyer persona template, it’s a highly visual way to build and humanise your persona development, and it’s easy to export and save the personas you make, too. What’s even better is that it guides you through each step of the process with the questions already pre-set for you. And, once you’ve finished up, it’s easy to chop and change sections that don’t apply to your business.
If you’re going it alone, then you need to decide what information matters to your business and how best to represent that in your internal marketing efforts. Some people like the visual approach offered by Make My Persona and others get on best with a colour-coded Excel spreadsheet. Or, you might list your personas in a word document, using statements like “They are…”, “They want…” and “They like…” to guide your process.
No matter what you choose, just keep it consistent. Trust me, you (and the success of your marketing campaigns) will thank me later.
Step 3: Collect Your Data
Pretty self-explanatory, really. Now that you’ve got your methodology down and you know how you’re going to format your personas, it’s time to get to work collecting data on the various customer types and their varying buying processes.
My biggest tip here is to set a deadline for data collection - and make sure you stick with it. I mean, don’t expect that you’ll be done and dusted in a week, particularly if you’re interviewing customers or clients directly. Definitely don’t take months, but be realistic. If it’s just you doing the research, a reasonable amount of time to expect is about a month.
Step 4: Rise, Persona, Rise!
With all of your information on hand, you need to start stripping it down basics and dividing your buyer archetypes and list of customers into personas. The first step is an opportunity to let off some creative steam; it's time to name these bad boys!
I recommend naming your personas things like “Accountant Andy”, “Dog-Walker Dolly”, or “Xylophone Teacher Xander”. Alliteration is always fun, and it’s a good way to remember your different personas. Don’t be afraid to throw in some key characteristics too, which can be super helpful if you’ve got multiple people with similar job types, interests, or whatever you’re using to identify your personas.
With your personas named, then you need to start by getting down their demographics. So, things like their age, gender identity, location, income, and career are useful for starting to make assumptions as to the issues they might be facing, as well as the social media channels they use. You could also include information about children, pets, and personal relationships if it’s relevant.
Step 5: Delve into Their Motivations
Now you’ve got a better idea of who your customers are, we need to delve deeper into their lives and figure out what drives them.
This section covers things like their motivations, goals, and challenges. Again, we’re looking for relevancy, so you’re not going to list things like “They really want to be promoted to VP of sales” if you’re selling handmade toys for pet parrots.
This is also a great place to list any quotes you’ve gathered from customers that fit your personas, whether that’s about the challenges they face or barriers that may stand in the way of them making a purchase.
It’s at this point that your buyer personas will start looking a lot more three-dimensional, and you can start thinking about how to market to these people.
Step 6: Persona Messaging
With your personas figured out, now you can start working on how you talk to them and market what you sell. Knowing the challenges and goals of your personas should have made it easier to determine what each type of customer is looking for, which is why we spent so much time gathering information earlier.
So, you’ll want to list everything you can think of in terms of persona messaging. Whether that’s specific words and phrases you know they use, industry jargon relevant to their job title, or messaging that relates to problems you know they have, get it all noted down before you move on to the next stage.
Step 7: Integrate Personas in Your Marketing
All of the ideas you noted down in the next step will help you out here because now you need to integrate what you’ve learned about your personas into your marketing strategies.
So, if you’re doing content marketing, then you can start planning blog posts, podcasts, or videos that address specific personas and their problems. The awesome thing with persona marketing is that it gives you a tonne of information for targeting with paid advertising too.
Step 8: Determine Distribution Channels for Each Persona
So earlier, you’ll have come across information about which social media platforms and other channels that your personas typically use. This is vital in this step, as you’ll need to focus on certain distribution channels depending on which persona your marketing is targeting.
For example, let’s look at Polly at the start of the article. They typically use Facebook, because they’re an active member of dog training and dog rescue community groups there. With that in mind, you’ll push content geared towards Polly more heavily on Facebook, and you might even pay to distribute it to people with attributes that match your persona, too.
Step 9: Begin Your Marketing!
Again, this bit is pretty self-explanatory. With all of your persona information applied to your marketing, the next step is to get cracking. Like any kind of marketing, it might take trial and error to get things right, but you also won’t know what works until you try. So don’t be scared, hit publish!
Step 10: Ask Personas for Feedback
Your marketing is out in the world and hopefully has been for at least a week now. While we stand by the fact that 'no news is good news', if you don’t already know what your customers think about your marketing, ask them! There’s really no harm in seeking feedback from the people you’re trying to attract or keep, so don’t be shy.
Step 11: Evaluate and Re-Adjust
Just like every other kind of marketing, you’ll want to check your metrics after 3-6 months to see how your campaign is going and re-adjust accordingly to ensure you're left with concrete buyer persona moving forward. However, you’ll also want to check out your sales data to see if your persona marketing is actually having an impact on your sales process. After all, that’s a fundamental part of persona marketing, so you want to make sure your hard work hasn’t been in vain.
Still Stuck with Buyer Persona Development?
Your friendly Neighbourhood marketing team can help. Whether you’ve made it to the end of this post and you’ve still got no idea where to start, or you just want some guidance, we’ve got your back. Hit us up today and we'll work it out together!