Buyer Personas 101: what they are, why you need one and how to make your own.

By Steph Von der Heyde | Content Marketing

Jun 14

‘Buyer persona’ is a term you’ve probably heard being thrown around by sales teams, advertising agencies and that smug guy at your gym, but although you think you know what it means you’re still not quite sure of the details and at this point you’re too afraid to ask.

Not to worry: you’re not alone and you won’t be in the dark for much longer.

We’re about to tell you exactly what a buyer persona is, what it does, and how to create one. We will also show you how you can use it to improve your marketing strategy, connect with your customers and grow your business.

But first …

What is a buyer persona?

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Essentially, a buyer persona is an extremely detailed representation of the type of people interested in your business. It’s a document (which takes the shape of a ‘persona’) that represents your client base in a tangible and relatable way – giving you actionable information about what he/she wants, likes, needs and how you should be marketing to them.

Picture a file. And in that file is every piece of relevant of information about every one of your current and potential clients.

Now imagine that file came to life. And called himself Bob. And Bob’s character was entirely made up of the clients’ facts that were in that file. And you could observe Bob as he went about his day and ask him anything you wanted…

That’s the essence of a buyer persona: a real-life representation of everything you’d like to know about your clients. How they speak and act, what they like and dislike, what blogs they read, where they go on weekends, what kinds of things they want and need and how you should market to them.

A good buyer persona tells you everything you need to know about the type of people who are interested in your products.

Why do I need one?

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Reason 1:

It gives you a deep and meaningful understanding of your current and future clients

This goes without saying. Having a buyer persona deepens your understanding of the type of people interested in your business and tells you everything you need to know about what they love, hate, want and need.

The type of data you get from the process of creating a buyer persona is not only indispensable to the marketing department, it also helps to inform your product development, your services and how you do business day to day.

Reason 2:

It get’s everyone on the same page.

If you were buying a gift for your mother you’d know exactly the sort of thing she’d want – because you know her so well. If you were to entrust this task to one of your staff they’d struggle because, even though you may have told them about her, they may have a very different image of her in their mind.

A buyer persona solves that problem. Once you have one, every team and every department has the same clear facts. This negates the issue of having people with different ideas about what your clients wants and there is no more confusion about goals. Everyone is on the same page and pulling in the same direction.

Reason 3:

It gives you better quality leads

Once you’ve completed your buyer persona you’ll know things like where your type of clients spend time, what interests them and what their average day looks like. Having access to facts like this will tell you exactly where, when and how to target your best leads and will help you build better lead nurturing programmes in the future.

Reason 4:

It will inform your internal strategies

A buyer persona will show you exactly where you should be focusing your efforts, what needs to change and where you should be spending the most time. It will not only help you develop your marketing strategies, it will also help you to deal with your current clients, determine what type of content you’re producing and show you how, when and where you can improve your current systems with your prospective customers in mind.

Reason 5:

It will help you grow your business

Having a buyer persona removes a lot of risk. It will point out the areas that you need to develop and removes a lot of the need for trial and error. Instead of introducing a new strategy, campaign, product or service and waiting to see if it works, a buyer persona will ensure that you know exactly how your clients will respond before you go ahead. This is extremely valuable information to have and takes a lot of the guesswork and frustration out of growing your business.

What information should be included in my buyer persona?

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A typical buyer persona includes all the usual demographics (age, gender, location, education, occupation, income), but will also incorporate the less tangible stuff such as goals, likes, dislikes, hobbies, favourite brands, favourite websites or whatever inside scoop you’d like on your clientele.

This helps you to determine exactly how you should be engaging with them and shows you what you should be doing to make both your current and prospective customers happy.

So how do you know that potential customer Pete hopes to open his own business one day, dislikes warm tea and regularly writes fan-fiction for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?

Yes, you guessed it: you create a buyer persona. Here’s how…

How to create a buyer persona

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Step 1: Set your goals

Ask yourself what kind of information you want to know about your client and why. What problems would you like to solve and what information do you need to solve it?

Are your customers not engaging with you on social media or are you struggling to break into a crowded industry? Do you need to build trust or are you looking to increase the number of visitors to your website?

These are the kind of things you need to have sorted before you begin and the more specific you are, the better. The clearer your goals the easier you’ll find it to gather the right information.

Step 2: Gather Intel

You need to collect as much detailed information about your existing clients as you can possibly lay your voracious little hands on.

Interviews:

The easiest way to do this through Q&A sessions.

This is where your planning comes in handy: what is it that you want to know about your clients? What will give you an insight into their wants and needs? What attracted them to your business and what can they tell you that will help you attract others like them?

Coming up with your set of questions should take some time and should aim to exact as much relevant information as possible. Including some less-obvious stuff like:

  1. What frustrates you about our industry?
  2. Describe your average day?
  3. What bad experiences have you had (or heard about) in our industry?
  4. What are your interests outside work?
  5. What websites do you visit most frequently?
  6. What is the best part of your day?
  7. What 5 adjectives do you think describe you best?
  8. If you wrote our CEO a text, what would it say?
  9. Do you have a ‘pet-peeve’ when it comes to advertising or marketing?
  10. If you could have any of our services for free, which would you choose?

For Example, if you ran a IT service you might ask:

  1. What do you hate most about operating your computer?
  2. What IT skills do you wish you had?
  3. What about your computer adds value to your day?
  4. Apple or PC?
  5. How many a) laptops and b) desktops do you have in your home?
  6. Are most of your IT problems network related or software related?

Don’t be afraid to unleash that inner spy. Asking (seemingly random) things like ‘what is the lowpoint of your day?’, for example, can give you insights that will help you identify gaps in the market.

