Creating Audience/Buyer Personas
Doesn’t it make you feel just a little bit envious?
Everything your competitors publish seems to resonate with their audience so much.
Readers adore their content.
They find every post so useful and worth sharing. Hell, many even add their RSS feed to Buffer to automatically repost every new article.
All while you’re still trying to figure out what topics could actually engage visitors on your site.
But did you know that there is only one reason for your struggle?
The lack of a defined buyer persona – a representation of the ideal buyer you’d like to attract.
And in this guide, I’ll show you what are audience personas and guide you through the 4-step process of creating them.
Ready? Let’s do it then…
What you’re going to learn:
- What are buyer personas
- Why do you need them
- How to use them to attract more qualified visitors to the site
- Key differences between B2B and B2C buying processes
- How to use buyer personas in SEO
- Elements of a good buyer persona
- And the 4-step framework for creating buyer personas for your site
What is a Buyer Persona?
The simplest way to define a buyer persona is as:
A model representation of your ideal buyer.
A good buyer persona defines who your ideal prospects are, their goals, behavior that impacts their purchases, buying process they go through every time they seek products and services similar to yours and drivers for making purchasing decisions.
In other words, buyer personas give you a deep understanding of the type of people you want to attract and convert into customers.
Let’s look at those elements of a buyer persona in detail:
A buyer persona will help you identify and then define how to communicate with the types of people you’re trying to attract.
It will also reveal what these buyers are trying to accomplish in their lives, work and define their typical responsibilities and initiatives.
This knowledge, in turn, can reveal a lot about what drives their buying behavior.
Traits of behavior
Buyer personas reveal what’s known as buyer mental models – a collection of attitudes, beliefs, motivations and other principles that guide their behavior.
Many of these affect why prospects do not buy and knowing them makes overcoming sales objections much easier.
To sell, you need to connect with prospects at the exact point of the buying cycle they’re at. Knowing their buying activities helps to map marketing campaigns to these buyers’ current needs.
Drivers for buying decision
Buyer persona will also reveal why prospects buy and in turn, make your job at converting them into clients that much easier.
But why do you need buyer personas?
At first, the notion of creating a model representation of a target buyer seems a bit… odd, doesn’t it?
After all, you know very well who you want to attract to the site.
You can picture them in your mind.
And explain why they’d need your product.
Having said that, you have to agree that most of this information is based on your assumptions.
You THINK you know your target market.
You THINK you know why they’d need what you offer.
But in reality, unless you’ve built these assumptions on solid research, they’re nothing more than guess work.
A buyer persona, on the other hand, is based on real data about your existing customers and deep research into their drivers and behaviors.
Still unconvinced why this is important?
Only 1 out of 10 people in you market actually needs your solution.
The remaining 9 aren’t even interested.
They don’t care about your product, service or offer.
And so, by targeting a general audience, you’re wasting 90% of your resources – time, money, assets and anything else you invest in promotion by chasing after people who wouldn’t buy from you anyway.
However, by developing and using buyer personas, you can increase your marketing’s effectiveness and reach only the people who really need you.
Buyer personas help reveal your customers’ real needs
What you think your customers need and what they’re really looking for doesn’t always match.
Developing buyer personas gives you an insight into their real needs and wants, making it easier to create relevant and engaging marketing message.
You learn where your customers go to seek products or services you sell
And in turn, you’re able to devise strategies suitable for every channel they use.
Buyer personas help increase ROI
Targeting highly specific market segment results in a lower cost and higher return on investment.
They help attract qualified traffic
Insight into your audiences buying behavior will help you launch marketing strategies that closely match those people’s needs and wants to attract them to your site,
Create more engaging content
Knowing what ticks the audience will help you plan and publish the exact content they’ll find engaging.
Buyer personas also improve decision-making
Knowing why people are likely to purchase specific products will help you become more efficient in marketing. Instead of guessing, you will be able to launch marketing campaigns based on real data and with a higher possibility of success.
The Buyer Persona Institute summed it up nicely in their 5 Rings of Buying Insight:
How to Use Buyer Personas in Marketing?
You know why you should create buyer personas and the information they reveal about your audience.
Let’s then talk about implementing them in your company’s marketing strategies.
And you know what, it’s actually quite simple…
Buyer personas help you make more informed decisions… about every aspect marketing strategy.
With buyer personas, you can create more engaging content that appeals to the very people you want to attract to your business.
Since you know who you want to attract, you can tailor website copy, blog posts and other content to specific audience segments.
You can better segment your target market and devise unique and highly targeted strategies for every sector.
