What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer or customers. They help you understand your target audience better and make it easier for you to align your marketing to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups that you might be trying to appeal to.
The key thing is that they should be based on research. Not gut feel.
In this episode, learn how to build real buyer personas that will help you focus your marketing.
This resource for this episode is available to Patrons of the show and available at the Marketing Builder Patreon Page.
As part of the service, I have had this episode transcribed. Transcribing, proofing, and editing a podcast episode is A LOT of work. That’s why I use a service called REV who provide professional freelance transcriptionists who are vetted for quality. While they offer a 99% accuracy guarantee, I do not proof-read their work extensively. Instead, I simply copy and paste below and, as such, please note that this is not a verbatim transcript of the episode and I have trimmed things like the intro, close, and mid-show ad.
So, what are buyer personas?
Well, Buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customer or customers. They help you understand your target audience better and make it easier for you to align your marketing to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups that you might be trying to appeal to.
Now, the key thing here, is that they should be based on research. Not gut feel.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as on insights you gather from your actual customer base through things like surveys and interviews. Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or maybe as many as 10!
I’ve been a part of my fair share of business networking groups. One I’ve spent a bit of time in asks each member to stand up, each weekly meeting, and talk about their business for 60 seconds and ask for a specific referral, by name. However, time and time again, people finish their 60 seconds and instead of being specific, simply say things like “So I’m looking for anyone who needs gardening, wants to sell a house, needs a mortgage, needs solar panels” or whatever it is they offer.
The point of that example is that they aren’t specific. So, as soon as you try and be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one.
If I was a real estate agent, of course I’d want to talk to anyone thinking of selling their property. But that wouldn’t help me differentiate against my competitors not would it help me focus my marketing. Instead, I’d choose a few buyer personas. I’d have one for the busy family, one for 50 pluses looking to downsize, one for first home buyers, and one for young professionals who have been in the market for a while.
Having personas like that simply focuses me, it doesn’t exclude people.
However, if you don’t have personas, and this is your first attempt at creating them, I recommend starting small; you can always develop more personas later, if needed.
Now, at the most basic level, personas allow you to personalise or target your marketing to different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.
When combined with your sales funnel and the buyer decision process i.e. how far along someone is in your sales funnel, buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly relevant and targeted marketing for when people are at different stages of the sales funnel.
This is a really important point because if we don’t have a deep understanding of who we are trying to market to, then there are large elements of guessing and chance that come into our communications. And that’s not something we want when we are trying to make the most of limited marketing budgets.
So, while you probably think you know you target audience well, don’t be dismissive of this process. Further, if you work somewhere that has multiple staff, you each may think, individually, that you know your target audience well but how confident are you that you’d all describe them exactly the same?
I’d be willing to put money on it that you wouldn’t. In fact, the gold standard wouldn’t be describing them at all, it would be showing me your well developed persona.
Now, Buyer personas are created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and even those outside of your contact database who might align with your target audience.
Some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas include:
- Interviewing customers, either in person or over the phone or email, to discover what they like about your product or service.
- Looking through your contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your marketing content as well as products or services.
- Visiting the places online that your target audience hangs out. For example, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, popular blogs and websites, and community sites like Reddit and Quora.
- When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size in your forms. You could also gather information on what forms of social media your leads use by asking a question about social media accounts. And finally
- Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they are interacting with most. They are on the front line and will be able to provide some insightful generalisations about the different types of leads and customers they interact with day in, day out.
However, after the break, I am going to share with you one of my favourite tools for getting inside your target audience’s head.
OK, back to buyer personas. One of my favourite tools for researching buyer personas is a site called answerthepublic.com. The reason I love this tool is that it will literally tell you the exact phrases people are searching Google for and collate them for you. So, you know when you are typing something into Google and Google starts auto-suggesting the rest of your search term? Well, those suggestions are based on the most common terms everyone else is searching for.
On answerthepublic.com, if you type in ‘HR Software’, the website will collate the most popular terms and questions that people are searching for and collate them into categories such as How, Which, What etc. For example, I typed in HR software and the results gave me things like
Which HR Software is best;
What does HR software do;
Why use HR software;
How much does HR software cost; and
As you can see, if I was selling HR software, there are loads of great insights about exactly what the target audience is searching for on Google. All of that helps inform my buyer persona and helps me align my marketing.
As you begin to research, across all data sources and any places your target audience hangs out, you need to collate what you find. For patrons of the show, I’ve provided a handy resource for you to do this so just head to the show notes. Irrespective, as you research, I want you to collate common themes around three key pillars.
One, What are they trying to achieve and strive for?
Two, What are the pain points and frustrations they experience in relation to what they are trying to achieve or strive for; and
Three, What are the blockages they face or the resistance and objections they offer in making the necessary changes in relation to what they are trying to achieve or strive for?
As you go through this process, only log those findings, under the three categories, that you think are significant. For example, if there is just one person who says that they don’t have budget and its too expensive, then this isn’t common enough to be included in what will become a generalised representation of your target audience. So, leave those things out.
Once you’ve collated them in the resource spreadsheet, I want you to score them as a 1,2,3 in terms of either how common or frequent they are with one being the most common. This step will allow you to really focus in on what is most important for your audience.
Once you’ve completed the worksheet, patrons can also download the Buyer Persona Question workbook. In it, you’ll find the following really important questions that will help you build your personas. They are:
- Where does your dream buyer hang out and congregate?
- Where does your dream buyer get their information?
- What are they trying to achieve and strive for?
- What are the pain points and frustrations they experience in relation to what they are trying to achieve or strive for?
- What are the blockages they face or the resistance and objections they offer in making the necessary changes in relation to what they are trying to achieve or strive for?
- How do they prefer to communicate and/or receive information?
- Are there any specific phrases, lingo, acronyms, and language they use?
- What are some real quotes you’ve heard them say or write?
- What other demographic data do you think is important?
- What does a day in your dream buyer’s life look like?
- How would you describe your persona, incorporating all of the answers from the questions, in 150-200 words.
- What are the key messages, about your product/service, that will resonate with them?
You’ll note that some of those questions should be easily answered from your previous work while others will probably be well informed from your research to this point as well.
Once you’ve completed those questions, you need to pull it altogether into a one pager. Again, patrons of the show can download a template for this as well as a completed example persona so you know what to strive for.
Once you’ve completed the process, your one-page persona becomes a handy reference whenever we are discussing or creating marketing. A great thing to do with your fancy looking persona is to print it out and stick it up on your wall at your desk so you can keep your persona front of mind whenever you are creating marketing. It should feel like you are trying to speak to that exact person.
As I mentioned, for Patrons of the show, head to the show notes for episode 13 at marketingbuilder.net, and follow the link to the Patreon page and download all the resources I mentioned that will make this a breeze.
If your not a Patron of the show, then for just $4 US dollars per month you can access of all of the free resources, such as worksheets, guides, and templates plus access bonus patron only Q&A shows, access to the Marketing Builder Facebook group, for discussions and advice, an add to the Marketing Builder WhatsApp group where I share my random thoughts and encounters around marketing, access to live shows, streams and recordings and you’ll get a shout out on the show.
To become a patron of the show, just head to marketingbuilder.net and click on the Patron link