It’s knowing these things about your buyer persona that will ensure that your marketing, content, products and services are primed to solve your client’s pains, frustrations and satisfy their desires.

Note: This questionnaire should be served with your best smile and possibly an incentive: most people enjoy having the opportunity to talk about themselves a bit, but this information is valuable to you and free samples, gift-cards and discounts always go a long way.

Speak to your Sales Team:

  • This is where you’ll get information about potential clients and ‘the ones that got away’. Ask your sales and marketing team to give you the skinny on
  • The type of people that usually show interest
  • Where the most and least leads come from
  • Where your best and worst clients have from
  • The most common questions asked
  • At what point of the sale clients usually lose interest
  • The most common reasons for rejection
  • What are the common complaints
  • What good feedback have they had

Online data:

Your client’s are being watched. Yes, it’s true, every Cookie they’ve ever enabled has left crumbs all over the net for you to follow.

Start with collecting data from your own website forum or those of your competitors: what are people asking and talking about?

Now do some keyword research. Trawl through the comments on your social media pages. Look at the comments on industry-related blogs and check out popular searches.

The best way to get all your information in one place is to fall in love with Google Analytics and wade waist-deep through the data that your website visitors unwittingly provide. The people who visit your site (and others like it) are the people you need to know about.

There is an absolute goldmine of information just waiting to be discovered, if you have the right tools to tap the vein.

Archives:

Go through your archives and see the kinds of questions your customers have asked you in the past.

Collect as much information about past buyers as you can and add it all to the pile. Once you think you’ve got enough answers it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 4: Bring it to life

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Go through all the information you’ve amassed and start to populate your buyer persona.

You will start to notice that particular words or phrases keep re-occurring; pay attention to clues like this. Find patterns and pull out the stuff that you think makes them the type of people who are interested in a particular product or service.
If you find that your your data is spread too widely then start by dividing it into different groups and use each group to make a separate buyer persona.

Some companies will have a handful of different personas according to the different products and services they offer. Laptops Larry and Desktop Dave, for example.

This allows them to adjust their marketing strategy according to different sectors of their market. Whether that means sending different emailers to each sector or simply updating your website to include more information in your FAQs for newcomer Nick as well as killer technical blog posts for old-hat Andrew.

Below is a simplified example of a typical buyer persona:

18046136742_540058b930_zName: James Hewitt
Age: 48
Occupation: Engineer
Marital Status: Married with two children
Location: Melbourne
Daily Responsibilities: Take kids to school, work, fetch kids, cook dinner, supervise homework, bed.
Interests: Running, online gaming, carpentry.
Concerns: The health and safety of his children, the rising petrol price, work pressure, the ageing process.
Education: Degree.
Goals: He wants to spend more time with his children and less time commuting to and from work. He’d like to get to the stage where he can hire an assistant.
Likes: Spending time with family, food, animals, keeping fit, ticking things off my do-list and building shelves.
Dislikes: Being disorganised, long commutes, reading.
Web-browsing habits: News24, 9Gag, Lamebook, Youtube, Delft3D
Words that he thinks describe him: Busy, organized, outgoing, disciplined, hard-working, logical.

The types of things you include in your buyer persona is up to you and will vary according to the information you find the most relevant to your business.

Don’t be afraid to include as many categories as you like – the example above is very simple; the more information you have, the better.

Step 5: Insights

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The final step.

You’ve created your own James, now it’s time to put him to work.

Look at the information in front of you and ask ‘what does this tell me about my clients?’. What it is that makes people like this interested in my business? And what can I do to improve my strategy?

This is the time to use your noggin. Or to tell your marketing department to use theirs.

Looking at your buyer persona, what do you think you can change about your current marketing strategy to make it better suited to your type of clients? Perhaps that means changing the tone of your brand voice. Or advertising on different websites. Or changing the type of content on your website. Or marketing to them at a different time of day.

This will all depend on the type data in front of you, but the good news is that seeing it in this form will make it easy for you to make these connections.

Note: some of you may be looking at your buyer persona and thinking, ‘this isn’t the type of client I want’. If that’s the case then you need to decide on the type of customer you’d like to have and look at where your current buyer persona falls short of this.

Perhaps you need to pick and choose different elements of your three favourite clients and use that to create your ideal buyer persona. Alternatively you can use your current buyer persona to determine what it is that’s attracting the type of people you don’t want.

The insights phase is all about using your new, in-depth client knowledge to help you decide on areas of your current strategy that you need to adjust. This will help inform your marketing strategy, your PR approach, your development processes and show you where you should be looking (and how you should be closing) better quality leads in future.

Summary:

So, just to recap:

  • Set goals: Decide what goals or problems you have and what information you’ll need to achieve or solve them.
  • Gather Intel: Devise a set of questions, make friends with Analytics and go through your archive.
  • Bring it to life: Go over all the data and start picking up on interesting patterns and trends. Once you’ve seen what the majority want/need/think/feel/like/hope and dream, you can use the information to populate the particulars of your buyer persona.
  • Make the connection: Look at your buyer persona and decide what that person would want from your business. Then put it into action.
  • Keep at it: Keep updating your information as your client list grows! When you become more comfortable with the process you may even find you’d like to have a different persona for each product or service.

And there you have it: you now know how to create your very own buyer persona and you’re well on your way to a better marketing strategy and a happier, bigger, better client list. Yes, it really is as simple as that. No more confusion, no more guesswork and no more smug-guy-at-the-gym.

Image courtesy of Pakor at Freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of potowizard at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of tiramisustudio at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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