What is a Buyer Persona?
If you’ve never had to create a buyer persona before, you may be wondering, what a buyer persona is and why is it important for your business.
Buyer Persona Definition
A buyer persona (a.k.a. “customer avatar”) is a fictional person who represents a particular company’s ideal customer.
A buyer persona is used so that we, wearing our marketing hat, are completely clear about who the individual are that we’re marketing to. If we aren’t sure who we’re marketing to, we can’t be sure that our messages and offers are going to be successful. This is why some businesses create buyer’s personas based on their existing customer base or after in depth research of their target market.
You might be thinking that creating a buyer persona sounds like a lot of work. And you’d be right. But, with a detailed buyer persona, you have a clearly defined target customer. You’ll know who exactly you need to be talking to.
Knowing them inside and out — including the motivations they have or the problems they’re struggling with — allows you to tailor your marketing messages to speak directly to the people who you want to be buying your products or services. You will understand exactly what might matter to them and send messages that you would send to a friend.
If this seems like it would be a description of a real person, you’re right. It should be.
A MarketingSherpa case study found that buyer personas added the following value:
OK, now that you know what a buyer persona is and why it is so important for your business, let’s dive into how to create your own!
How to create a buyer persona
1. Thoroughly research your audience
Don’t rely on guesswork. Your buyer personas need to be based on real-world information.
Compile data on your existing clients or customers and people who are interested in what you have to say.
The questions you should consider depend on whether your business is B2C or B2B.
Here’s some ideas to get your started.
If you’re a B2C business
If you’re a B2B business
Aim for about the amount of information you would expect to see on a dating site. Or what you might learn from someone after a short conversation on an aeroplane or bus journey. Don’t forget to include pain points and goals.
2. Identify customer pain points
To be successful in what you do, you need to be able to solve a specific problem that your perfect customer is having.
What is it that’s preventing them from achieving their goals?
If you have one, check with your customer service team and ask them what kinds of questions they get asked the most. They are a great resource to help you identify common challenges faced by your existing customers.
3. Identify customer goals
Now we understand the problems our perfect customer might be facing, what is it they want to achieve.
This is where understanding their goals comes in.
If you understand what their pain point is, you should understand what they will achieve if you help them overcome that pain point.
Depending on what you offer, those goals could be personal or professional.
What motivates your customers?
What’s their end game?
These goals might be directly related to solutions you can provide, but they don’t have to be. This is more about getting to know your customers than it is trying to match customers exactly to features or benefits of your product.
Your personas’ goals are important even if they don’t relate specifically to your product’s features. They can always form the basis of a campaign, or they might simply inform the tone or approach you take in your marketing.
4. Understand how you can help
Now that you understand your customers’ pain points and goals, it’s time to get really clear on how your products or services can help them.
It’s time to think of your offerings in terms of benefits instead of features.
A feature is what your product is or does. A benefit is how your product or service makes your customer’s life easier or better.
Here’s an example.
Feature: Handcrafted furniture for your office.
Benefit: Build client trust by having a high class, professional looking office.
It can be hard for businesses to stop thinking of the features.
Taking a benefit driven approach means that you’re thinking about how your offering solves a problem.
Ask yourself three key questions for each of the pain points and goals you’ve collected:
How can we help? Capture that in one clear sentence and add it to your persona template.
What are your audience’s main purchasing barriers? And how can you help overcome them?
Where are your followers at in their buying journey? Are they researching or ready to buy? Looking for reviews?
Again, talking to your colleagues who deal directly with customers can be a great way to learn. It can also be a good idea to consult your customers and social fans directly through a survey.
5. Create your buyer personas
Now, pull the results of your research together and look for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, you’ll have the basis of your unique customer personas.
Let’s take the example of Steve.
Steve owns a motorcycle store.
From his research, Steve has identified that the following. Most of his customers fall into one or more of the following categories.
Looking at whether customers are mums, dads, or have no kids, most are fathers.
Looking at the ages of his customers, most are in their early 40s.
