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Whatever your business, you're going to want to establish a buyer persona. It helps you identify and understand your target audience and customer so you can make sure to meet their needs.
Putting together a buyer persona (or several buyer personas) for your business is one of those cornerstone pieces that can benefit your business on any level that involves your customer – so basically every level.
Want to learn how to create your own buyer persona to improve your current one?
This article has you covered. I'll go over everything from what is a buyer persona to how you create one to what you do with one once you have it.
By the end of this, you'll be ready to really get to know your target buyer and integrate that information into all your business strategies.
What is a Buyer Persona?
If you've never heard of a buyer persona before, you may know it by one of its many other names like customer persona, marketing persona, buyer profile, ideal customer profile, user persona, or audience persona.
Your buyer persona is the embodiment of your potential customer and your current customers. They aren't a real person, but you almost want to treat them as though they are so that you can successfully communicate with your (real) ideal customers in sales, marketing strategies, blog content, Facebook posts, Twitter posts…
… pretty much everything.
By focusing on the buyer persona when you’re creating your marketing material, you remain focused on what is helpful to the customer.
And you don’t get distracted by anything that isn’t.
You'll also create a name for your buyer persona and maybe get a stock photo of someone who matches your persona to really be able to see that person and connect with them. Of course, since most businesses often work with multiple types of people you may end up needing to create several different buyer personas to really get a feel for your entire customer base.
What Is a Negative Buyer Persona?
Negative buyer personas are buyer personas of the people you don't want to be going after as a customer. They're your "nightmare" customers who, for one reason or another, won't be a good investment.
Think: save cash on marketing spend by avoiding these unideal personas.
With negative personas, you can also help to be sure that the people who do buy your product or service will actually get use out of it. Plus, you can identify those personas you don't want and use that information to help guide every part of your marketing strategy from content to social media.
If you've ever seen the FAQ "who is this product not for?" when looking at any product or service, you can be sure that business has identified their negative personas.
Maybe there are people who are too advanced for your products and services, or maybe students who will engage with your free content, but not buy anything. These are two examples of negative personas.
Just remember you don't want to go too crazy with these at the risk of alienating folks who might actually be ideal customers.
How Using Customer Personas Can Help Your Business
Okay, now let's get to the good part: how these customer personas can actually benefit your business. Keep in mind this isn't an exhaustive list of all the ways buyer personas make a difference because honestly, they pretty much help with everything.
1. Focus Your Communication Strategy on the Customer
It's easy to make marketing and other business decisions based on what we want or what we think will do well, but what if you had a way to know? Your detailed buyer persona is about as close as you can get to full assurance that what you're doing will be something your customers like.
With everything you do in the communication realm, from your content and web copy to your social media and emails, you want to be thinking about your customer. Having your buyer personas can help keep you on track.
This way, you're not just throwing words or posts out into the void, you're actively building a relationship with someone on the other line and providing value for them.
Don't just take my word for it: According to Single Grain, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and improve conversion rates by 10%.
And the only way to personalize those emails is by understanding the person (or, buyer persona) that you’re speaking to.
2. Create Customized Buyer's Journeys
Your buyer's journey, marketing funnel, sales funnel, marketing flywheel, or whatever term you want to call the journey from awareness to decision goes hand in hand with your buyer persona. Once you understand your customers, you can start to make a more accurate funnel so you can actually address your customers' needs and get a higher conversion rate.
If you end up having multiple buyer personas, you can also create different funnels based on the different types of customers you have. This will allow you to create more targeted and relevant content for each customer's journey.
Why does this matter?
Because it will help you more easily find your customers and convince them to buy your product. And that’s kinda the whole point, anyway.
3. Create More Effective Social Ads
When you run ads on places like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, you can create a creepy amount of specifications for who you want your ad to go to. With detailed buyer personas, you can take advantage of those specifications by making sure your unique target audience will see your ad.
This might be fairly self-explanatory, but just in case you're not fully convinced, a study by Network Advertising Initiated reported that behavioral-targeted ads are twice as effective as non-targeted advertising.
And you can only target those behaviors if you understand your ideal customer.
