Every brand has a story. You’ve developed a brand character complete with voice, personality, and other human attributes to help your audience relate to your organization on an emotional and values-based level. Through content marketing, social media, and paid advertising, you’ve promoted your brand’s mission and showcased your products and services. But your brand story is incomplete without your customer, and as you know, the best characters are three-dimensional with a meaningful arc throughout the script.
What is a buyer persona?
Your buyer persona (also marketing persona or customer persona) is the fictionalized, fleshed-out characterization of your ideal customer, based on measurable data and known customer behavior. Just as your company’s brand character lets your audience relate to you on a human level, your buyer persona gives your marketing messages personalized focus.
Buyer personas are dynamic
You won’t have just one buyer persona for each of your market segments. Ideally, you’ll adapt your personas to match your prospective customers’ buyer journey milestones. You’ll adjust these characterizations over time as your understanding of your audience grows, and you adapt to fluctuating consumer trends within your markets.
Negative buyer personas also help refine your targeting strategy
Have you ever had a customer who just wasn’t a good fit? A negative buyer persona, sometimes called an exclusionary persona, helps you become more aware of–and therefore discourage–customers whose acquisition costs are too high or, despite your best efforts, aren’t likely to become brand ambassadors. Every business has a goal of solving its customer’s problems. but for a variety of reasons, your product or service simply won’t ease their pain points. Learn more about negative buyer personas and how to develop them from Impact’s article, “What is a Negative Buyer Persona, and Why Do You Need One?”
Why should you use buyer personas?
Content marketing is all about delivering the right message to the right audience at the appropriate time. When you better understand your target customers, you can tailor your content marketing strategy accordingly and deliver your brand message through their preferred channels. This personalized approach helps you identify and meet marketing touchpoints, therefore reinforcing brand trust, social proof, and the confidence to convert.
“Touch points are interactions between businesses and customers that occur during the customer’s journey. These moments significantly influence customer experience as well as brand perception.” — Clint Fontanella, “20 Customer Touchpoints That Will Optimize Your Customer Journey”, Hubspot
Buyer personas help you deliver your message with laser focus. In a digital landscape full of distractions, personalization captures your target audience’s attention: When you’re addressing their specific issues and values using terms and emotional signals they understand, they’ll respond. But it only works if you’re sincere–and buyer personas serve as virtual ambassadors, enabling you to genuinely empathize with your audience as you become more immersed in their culture.
Here are a few ways a robust buyer persona will help you optimize your digital marketing return on investment:
- Qualify your leads: When your digital marketing efforts cast too wide a net, you burden your sales teams with dead-end leads or underdeveloped prospects. Content strategies designed to appeal to specific buyer personas deliver informed and enthusiastic leads to your sales associates.
- Identify appropriate distribution channels: If you don’t understand how your target audience consumes media, you might as well be shouting into the wind.
- Satisfy expectations of social proof: Where do your prospects go to learn about your products or services? Chances are, they read reviews, trust influencer endorsements, and send “shout outs” to friends. These are all examples of social proof, and your buyer persona will guide your strategy for leveraging word-of-mouth validation.
- Predict consumer trends: As you become more attuned to your evolving customer persona, you’ll be more receptive to shifts in purchasing habits. The same feedback you gather while developing and refining your buyer persona will inform future product development and increase your brand’s agility.
- Align your brand with your audience’s worldview: Today’s consumers require authenticity from their brands, and while personalized marketing hits that high note, it’s not enough. What does your brand do to make your target audience’s world a better place? How can you best demonstrate your ethical commitments without sounding insincere? What is your buyer persona’s expectation for transparency?
Effective communication isn’t about broadcasting information. It’s about engaging in dialogue and making your message relatable. Good storytellers often write with a specific reader in mind. Visual artists call on imaginary muses for inspiration. Marketers have buyer personas, and yours will help you light the path for your customer’s journey through the purchasing process.
5 Steps to defining buyer personas
How do you go about creating an entire (if not imagined) creature from scratch? The prospect may seem daunting until you realize everything you need is likely at hand.
