Buyer personas are an integral part of any product strategy - existing, new, or pending. If done right, they equip you with the tools you need to effectively market to specific audiences in a way that resonates with them, targets their touchpoints, and increases conversions.
What is a buyer persona?
In its simplest form, a buyer persona describes your ideal customer; however, it’s not always quite that easy.
Different people will take out your product or service for different reasons, so, usually, you’ll need a few different personas to cover each cluster.
There’s no gospel list of what sort of information must be included - this will normally vary from business-to-business, but some fairly standard details include:
- Demographic details,
- Pain-points, and
- Buying behaviours.
A step-by-step guide to creating buyer personas
To be truly effective your personas need to be built with real information from real people - using your gut just won’t do. And remember, creating personas is all about understanding audiences you already know want to buy from you; not people you wish would buy from you.
Step 1: conduct some thorough research
Start by sifting through your records to see what kind of information you’ve already got on your customers. It’s very unlikely you’ll stumble across everything you need to build a robust persona, but at the very least it’ll give you a jump start.
Some other outlets to gather information include:
- Adding relevant fields into any forms on your website;
- Speaking to your sales teams - they’re talking to these people day in, day out after all;
- Introducing useful questions to your onboarding process; and/or
- Inviting existing customers for a face-to-face or over-the-phone interview - this option will usually provide you with the richest information.
Tip: if you’re struggling to get people to say ‘yes’ to an interview start by making it clear it’s not sales-driven, give them flexibility around days and times, and think about adding an incentive.
If you’re picking up insights from several different sources remember to create some sort of forum for it all to be collated - it doesn’t need to be complicated, something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet with clearly defined headings would do.
How many people do you need to speak to?
Unfortunately, there isn’t really a set number for this. The more the better, but, as a rule, for a persona to be considered credible you should aim for between 5 - 10 matching patterns.
Step 2: understand your aims
The two core areas you should be aiming to understand are:
- What problems people are trying to solve, and
- What they want to achieve.
This kind of intel is gold dust for your marketing efforts because it enables you to relate to their motivations and tailor-make your proposition to their wants and needs.
As well as A and B above though, get around a table at the outset and have a think about anything specific to your business that would come in handy - the last thing you want is to realise you missed something key later down the line.
Step 3: ask the right questions
There are endless questions you could ask, but here are a few ideas to help you hit various touchpoints and create a holistic picture:
Step 4: collate your learnings
Okay, so by this point you should have insights coming out of your ears. To turn them into something actionable and meaningful start by grouping common characteristics - it’s incredibly important not to rush this stage or make any hasty generalisations.
Go through everything with a fine toothcomb and only solidify an assumption if you’ve got enough evidence to go off.
To help you get from A to B, here’s an overview of the types of areas you’ll want your personas to cover:
- Job title and decision-making authority
- Gender, age, and geographic location
- Communication preferences
- What they’re struggling with
- Their overarching aims
- How your product or service helps
- How you should position your marketing messaging.
What this looks like in practice...
Sticking with the email automation example, one of your buyer personas might look like this:
How to keep the momentum going
Establishing your personas is the first half of the battle, maintaining the momentum and applying it to your efforts is the other.
To make sure new customers are funnelled into the right persona it might be a good idea to incorporate relevant questions into your online forms and/or sales calls, then any future cross-sell campaigns can be targeted more effectively.
And to get the most out of your personas, remember to:
1. Share your findings with the business.
2. Divide your campaigns (like emails and social ads) into separate persona pots and tweak their elements accordingly.
3. Train customer and prospect-facing colleagues on how to adapt their language to resonate with their recipient.