Marketing automation tools drive efficiency and provide new opportunities, but with this technology it can be easy to forget about the actual person on the other end of our communications. In our search to increase click-through and conversion rates, we quickly lose sight of our audience. Buyer personas are the key to avoiding this and making our marketing more impactful. Understanding who we’re speaking to and what their goals and pain points are is the first step to crafting messages that engage audiences. In this post we’ll be looking at buyer personas – what they are, why they matter and how to create yours.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on actual research and some educated assumptions. Crafting buyer personas will help you segment your contact database, so you get the right content in front of the right person at the right time. You can also use this information to move people further through the buyer’s journey.
Buyer personas tell a story about your ideal customer. They include general demographic information like age, location, salary and education as well as more specific information like their goals, challenges, watering holes (where they go for information) and preferred methods of communication. All this information can be compiled to create a comprehensive profile that your team can use to create products, services and content that your buyers need.
If you don’t have a view into who your buyers are, there’s a good chance your marketing efforts are missing the mark. You have several resources at your disposal that you can use to create your buyer personas:
- Audit your existing customer database. Your CRM is the software of record for your organization. It has everything you need to know about your customers, some of which may be valuable for your buyer personas. Look through your customer records to see if there are any discernable trends in the data.
- Use forms to capture important persona information. If you’re using forms to capture lead intelligence, you should be asking for key pieces of information that will help you create your buyer personas and keep them up to date. Consider implementing progressive profiling so you’re always collecting new information about contacts you already have in your database. This is an easy way to conduct ongoing research that won’t take a lot of time.
- Interview your customer and prospects. The best source of information for your buyer personas are your existing customers. You should start with your best customers because it’s likely they will most closely resemble your ideal customers. Interviews with customers and prospects will help you collect enough information to build accurate and detailed buyer personas.
- Consult with your Sales team. Your Sales team spends a lot of time talking to customers and they have a lot of insight into what makes a good customer. Working with them to create your buyer personas will help ensure that they’re accurate and that they reflect the organization’s target markets. It’s important to check your bias when researching buyer personas; what you think is true may not be true for other areas of the business.
How to conduct buyer persona research
Asking people to take time out of their busy day to complete a survey or answer questions about who they are can be a hard sell, especially if they aren’t customers you speak with on a regular basis. Consider using incentives like gift cards or promotions to get a better response rate.
You should also use different methods to collect information. Ask interviewees if they would prefer a conversation over phone, completing an online survey or responding to questions via email. Again, this helps ensure you get more responses. The more information you have about your target audience, the easier it is to create accurate buyer personas.
Be as flexible as possible and work around the interviewee’s schedule. Remember, you’re asking people you may not have a business relationship with to take time out of their day. You can increase your chances of getting a response (and valuable information) if you allow them to pick a time that works for them. To make sure they don’t forget, be sure to send them a calendar invite and block off their schedule.
When it comes to buyer personas, the value is in the details. Having a standard template for your interview can simplify the process so you don’t forget to ask key questions and get the information you need. We’ve put together a simple interview template that you can use as a guideline for your own interviews.
How you can use buyer personas
One of the biggest misconceptions about buyer personas is that they’re just for marketers. For your buyer personas to be truly effective, they should be used across your business to foster alignment and ensure customer experience is the red thread that runs throughout product development, sales, marketing and support. A customer-centric focus starts with buyer personas. When used correctly, personas can turn customers into promoters, drive brand awareness and increase leads.
Marketing is all about messaging. Buyer personas are a great tool to guide your Marketing team so they’re spending their time and resources on content and communications that convert. Generic content may appeal to a small percentage of a large group, but detailed content that addresses the specific concerns of your ideal customer is more likely to convert a large percentage of a smaller group, the group you want to engage. Buyer personas help marketers work smarter to drive engagement and generate leads.
For the motivated salesperson, buyer personas can be a gold mine. They give your Sales team all the information they need to go out and look for new opportunities. In most organizations, both Sales and Marketing own a piece of the pipeline and filling the funnel is a shared responsibility. Sales teams can use buyer personas to proactively identify potential customers through smart prospecting. Everything from which social media platforms to use and websites to visit through to common pain points, buyer personas have the information salespeople need to craft meaningful, personalizes first messages that engage prospects.
Customer-centric design begins with the customer. Understanding who you’re designing for can guide the decision-making process when it comes to your product or solution. Product managers can use buyer personas to prioritize product releases and determine which features and bug fixes to focus on. They can also be used to validate feature requests and customer feedback by answering one simple question: does this address a key pain point or challenge for my ideal customer?
Buyer persona best practices
Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you draft your buyer personas:
- You should have one to three buyer personas. If you’re trying to appeal to too many segments of your customer base, your sales and marketing efforts can become ineffective. Buyer personas are only useful if they’re used to frame personalized content that address a specific buyer’s concerns.
- Make interviews part of your standard onboarding process. Make buyer persona research easy for your team by including it in your onboarding process. Your customer experience and/or support team can use the interview as a touch point to check in on customers and see how they’re doing.
- The details matter. After you have conducted customer and prospect interviews and compiled the information, you should see patterns start to emerge. These patterns form the basis of your buyer persona story. Everything from demographics to goals and pain points to where they find information matters in a buyer persona because it helps you develop a more effective marketing strategy.
- Regularly review and update your personas as necessary. Buyer personas are not a ‘set it and forget it’ activity. You should be reviewing them on a regular basis to ensure they still reflect your ideal customer. Doing additional buyer persona research will help you get them up to date so you’re targeting the right audience.
- All roads lead back to your personas. Everything you do with your digital marketing strategy should be tied back to your personas. Buyer personas ultimately guide everything from your marketing activities to product and service development. They help you understand where your ideal customers are so you can be there too.
If you’re looking for more guidance, download our free Buyer Persona Interview Worksheet to help get you started. It includes an interview template as well as sample questions to consider during your interviews.