Step 1: Research your target audience
- Reach out to your customers to gather feedback, and use online surveys on your website and social media channels to learn more about your prospects. Offer incentives to participants, but make sure they know there are no strings attached. Don’t forget to include those “not-so-satisfied” customers; their input is at least as valuable as your brand champions’ rave reviews.
- Compare notes with your sales team. Are they happy with the leads you’re sending their way? Do their own post-sales follow-up efforts offer valuable feedback?
- Use social listening tools to monitor brand mentions online, and engage with your audience on their preferred social media platforms.
- Study user insights through website analytics. What keywords are your customers using to find you–or your competitors? How much time do they spend on your site? Which devices and operating systems are they using? You likely measure all of these using popular website analytics tools, and even the most basic products provide valuable feedback.
Step 2: Narrow down similarities
Once you’ve accumulated information about your target audience, you’ll begin to recognize patterns. If you visualize that data in a Venn diagram, the overlapping areas are the traits you’ll want to incorporate into your personas. These highlights may include (but certainly aren’t limited to):
- Purchase timeline
- Career experience
- Pain points
- Role in the decision-making process
- Positive or negative experiences with similar brands
- Favorite wine bar
- Peer group
- Preference for dogs or cats
The point is, you shape the questions. The most-common results shape your buyer persona.
Step 3: Segment your audience into different personas
“You could spend months creating the most dynamic campaign, but if you’re sending it out en masse without considering the unique preferences, goals, and intentions of your target audience, you could render your efforts fruitless.” That’s what Gripped co-founder Ben Crouch wrote in “Why Audience Segmentation is Crucial for Inbound Marketing”, and it applies to different types of customers within your greater target market and their positions on the path-to-purchase.
As previously mentioned, you’ll want to leave room in your cast of characters for market segments, and you’ll want to anticipate changes in each core persona as they respond to industry influences.
Step 4: Create buyer persona templates
Once you’ve identified your market segments and gathered your data, the hard work is behind you. An effective buyer persona template is an informal character profile or CV, most often with a generic descriptor (e.g. “Andy the Accounts Payable Guy” or “Kelly the Key Account Manager”). Here are examples of topics, details, and language you might wish include in your customer persona template:
- Overview: In-house, overworked, doesn’t see her friends a lot, and feels she’d be more confident in her position with a better workflow
- Basic demographics: Female, 37, divorced/remarried, completed a university degree in a different field, two kids.
- Pain points: Interdepartmental communication issues leave her vulnerable to missed deadlines and poor customer outcomes. She doesn’t have time for a steep learning curve, especially since she relies on “floating” staff to help when the pressure’s on. The last CRM platform she used was too rigid; she needs customization capabilities in her next investment.
- Biggest fears: Burnout from an otherwise rewarding job–she loves interacting with her clients and mentoring her newer colleagues when she’s not wiped out.
- Goals: She wants more time to mentor her newer colleagues and interns, take on more of a leadership role within the organization, and stop taking work home with her on weekends.
Use your data and your imagination to flesh out a character you’ll easily keep in mind. Be as detailed as you feel your profile requires and do your best to put into words how you feel the persona interacts with his or her world. You may draw from “real world” inspiration, basing its personality and motivations on an aggregate selection of favorite customers.
Step 5: Test and evaluate
Is your content attracting quality leads? Are your ads generating conversions at the rate you expect? If the answer is “no”, you may need to revisit your personas and analyze whether they correctly represent your ideal customer’s core interests and pain points. That’s where A/B (or “split”) testing comes in.
Think of A/B testing as the digital marketer’s answer to bake-offs: Using metrics to determine how your audience interacts with your web pages, social media messages, and content, you can compare engagement between two or more versions of a landing page, advertisement, article, video, e-mail campaign, or offer. A/B testing informs your customer persona development and makes sure you’re not serving chocolate cake when the road to their heart is paved with strawberry-stuffed crepes.
Ready for some character development?
Your “cast” of buyer personas will help you build a more relatable brand through audience-focused inbound marketing. When included in your writer guidelines, they’ll foster consistency across your content and improve brand trust. The sooner you create yours, the sooner they’ll introduce you to qualified leads!
If you’d like some help creating actionable customer persona that will help to increase sales and new clients, let’s connect.
If your not sure if your customer persona is performing as well as it should, take the new quiz HERE!