If you have read any articles on digital marketing, you have probably heard the term(s) buyer persona, customer avatar, or customer profile. All these are names for the same basic thing. For this article, I will call it a buyer persona, but understand different marketers, agencies, and businesses may have slightly different names for it.
So, what is it? In short, it is merely a fictionalized version of your best or typical customer. It includes information such as:
- Job or Title
- Likes & Dislikes
- Business & Personal Goals
- Concerns and Problems
- Places Visited Online
- Social Media Used
It is basically a profile of who they are and what makes up their business and personal outlook on the world. Ideally, someone that read a buyer persona should be able to develop quickly develop a mental picture of who this person is.
Why is a Buyer Persona Important?
The first obvious question after understanding what a buyer persona is and understanding some of the information used to make one up is why you even want it. As human beings with different types of jobs and varying types of personalities, goals, problems, and motivations, we continually search for products or services that solve specific problems or make us happier. If we find such a product or service, we are more inclined to buy. If a message, ad, content, email, social media post, article, etc. speaks to us and our problem(s) we are more likely to give it our attention.
The buyer persona allows a marketer to have some insight as to whom they are talking to when they are creating content. If you understand that, you can create content that speaks directly to that person and motivates them to listen, consider, and hopefully buy.
Without a buyer persona, you never have a clear vision of exactly who you are talking to and why they would ever want to buy what you are selling. You end up spending a lot of wasted time creating advertising campaigns and content that doesn’t resonate with your ideal customer.
Without a buyer persona, you end up following the old adage of throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall until something sticks. Unfortunately, in the process, you waste a lot of time, money, and get a fraction of the customers possible.
How to Build a Buyer Persona?
The first thing to understand is that there is no one way or “right” way to create a buyer persona. The way one business or person does it may not make sense to you and vice versa. Many have similar information, but if you choose to have different information in yours, that is fine. In the end, the important thing is that you have a clear picture of who this customer is so you can better communicate with them about what you offer.
Some of the more common items that go into a buyer persona include a combination of demographic and psychographic information. It is essential to understand this information isn’t about one person; instead, it is generalizations about a specific group of people.
For example, suppose you were a software company that sold financial software. In that case, you might decide that your ideal customer is the CFO of a small to medium-sized company. Ideally, you get even more specific. The tighter you make your buyer persona, the easier it will be to have accurate, general information.
Using our above example, we narrow it even further. We want a CFO of a small or medium-sized manufacturing company. Located in the Midwest, with approximately 20-40 employees. It is privately held with sales of 5 million to 25 million per year. Again, the more specific you get, the easier it is to develop your persona.
Once you know, the type of person you are looking for you can start adding additional information such as:
- Common Title
- Typical Age
- Average Salary
- Male or Female
- Highest Priority Problem
- Career Goals
- Likes & Dislikes
- Websites Visited
- Typical Phrases Used
You can see that as you complete this information, you can almost visualize who they are. You might even have a person in mind that is already a customer and matches this profile. You can add or subtract information as you see fit. Remember, the main goal is to have a clear mental picture of exactly who this customer is and why they might want to use your service or product.
The example above is a business to business example, but you can just as quickly develop a profile for a business to consumer. The information is similar but may include other information such as:
- Single or Married
- Children or No Children
- Hobbies & Interests
- Types of Social Media Interests
- Type of Job Held
Where do you Find Buyer Persona Information?
The most natural place to start is with your existing customers. Start by looking through your current customers and grading or ranking them from 1 to 5 with a 1 being your ideal very best type of customer and 5 being your worst type of customer. Some of the things you might consider in making this evaluation:
- How much they spend
- How quickly they pay
- Are they repeat buyers
- How difficult or easy they are to work with
Everyone can immediately identify several customers they have that they believe are ideal for their business. These customers are profitable, easy to work with, and are a good match for what you offer.
The next step is to group these ideal customers into common groups. You should be able to see shared traits among these groups quickly. You simply start using the information you know about your existing customers to create a profile with the types of data identified above. Your profile will almost write itself when you do this.
If you are not sure of the answers to some of these questions, you can simply call your existing customers or reach out to them with an email survey and ask them. If they are your ideal customers and like your product or service, they generally won’t have any problems answering them.
You can talk to your sales and customer service reps for additional information. These employees often have a wealth of information about existing customers that can quickly help complete and expand your buyer persona.
Advanced Buyer Persona Information
Once you have the necessary buyer persona information developed above, you could go even further by pulling a small group of existing customers and doing a focus group. Ask them questions about why they like your product or service. You could show them ads, content, landing pages, emails, and other materials you have and ask them for their opinions. Would they be interested in that material? Would it motivate them to call for more information or click through to your website?
You could offer them an incentive to participate such as free support or service, gift card, or other items they would find valuable, but don’t break the bank. Sometimes you don’t need to offer anything. If they are good and regular customers, you deal with all the time they may be willing to help just by asking.
You can also obtain this information through your website analytics. If you create an ad that goes to a landing page with a CTA (call to action), you can quickly see how many people click on the ad, how long they stay on the landing page, and if they take action on your CTA. As these leads convert into customers, you can refine your existing buyer persona with this information. You now have a good feeling about what types of content will resonate with them.
How to Use a Buyer Persona
Once you have a robust buyer persona developed, you can use this “template” to find potential new customers that aren’t currently buying from you. This persona will allow you to find potential customers with online advertising, networking, scouring LinkedIn, other social media, and many other places. It will enable you to look at a group of people and quickly identify people in that group that match your profile.
It will also help you create content for your website, email campaigns, social media, online advertising, CTAs, videos, and lead magnets. Over time as you refine your content marketing strategies for these buyer personas, you will develop an audience of customers. Many will buy more over time and become brand evangelists promoting your products or services to people who may not be your customers.
Buyer Persona Frequently Asked Questions
How many buyer personas can I have?
As many as you want, however, keep in mind that the more you have, the more individualized content you need to create for each group. If you get too many, it becomes unwieldy and difficult to manage. Customers we work with generally have 3-5 personas and find that it is more than enough to grow business at a healthy and manageable rate.
Isn’t Everyone a Potential Customer?
No, many people will never have an interest or desire to purchase your product or service. If you ignore this fundamental truth, you will spend a lot of time chasing prospects that will never buy from you. You may have a buyer that doesn’t match any of your existing buyer personas. Sometimes this is a one-off buyer, or sometimes it is the beginning of a new market and hence new buyer persona.
What if I create a buyer persona, and it doesn’t work?
Most likely, you don’t have enough data to build a proper persona. You are missing information, or you have incorrect information. Many digital marketing firms can give you a template and help you gather and complete the report and test it for validity.
The following books are great resources that will help you more fully understand buyer personas and how they fit into your overall marketing strategy:
- Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. Here
- Inbound Marketing, Revised and Updated: Attract, Engage, and Delight Customers Online. Here
Too many small and medium-sized businesses take a haphazard approach at marketing. Companies don’t have a full understanding of their ideal customers. They spend time marketing to people who are not their ideal customers and may never want to buy from them. They often waste money and effort in the wrong places and don’t measure their results accurately.
All good marketing begins with a robust buyer persona. If you don’t have complete and accurate buyer personas, you will never have a reliable marketing system.
If you would like to learn more about creating buyer personas, please reference the books listed above or schedule a free 45-minute consulting session with our company. We guarantee you will get at least three actionable items for your business during this session.