4. Increase ROI
The big answer that everyone wants to hear: Yes, detailed and accurate buyer personas can increase your ROI. And that, by the way, is a pretty important ecommerce metric.
Forbes reported that 71% of companies that exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas.
Through understanding the way your customers tick and incorporating your personas into your business strategy, your return on investment will be completely worth putting in that extra time and effort to create a buyer persona (or multiple buyer personas).
How to Create Buyer Personas For Your Business
Ready to create your epic, money-making, inciteful, mildly creepy buyer personas? I'll walk you through everything you need to know, but be prepared – buyer persona development isn't a short process and can be a fairly big investment.
1. Do Your Research
This is the step where you want to learn everything you possibly can about your current customers and potential customers. Without fully doing this step, your buyer personas are going to fall flat and they likely won't get you the results you want.
It’s a lot like the process of defining your target market, but even more personal.
Yes, this is me giving you (limited) permission to be creepy nosey intensely curious about your customers.
However, this isn't just "spying" on your customers through social media or reviews. You want to actually talk with your customers and get real answers to your questions. Avoid any assumptions about your customers as much as possible.
To get you started, here are some basic buyer persona criteria you'll want to be able to answer about your customers to help you understand their specific needs, motivations, and goals:
- Who the buyer lives with
- Relationship status
- Type of living situation (rent vs. own, apartment, townhouse, detached house, etc.)
- Living environment (urban, suburban, rural)
- Daily routine
- Who does the buyer look up to
- What does the buyer read
- Favorite news sources
- Hobbies (what does the buyer like to do?)
- What does the buyer do to relax?
- Is the buyer an introvert or an extrovert?
- Does the buyer have any health concerns?
- Pet peeves
- What type of vacation would the buyer go on?
- Personal values
- What device does the buyer normally use to go online?
- What are the main objections the buyer has about your product or service?
- What made the buyer eventually decide to go with your product?
- Hogwarts house (okay, I'm only mildly joking about this one – marketing to a Hufflepuff is going to be way different from marketing to a Slytherin.)
- Level of education.
- Type of workplace environment
- Work industry
- Work role or title
- Work challenges (pain-points)
- Career goals
- Does the buyer manage anyone else?
- Biggest work fears
- Common objectives
- The buyer's biggest time-suck at work
- Preferred social networks
- Preferred communication methods
- How can your product help the buyer in the work-place?
- Tech comfort level
Not all of these are absolutely essential for a good buyer persona depending on what products or services your business offers, so you'll likely want to give some extra thought into creating your own unique list of questions.
For example, if your product is specifically for the workplace, you may not need to know as much about the persona's living situation. Another example – questions for a B2B buyer persona will likely be different than what you'll want to ask for a B2C persona since for a B2B persona the customer will have more to do with the business rather than the individual.
However, you likely won't be able to find out all the answers to these questions just through some social media sleuthing.
So how can you find out this information?
Here are some ways you can learn about your target customer from easiest to hardest:
- Your Customer-Facing Team: Your customer service employees or other employees who work with your customers on a daily basis should be your first point of contact. Ask them what their experiences with customers have been – how would they describe the stereotypical customer who walks through your door (or hypothetical online door)? If you're a one-person business, ask yourself these questions.
- Website Analytics: The next easiest way to get a feel for your target customer is to use a website analytics tool like Google Analytics for your website. It might be a little creepy if you think about it too much, but analytics can tell you a lot about who's visiting your website such as age, location, device, gender, and even what other types of sites they go to.
- Social Media Engagement: You can also get a lot from what your audience says on social media or how they react to your different posts. You can even post questions on your social media and see what sort of answers you get.
- Surveys: This might be the most straightforward way of collecting information. Whether you create an exit survey, referral survey, or a general survey for customers. Ask the questions you want to know, and get straightforward answers. I'd recommend doing a mix of multiple-choice and free-response questions to mix more personalized answers with questions that are quick and easy for the customer to answer. You may also need to offer an incentive like a coupon, free sample, or sweepstakes entry to get customers to take the time to do a survey.