And knowing why your potential clients are seeking your products can help you adapt the entire buyer’s journey to their needs – deliver the right message at the right time, focusing on their purchasing drivers.
In short, buyer personas allow you to be laser-focused in every aspect of your marketing strategy.
And here are a couple of examples how using persona’s improved other companies’ marketing:
In this podcast, John Sweeney and Richard Harris from DemandGen discussed how using buyer personas in email marketing improved campaign’s open rate by 2x and clickthrough rate by 5x.
For Skytap (according to this infographic), using targeted buyer personas resulted in 97% increase in online leads and 124% increase in sales leads.
And NetProspex, after reworking the website to focus on specific buyer personas, saw 900% increase in visit duration and 171% rise in marketing-generated revenue.
So let’s take a look at the process of developing buyer personas.
Elements of a Buyer Persona
Let’s start with identifying what you’re going to need to find out to create buyer personas.
Your Customers’ Needs and Wants
One reason for developing buyer personas is to be able to match your marketing efforts to potential customers’ exact needs. To achieve it, you’ll have to research their problems and challenges they face.
You’ll also need to find out your customers’ gender, age, race / ethnicity, education level, their income level, location, languages they speak, relationship and professional status.
Psychographic attributes describe a person’s personality, values they share, opinions, interests, and lifestyle.
To uncover it, you might have to ask them about:
- brands they identify with
- their favorite websites
- ideals they hold on to
- how tech savvy they are
- and what or who can influence their purchasing decisions
Finally, you’ll need to discover your target audience’s buying behavior.
In particular, how do they prefer to communicate with brands? Do they prefer brands to be proactive and send them email updates? Or do they want to find the information on their own, and at their own pace?
Also, you’ll need to assess what’s their behavior towards your products / services / brand? Are your prospects familiar or unfamiliar with your brand / service or product when coming in contact with it.
What are their buying habits?
Why do they purchase what you sell? (i.e. to make them look good, raise their social status, the feeling of self-importance etc.)
And finally, what are their most common objections from buying from you?
The 4-Step Buyer Persona Development Framework
Step 1. Research
Buyer personas offer you an insight into your prospects’ and potential clients’ minds.
And the only way to gain it is by conducting a thorough research to uncover the most common traits among your customers.
We’ve already discussed what information you need to find out. So in this section, I’ll focus on the actual research process.
How to Uncover Information Needed to Create Buyer Personas:
1. Look at your existing data
You can tell an awful lot about your customers by looking at your sales data.
For example, your sales history to date probably contains a lot of data to help you identify the most common demographic and other characteristics of your customers.
Just looking at the data in your e-commerce platform (or any other software you use to track your sales invoice) could help you find out the most common purchases and most popular products your customers like.
The Google Analytics’ eCommerce report to assess where your best customers come from. Then match this information with purchases or average order value to identify the most profitable markets.
Interview your sales people about the feedback they receive from prospects and leads. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
Finally, review data from email and lead capture forms. Also, many email automation platforms offer insights into each subscriber based on their email. Review this data in conjunction with their email open history and purchases they’ve made to get a picture of the types of customers who buy from you.
2. Conduct Customer Interviews
Next, conduct interviews to get direct insight about what customers like about your products, services and find out more about what drives their purchases.
Who should you interview?
People who have already purchased from you and have engaged with your company can reveal the real problems you’ve helped them overcome and what drove them to buy specifically from you.
Reach out to your best customers to learn more about them and research the information you need to construct a persona.
But also, connect with people who weren’t happy with your product or service. Past customers can help you identify “negative personas” – people who could never become clients.
Like I mentioned before, the goal of all this research is to find common traits among your customers that would help you identify the best buyer personas.
Interview, or, at least, research information about the people who reached out to you but for some reason haven’t become customers.
Information they’ve provided during the sales process might help you identify traits to base a persona on (or, at least, confirm what you discovered when researching and interviewing existing customers.)
But if you’re not comfortable talking to those people, at least, email them a quick questionnaire to find out more about:
- Who they are,
- Where they are,
- Their demographics,
- Reasons for contacting you,
- Problems they hoped your products or services will help them overcome,
- And general impressions about the company.
Also, use software like Crystal to analyze your prospects’ profiles and gain insight about who they are.
Even though this software was created to help improve business communication, you can hack it to help you learn more about each prospect.
Crystal scouts the web for information about a person and builds their mental profile based on what it finds.
Then, it suggests the best ways to communicate with that person.
But you can also use it to discover your prospects’ traits of behavior.
This information combined could help you identify potential market segments you’re underserving and those you might not be able to convert anyway.
