Buyer personas are not wanky!
I was scrolling through the feed in one of my Facebook business groups this week and came across a discussion on buyer personas. Some very intelligent marketing people said they never bother with personas as they think they are ‘B.S’, ‘wanky’ and a waste of time.
I decided it was time to defend the buyer persona and show how useful they can be.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a fictitious snapshot of a particular type of customer based on insights. It’s usually summarised in one page and should be referenced in all marketing documents, especially briefs to suppliers and consultants.
While customer segmentation allows you to build a top line picture of different groups of customers (usually including some demographics and purchase behaviours), a buyer persona allows you to build a deep understanding of the type of people in each of your different segments and what motivates them with regards to your offering.
Buyer personas can help you to picture your customers as if they were chatting to you over a glass of wine, telling you their hopes and dreams (while you get excited about how your latest product can help them).
If you don’t have them, you’re most likely missing out on opportunities for your business and your marketing efforts might just be missing the mark.
A buyer persona example
Below is an example of a buyer persona I created for a fictitious online clothing boutique.
You can see that I’ve included some basic demographics such as age, gender, marital status and occupation. You may also wish to include information such as annual salary, ethnic background or socio economic status if they’re relevant to your business.
Most importantly, I’ve surrounded the ‘buyer’ with motivations such as goals, fears, challenges and potential objections as these will help us to understand why she would buy our product or service and how we can make it even more appealing to her.
I’ve included a section on ‘sources of information’, as marketers need to understand where their buyers go to for information about their product category so that they can focus their marketing or content efforts in the right channels. It’s a good idea to provide examples of the actual names of social media page that your persona might follow as these could be your competitors for their time and money, or ideal places to advertise your products.
In order to bring the buyer to life it’s a good idea to include an image and a name. If you’re stuck for inspiration, you can generate names and images via the free website UINames.com).
Not every buyer persona template is the same
When I worked in the area of food and beverage marketing, we always used to include a little quote from the persona that represented their thoughts on a relevant topic or the challenges we were looking to solve.
Different businesses will adjust the buyer persona template to suit their needs.
Below is an example of a persona created by Hubspot, which includes some additional elements such as a quote and what the persona does on an average day:
Where should you start when creating a buyer persona?
‘A persona should have enough psychological detail to allow you to conveniently step over to the persona’s view and see your products and services from her perspective. A persona can function almost like another person in the room when making a decision—It is “Sally.” She looks at what you’re doing from her particular and very specific vantage point, and points out flaws and benefits for her.’ Via Bufferapp.com
If you have an existing business with an established customer base, you could start by doing some research with your customers.
Send a questionnaire out to your email list or ask some of your customers if they would allow you to give them a quick call to find out a bit more about them and how you can best meet their needs. Keep your buyer persona template nearby and try to cover off some of these questions (best not to ask the annual salary one – I wouldn’t imagine many people would be up for revealing that over the phone or email).
You can also have a look at data from your Google analytics or Facebook Insights analytics (if you’ve built a large enough following on your business page). Facebook’s analytics offers a wealth of information including the age, gender, location, language and even the interests of people who have liked your page (via audience insights).
What if you have a new business?
If you have a new business with no existing customers, you should start by listing out the problems your ideal customers would have, as you have no doubt created a product or service designed to solve those problems.
Example: Let’s imagine you have a new meal delivery service that promises to deliver take away meals in under 20 minutes.
The problems you are solving could include:
-I have no time to cook for myself
-I really hate cooking
-I have a hungry family but no time to cook for them on certain nights
-I have friends coming over but nothing in the fridge
One of your ideal customers could be a single working woman who often works late and hates cooking. Another customer could be a mum who takes her kids to after school sport and has no time for cooking, but a house full of hungry mouths to feed. These can be the basis of your first personas.
Once you’ve identified these potential customers, try to find some people in your network who fit the general description of the customer and get them to trial the product. After the trial, you will need to follow them up with an interview to find out whether it was for them and at that point you can ask them some questions that will help you to build your initial personas.
If you have no product for them to try, give them an overview of the offering and ask them if they think it could help them and in what way.
Evolve your buyer persona document over time
As you learn more about your customers, you will need to review and build on your buyer personas over time.
You might launch new products that solve new problems, or find that new people are buying your products as solutions to problems you hadn’t thought of.
Where to find buyer persona templates and inspiration
There are oodles of free buyer persona templates available online, and loads of great buyer persona examples to inspire you.
Here are some links you might like to check out:
Templates to download:
Online template tools (free)
Arggg… but do I REALLY need these buyer personas?
Does all this buyer persona stuff seem like too much hard work?
You probably have a zillion other things to do, right?
You simply can’t sell a product effectively and efficiently if you don’t know who you’re selling it to and how your product is meeting their needs.
I guarantee you, it’s worth taking the time to get them right. Once you’ve got your buyer personas worked out, everything will really start to come together beautifully – especially your marketing and content.
5 things you can use a buyer persona for:
‘The key to any successful marketing or branding campaign starts with understanding your audience. And any well-defined audience starts with a buyer persona.’ Joe Simpson, Forbes Councils
- Buyer personas show you where to ‘hang out’ online in order to listen in to what your target market is passionate about or what their needs are (this can better inform your content and your product development process)
- Create content that actually resonates with your ideal customers and helps them to solve their problems
- Target your social media to the right people and use the right hashtags and tone of voice
- Optimise your ad and marketing spend to target the right people in the right place at the right time
- Collaborate with the right partners for promotions – other businesses that your personas are interested in
Need some help putting your buyer persona documents together? I can workshop them with you and finesse them so that you REALLY know where to aim your marketing efforts and how to craft your content and copy.
Email me via firstname.lastname@example.org.