- One-on-One interviews: This is often the most time-consuming and expensive way to conduct customer research, but it can also be the most rewarding and provide important customer information. You may be able to get a new perspective on your buyer's pain points or goals because you can ask direct follow-up questions, pick up on pauses, inflections, or other changes in tone. Some key things to keep in mind for this method: try to keep interviews short (under 20 minutes) to be mindful of your customers' time and really listen to what they're saying. Add unscripted follow-up questions, ask why – it shows that you are listening to them and their opinions are valued and important to your company. Not only can this provide invaluable information for you, it can also improve customer opinion of your company in general.
2. Review Your Research and Identify Similarities
Once you've got all the raw data from your existing customers and potential buyers, it's time to start digging into it and noticing patterns. Is there a section of customers who all have kids and value work-life balance? Are all your customers Millennials with goals to own a house?
Go through your responses and try to identify certain patterns or commonalities that connect your customers together.
For example, let's say Monique runs a membership-based outdoor social club. She's done her customer research and has a ton of raw data. She inputs all the data into an analytic software and discovers that 40% of her existing customers are women aged 30-45 who have dogs. Another 35% of respondents said they were men aged 27-40 who work out at least 3 times a week.
Those are two very distinct personas that Monique can now start to develop even more through looking at other data from those two categories.
Of course, you may not end up being able to distinguish exactly perfect succinct personas – each customer is going to be a little bit different. Just do your best to find as many patterns and similarities as possible and start matching them up.
Remember to keep each characteristic connected to the right person so the personas don't get mixed up: If Monique hadn't kept all her responses connected, she might have ended up thinking her customer base was women who worked out and men who owned dogs.
Why is this important?
Because those different types of people will respond to different forms of content marketing or communication. Talking about workout routines might bore women who just want to go walking with their dogs and sharing dog-friendly parks won't be useful for people who don't have dogs.
3. Create Your Buyer Personas
Once you've established your primary different types of customers, it's time to fully get into creating buyer personas. Using all the research you've painstakingly collected and sorted, you can start to imagine what these personas would be like in real life. How would they have a conversation? What would their body language say?
With the data you have, make these personas as detailed as possible. You'll also want to give each of your personas a name. I like using some alliterations in them to make them easy to remember for your whole team.
Let's stick with Monique's example: She takes her two primary customer segments and connects all her customer data from her buyer persona questions to establish these two primary buyer personas:
Daphne Dog Owner
- Overview: Works in communications and adores her dog. Likes to hike with her dog on the weekends.
- Demographics: Female. Age 34. Annual income $74,000. Lives in California with her boyfriend.
- Challenges or Pain Points: Meeting new people. Finding places to go with her dog.
- Biggest Fears: Her dog dying. Losing her job and having to start over.
- Biggest Motivation: "I want to find people who love their dogs as much as I do." "Outside my work and my boyfriend, my social circle is really small, but I'm always uncomfortable meeting new people."
- Overview: Works in a mid-level tech job and has a gym membership near his work that he goes to regularly.
- Demographics: Male. Age: 29. Annual Income $80,000. Lives in California. Single.
- Challenges or Pain Points: Often is very stressed from work. Finding time to socialize.
- Biggest Fears: Getting injured so he can't exercise. Losing his job and having to move back in with his parents.
- Biggest Motivation: Being around friends and family. Staying healthy.
You'll need to go a bit more in-depth than just those questions, but you get the idea. Really flesh out these people so you could imagine having a conversation with them.
4. Make Your Buyer Personas Easy to Understand
This is where something like a buyer persona template comes in handy. Now that you have all the details established for your buyer persona, you want to put it into a form that other people can easily understand and use.
There are some great pre-made buyer persona templates, or you can also take a shot at making your own.
The above personas of Exercise Edward and Daphne Dog Owner were made in Canva.
Make sure to include the key parts of your buyer persona in your template. It may also help to make your buyer persona template easy to skim so your sales team or marketing team can easily reference it on a regular basis.
5. Share Your Buyer Personas with Your Team
Once you have an easy-to-read buyer person or set of buyer personas, it's time to share them with everyone in your business. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. Your sales team, your product development team, everyone who works with content marketing or inbound marketing, your customer service, your audience – okay probably not your audience.