Looking at where his customers live, most live in a big city.
Looking at what his customers like to do to get away, most like to camp.
Looking at where they currently own a motorbike or not, most already own a motorbike.
Great—now it’s time to take this abstract collection of characteristics and turn them into a persona that you can identify with and speak to.
Give your buyer persona a name, a job title, a home, and other defining characteristics. You want your persona to seem like a real person.
Steve has given his group of forty something, motorcycle-owning, big city living, dad campers the name of “Trevor”.
Here’s a little about Trevor.
And so on.
Remember, a list of characteristics does not equal a persona. A persona is a realistic description of a person who represents one segment of your customer base.
Now Steve knows that not everyone who walks through his door matches the characteristics that Trevor has. But Trevor is the person Steve markets to. His online ads and other marketing are designed to speak to the Trevors out there.
Talking to Trevor means that Steve’s marketing is highly targeted and the messages he sends are ones that his Trevors will relate to.
It’s a lot easier to speak to Trevor as a person than it is to speak to “men.” Or even “40-year-old dads who own motorcycles.”
As you flesh out your customer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition.
For example, Steve’s research has show that customers who have the characteristics of Trevor have the goal of owning a larger bike with a longer fuel range, electric reverse, and include a radio or media player.
Don’t stop at one
Back to Steve. From talking to his sales team, Steve has found out that more young women are coming into his store. If he sends the same sales messages to this group that he sends to Trevor, he may be losing sales.
From experience, Steve knows that these two groups respond to very different sales approaches.
The Trevors aren’t interested in the latest pocket rocket. But they are interested in a touring bike that will carry some camping gear.
He needs another persona for young women.
Young females are interested in smaller, powerful, fuel efficient bikes they can easily handle around the city.
In this case, Steve has two distinct target customers:
• Middle age, 40 year old fathers who like touring and camping.
• Young women who want to use a motorbike as their daily ride and go for day rides away from the city.
Steve need to create a second buyer persona to account for another market segment.
Because segmenting the qualities for each buyer persona, rather than jumbling them all into one, allows Steve to tailor his future marketing campaigns to be sending the right messages as closely as possible to the needs of each segment.
Talking about the latest 250cc sports bike to Trevor won’t interest Trevor in the slightest.
Talking about the latest large tourer and it’s fuel economy, and features won’t interest all young women.
As you start creating buyer personas for your business, you’ll probably realise that you need more than two personas.
It’s estimated that a business typically needs up to four buyer personas.
How to Use Your Buyer Personas for Better Marketing Campaigns
Now that you have your buyer personas, you need to be using them.
The best way to use them is to identify ways of assigning a prospect to a persona.
Literally, when you’re talking to them, are they a Trevor, Sally, Brenda, or James.
Doing this means that you’ll be able to tailor your sales pitch and follow up marketing as closely as possible to the type of prospect you’re dealing with.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask prospects one or more questions designed to categorise them.
Back to Steve.
Someone walks into his store. After introducing himself, Steve asks a few questions to understand the needs of the customer.
1. Is the motorbike for you or someone else?
2. Have your ridden a motorbike before?
3. What are you riding now?
4. What will you be using the bike for?
5. Will you be carrying anything such as groceries or camping gear?
The answers run along the lines of:
4. Just riding around the city.
5. Just some groceries.
Now that Steve knows a little more about the prospect, he can tailor his offering to suite.
He can then follow up the enquiry with a marketing campaign that focuses on the needs of the prospective customer and the benefits of the options he suggested.
Buyer personas help you understand your customers and, more importantly, how your product or service best suits them.
At the end of the day, the goal of developing and assigning buyer personas is to be able to humanise your sales and marketing messages. So, once you’ve created your buyer personas, integrate them into your business.
Identify which persona a prospect aligns to and speak to that persona. Don’t be concerned if you find that you need another persona for a completely different group of prospects.
You’ll substantially increase the likelihood of your advertising and marketing messages hitting home — and turning into sales, as a result.