A Guide to Buyer Personas

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By Ingrid van der Walt - May 21, 2014

One of the very first tasks we tackle with a new Inbound Marketing client is an in-depth analysis of their existing customer base. Then we interview a few of them. Then we chat to the sales team, support team and anyone else in the company that has insight to customer characteristics. Then we use the information to create a detailed buyer persona profile.

What is a Buyer Persona? 

A buyer persona is a research-based, modeled representation of your ideal buyer detailing (amongst other things) their demographics, professional position, pain points and business challenges, communication and socialising preferences, research resources and processes and more. 

Why Create Buyer Personas? 

Without a buyer focused approach to marketing it wouldn't matter what tactics you used, the results would be less than desirable. A documented buyer persona helps marketers create content and marketing campaigns that address the very specific needs and interests of your ideal customer. And that is the critical difference between marketing that generates good quality leads and customers for your business and marketing that - well - doesn't. 

Buyer personas are not a new concept but they have found renewed status at the hands of highly effective digital marketers using targeting to ensure maximum ROI from their marketing efforts.

The Benefits of Implementing Well-Developed Buyer Personas

  • Longer Site Visits. When your site and its content are tailored to your buyer personas, you'll going to be able to engage their attention with your relevancy and ability to meet their needs. The more relevant and appropriate your site content is to your personas, the longer they're likely to browse your website.
  • Increased Numbers of Page Visits. As with the above, pages with content finely-tuned to your target personas will boost the amount of times your pages are visited.
  • More Marketing-Generated Revenue. If your marketing is properly targeted and reaching the right buyer personas at the right time, you're going to be delivering better qualified leads to sales, making it easier for them to close those to customerS.
  • More Effective Email Campaigns. By having accurate buyer personas, you can target your emails in such a way that they have maximum efficacy, since you already know in-depth details about your email recipients.

Let's dive into how to create your buyer personas. 

How Does an Ideal Persona Look?

It's tempting as a business owner to assume you know everything about your ideal client - and understandably so. After all, it is your business. However, buyer personas are more than just the kind of customer you think is ideal. They're well-round, carefully researched representations of your ideal client, from their job descriptions and family lives, right down to their favourite food.

It's only possible to build these kinds of personas by knowing which questions to ask, and where to begin your research. Asking the right questions helps you determine exactly where your personas' pain points are, what challenges they're facing and how your service or product can meet their needs.

Developing a Buyer Persona to Inform Marketing Strategy

Step 1: Research, Research and More Research 

The best buyer personas are based on qualitative and experiential research which means you're going to be working with a lot of data. Dive into your current customer database, your marketing analytics, read up on research reports that are applicable and interview existing, potential and even previous or lost customers to gather the information needed to answer the following: 

Who is Your Persona Really?

So you know your persona's name, their age and gender. But does this mean you know them? Nope - you don't know them any better than the person queuing in front of you at the bank, or driving a car alongside you on the highway. Getting to know your personas well means making a concerted effort to ask questions that will help you clarify who they are.

Questions to help you achieve this could be:

  • Where are they from?
  • Did they grow up in the suburbs, the city or more of a rural setting?
  • What level of education do they have?
  • If they attended university, what did they study?
  • What are their hobbies?
  • Do they have a family?
  • What was their first job?
  • What is their dream job?
  • Are they married?
  • Where do they currently live?
  • What is their current housing situation like?

Once you've established the above, you could also delve even deeper by asking questions that tell you more about your personas personalities. These might be:

  • Are they introverted or extroverted?
  • Are they creative and spontaneous or practical and grounded?
  • How long does it take them to make a decision?
  • Are they more optimistic or pessimistic?
  • What motivates them?

What Does Their Average Day Look Like?

Once you've established who your personas are, it's time to gain a little more insight into their day-to-day routines. After all, we all have them, and they say a lot about who we are. 

To establish this information, you could ask:

  • What's their current position at work?
  • What is their current earning bracket?
  • How do they commute to work?
  • Do they like their boss or superior?
  • Do they enjoy working alone or in a team?
  • Do they spend a lot of time travelling for work?

What Drives Them Nuts?

Everyone has things that niggle at and bother them, and your personas are no different. Knowing their pain points is critical if you're going to accurately align your content to their needs.

To discover their pain points you can try the following questions:

  • What are their challenges at work or home?
  • How do these challenges impact them?
  • What are their fears?
  • What are their biggest concerns at work?

Where Do They Look for Answers?

This is an important section of questions, as these answers will give you working knowledge of where your personas will go on the hunt for problem-solving information. Once you've gained this insight, you'll know where to position your content for maximum efficacy. 

Determine this by asking:

  • Do they subscribe to blogs or read them regularly?
  • Are they active on social media?
  • Which social media channels do they use?
  • Do they often opt-in to email correspondence?
  • Do they watch informative videos or use SlideShare's?
  • Which sources of information do they trust the most?

What Do They Value?

We all have things we value. Knowing what your personas value is a good way to determine which offers and content will resonate well with them. Once you've established their pain points, it's a lot easier to determine what they value, but you'll still benefit from finding a little more information.

Questions to help you determine what your personas place value on might be:

  • What product/service offerings would excite them?
  • In what way does the above alleviate their pain points?
  • What could boost their appreciation of a product or service?
  • What are their goals going forward?

What are their Expectations and Objections?

  • What features and benefits they anticipate from your product or service?
  • What they expect during the sales process? Do they prefer to conclude business electronically or face-to-face?
  • Whether this is a first time procurement of your type of product or service, or are they looking to change suppliers?
  • What would cause them to be reluctant to purchase from you?

Step 2: Document Your Buyer Persona 

After the research phase is complete you create a reference document for each buyer persona. Using names like Manager Mike, Receptionist Rose or Sales Stan and including a photo help to 'humanise' your buyer persona. 

HubSpot has recently incorporated buyer personas within the marketing software dashboard which is incredibly helpful for marketers. With it, you can:  

  • create and 'house' your personas online
  • add where they are in the buying cycle
  • categorise your leads by persona
  • target relevant content to specific contacts

The tool will guide you through the process and ask questions about your buyer persona. Doing all the research beforehand and having your document handy will help you get it done in no time. Existing HubSpot customers can upload buyer personas by following this simple tutorial. Once populated, it will look something like this:

Personas

Step 3: Share Your Buyer Personas With Colleagues 

Buyer personas aren't just for marketers. Companies that reference buyer personas see better overall success and customer satisfaction results. This is due to the fact that everyone from the front line receptionist to sales team and support desk knows precisely who they are dealing with, and how to be most effective in doing so. This was the reason I think a place in the boardroom (or lunchroom) wouldn't go amiss! 

Taking the time to build well-rounded, extensive buyer personas could mean the difference between success or failure for your inbound marketing efforts. These personas form the base on which all your campaigns need to be founded - so resist the temptation to barrel headlong into your inbound marketing planning and implementation without spending time on your personas. You won't regret making it a focus area, and it'll go a long way toward helping you create brilliant content and getting those all important leads!

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