But seriously, if you go through all this work to create these bomb buyer personas, then don't share them with the rest of your team, you're missing out on huge potential gains along with gaining more potential customers.
6. Review Your Buyer Personas Over Time
While it might seem easier to finish your buyer personas, share them with your company, then forget about them, they should actually be an evolving process. Even after you've established your buyer personas, keep conducting surveys and monitoring your web analytics so you can look back at them from time to time and see if there's been any change.
As your company grows, changes, and develops, there's a good chance that the right people for your company will also change a little so it's important to be open to new changes and information.
Don't believe me?
Boardview reported that 47% of companies who exceeded sales and revenue goals consistently maintain their Personas.
How to Use Your Buyer Personas in Your Marketing Strategy
So you have your kickass buyer personas, you've shared them with your team, and you're ready to see those new target customers rolling in right? Well, it's not always quite that simple – it's also about how you use your buyer personas within your marketing efforts and lead generation strategy.
Here are a few ideas that might help get you started.
1. Section Prospective Customers to the Right Buyer Persona
When you start to bring in a prospective customer, ask them a few quick establishing questions to figure out which of your specific buyer personas they fit into. This way, you can start to speak to the areas of your company that will interest the customer and positively impact their buying decision.
Going back to our example with Monique, let's say she has a webchat with someone considering joining her social club. She could start off with a quick intro question asking about the potential customer's goal with joining. If they say to get more exercise, she could base her sales pitch off of Exercise Edward. If they say to find more dog-friendly hikes, she could base her sales pitch off Daphne Dog Owner.
2. Track Leads Based On Persona
When leads come in, try to mark down what person each one fits into. This way you can track how well your personas are actually converting. This can help you improve your current personas, keep track of your leads, and provide a more successful buying experience for your customer.
After all, if you know exactly which group is spending the most money in your store, then you know which group should get the most marketing attention.
Note: Not all your customers are going to fit perfectly into one of your buyer personas, and that's okay! When this happens, put them into the persona that makes the most sense, then just make a note of it. If you notice it happening more often, that might be a good sign to consider readjusting your buyer persona (or creating another).
3. Target the Channels Your Buyer Personas Use
Once you know where your target audience hangs out on the internet, you can focus your attention on those areas. This can help you save time and resources in your social media and content marketing strategy because you won't be wasting time or energy catering to an audience that isn't interested.
4. Generate Content Based On Your Buyer Personas
Once you know your buyer personas and their buying process, you can create content that is specific to what they need. For example, if you know your buyer personas like to learn about fashion and home design, you're not going to write a blog post about a recent scientific discovery (unless it has to do with fashion or home design).
This will help improve your inbound marketing strategy and make sure the information you provide is useful for your customers.
5. Tailor Your Website and Buying Process
According to a case study by Marketing Sherpa, the company Skytap used its buyer personas to launch its marketing strategy and website and saw a "210% increase in North American site traffic" year-over-year.
When you take your ideal customer into account with your website copy, design, and buying process, you give yourself a much higher chance to give your customers a good customer experience. From writing product descriptions to choosing the software you use to facilitate purchases, you'll tailor every part of the process to fit the buyer persona.
For example, if you know your target customer prefers to buy things online through PayPal, it's worth at least considering making that available for your customers.
On the other hand, if you know your buyer persona is not tech-savvy at all and would rather pay in-person, then requiring PayPal for payment would add an extra obstacle for your customer.
6. Create Personalized Deals and Offers
This might be where knowing things like your buyer persona's perfect vacation or other likes could come into play: if you create a sweepstake for a large vacation offer that you know your ideal customer would want, that's likely going to do better than creating an offer you think your customers would want.
Using targeted deals and offers means you can attract the right people to introduce to your product or company and therefore increase conversion chances.
7. Avoid Attracting Your Negative Buyer Personas
If you know your negative buyer personas as well, you can work this into your strategy too and save yourself from spending time and energy on potential customers that likely won't end up making a purchase.
Feeling confident and ready to take on the world one buyer persona at a time? I believe in you! And when you're swimming in new leads of all your ideal customers, make sure to get a referral program going too so you can help your new customers introduce their friends, probably of the same buyer persona, to your product too.