According to HubSpot, "A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers."
That sounds simple, but what does it really mean?
Digging Down into Buyer Personas
Also known as "idealized buyers" or "buyer composites," buyer personas combine the demographic and behavioral information produced by your own research and experience of your company's current, former and prospective customers. High-quality buyer composites are known as "actionable" personas.
Actionable buyer personas aren't simply demographic snapshots or one-dimensional idealizations of a potential customer. They're also not representations of buyers at various stages of the buyer's journey, notwithstanding the critical importance of understanding the buyer's journey and catering to prospects at each point along its continuum.
Rather, actionable idealized buyers are flesh-and-blood depictions of people who could be your neighbors, colleagues and friends. They contain enough detail to support accurate inferences about the prospect's:
Personal motivations: These include the prospect's career aspirations, family concerns and other issues only tangentially related to the problem your product or service exists to solve.
Pain points: Pain points are persona-specific problems that your product or service may be able to solve, such as frustration with an inefficient business process or a desire to chuck an obsolete consumer good for a better one - preferably yours.
Personality and overall receptiveness: Each persona's personality defines his or her receptiveness to marketing and sales overtures. For instance, whereas some prospects require a hard sell to convert, others might be turned off by such efforts.
Leveraging Demographic Information to Reflect Your Customers and Prospects
In addition to the motivations, pain points and personalities of your idealized buyers, it's important to understand how demographics play a role in their decision-making processes. While it can be uncomfortable to discuss the intersection of demographic traits like age, gender and social position with buying decisions, it's not debatable that said traits do play a role in prospects' decision-making processes.
Accordingly, high-level descriptions of your company's buyer personas might look something like:
- Male student, aged 18 to 24, income less than $25,000 per year
- Female VP-level executive, aged 31 to 40, responsible for corporate marketing strategy and campaigns
- Married retiree, aged over 65, fixed income, looking to downsize home
Of course, each buyer composite should have supporting information to go along with these general descriptions. Although you'll likely use less of that information as you become more familiar with your company's personas, you shouldn't feel obligated to keep your long-form persona to any specific length. It's not uncommon for full personas to take up more than a full page of text when written out.
Crafting Ideal Buyer Personas
Now that you have an idea of how a buyer composite should look, it's time to identify those that best fit your customer and prospect bases.
To get a sense of who your past and current customers are, go over sales data and gather relevant information including geographic location, occupation and gender. If you haven’t done so already, design an optional survey and present it to buyers immediately after they make a purchase. Alternatively, include such surveys in your email marketing materials. In either case, stress that the information you collect won't be shared with third parties.
If you have the financial and human resources, you also should collect more detailed information via one-on-one interviews with actual clients. These interviews should hit on all of the topics discussed above including buyers' motivations, pain points, personalities and what triggered their sales journey. While this work doesn't have to rise to the level of rigor associated with formal research studies, it should involve a large, representative sample of buyers and avoid sweeping generalizations based on feedback from only a handful of individuals.
Targeting Sales to Specific Buyer Personas
With your buyer composites set, you're ready to tailor your marketing and sales campaigns to these idealized individuals. A well-rounded marketing campaign can utilize buyer data to:
Develop separate content campaigns that speak to the personalities, pain points and motivations of each discrete group
Architect persona-specific landing pages that drive individuals from each persona into relevant sales funnels
Align sales strategies with each persona, possibly assigning discrete marketing and sales teams to discrete personas
Identify gaps in competitors' marketing strategies, such as a dearth of material speaking to a specific persona, that can be quickly and cost-effectively exploited
A Note of Caution
A great deal about how to funnel your company's customers and prospects into discrete personas has been covered. It's certainly true buyer personas wouldn't be covered if they didn't have merit.
It's also important to recognize that even the most data-driven generalizations about your buyers can fall short or at least fail to capture all relevant information. In other words, everyone is different, and it's not always possible to put people into neat boxes. If you don't keep this in mind as you craft buyer personas for your next marketing campaign, you could end up disappointed.
Are You Ready to Close the Deal with Real Buyers?
When used properly, well-crafted buyer personas serve as guides for your Internet marketing and branding campaigns. They're useful for developing compelling content, directing your sales force and boosting the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing operation.
Buyer composites aren't set in stone. As your product mix and service offerings change, it's likely that the makeup of your customer base will change as well. Fortunately, creating buyer personas isn't all that different from riding a bike: Once you know what to look for and how to put it all together, you can repeat the process whenever necessary. If you need some extra help or advice, don't hesitate to get in touch.