Chances are that you want to construct personas for a new market you’re entering. Or you’re only launching a company and have no client base and data to base buyer personas on.
In such case, try to find potential clients you could interview. Ask your colleagues, friends, and family or co-workers if they could introduce you to anyone who could potentially be interested in your products or services.
If you’re selling to a B2B market, use Linkedin to find people who you think might be interested in your products or services.
But instead of pitching to them, ask if they could help you get started. Many people will be happy to answer a couple of questions or introduce you to someone else who could.
3. Use SEO Data
You’re already sitting on a wealth of insight about your customers.
It’s right there in your keyword reports, traffic data and conversion statistics.
You use it everyday to analyze your website’s performance, plan new content and other activities that aim to drive more visitors to your site.
And you could also use it to extract the information you need to construct buyer personas.
Extract phrases searchers have used to find you.
Even though Google blocked a lot of keyword data, you can still get it from Google Search Console or Analytics. I agree, it’s often a bit dated but that should make no difference when it comes to constructing buyer personas.
Establish themes among those keywords.
Go through the list looking for patterns. For instance, searchers might use city modifiers in keywords. Or map services to locations, products to benefits and so on.
Identify and describe those patterns. For example:
- Pattern 1: Location + Service
- Pattern 2: Service + problem
- Pattern 3: Service + Cost
Based on these patterns you will be able to identify specific personas:
- Persona 1: Potential local client looking for your services right now.
- Persona 2: Potential client researching different options.
Match specific keywords from your list to personas.
Once you’ve established potential personas based on keyword data, divide all search phrases depending on the persona.
Finally, order those keywords from body to long tail.
This way you’re going to end up with a list that resembles each personas potential buying cycle.
4. Brainstorm Ideas with Your Team
Your team could have a valuable insight into customer segments you should be targeting.
And to find that out, conduct brainstorming sessions with your team.
First, give everyone 5-10 minutes to brainstorm your customers’ needs.
Ask them to think of as many problems, challenges and also, wants your customers may have. They don’t even have to relate to your product or service. They just have to represent what drives your customers.
Then, brainstorm your customers’ demographic attributes.
Again, give your team 5-10 minutes to list everything they know about your customers:
- Race / Ethnicity,
- Education level,
- Their income level,
- Languages they speak,
- Relationship status,
- Professional status.
Next, get them to list customers’ psychographic attributes:
- Interests, and
- Lifestyles, among others.
Finally, ask them to brainstorm your customers’ buying behavior:
- Preferred methods of communicating with brands,
- Attitudes towards your products,
- Buying habits,
- Common sales objections and so on.
Step 2. Organizing the Data
At this stage, you should have a wealth of information about the very people who might be interested in your products or services.
The next step is to sift through all this data and find common traits and patterns.
So, review your information looking for particular themes.
You may find that the majority of best customers come from a particular area. Or share specific income level, job title, responsibilities…
Or that they encounter similar challenges at work etc.
Based on these themes you will be able to group your customers into specific segments.
These, in turn, will form the basis of your personas.
Note: Not all segments represent specific personas. You might have to merge a couple of segments together to get a full picture of a persona. For example:
You can create a persona based on people from a similar location, with similar challenges and job responsibilities.
Or match their lifestyle with income and desires.
Step 3. Validating the Data
Any pattern or even customer behavior trait you can’t back up with data is irrelevant.
Luckily validating your segments is actually quite simple to do:
You just have to take each pattern or theme and find relevant data that backs it up.
It could be anything:
- Existing customer data.
- Information gathered by your sales people.
- Data from support tickets.
- Surveys (both internal and external).
- Studies and research (again, use both external and internal sources).
- Social media conversations.
- Or various available statistics.
The point of this exercise is to find a proof that whatever assumptions you’ve made are actually true.
Step 4. Constructing the Persona
You’ve collected all the information required to build a persona, organized it into specific segments and validated that they are true.
Now you need to use it to construct a buyer persona.
Take your findings and match relating information together to create a final persona.
Here’s a handy template you could use:
|Main Professional Challenge|
|Preferred Method of Finding Information|
|Preferred Method of Communication|
|Attitude Towards Your Product or Service|
Fill in every field and remember to give your persona a name. It will help you refer to the specific persona in your content calendar and other marketing strategies.
Them, use information from the above template to create a description of your persona. Write a short blurb that characterizes her and defines her buying habits.
How many personas should you create?
The answer to this question is actually simple:
It depends on how many positive persona themes and segments you identified in the second step.
Each of these themes should represent a specific target audience segment based on shared characteristics of your current audience and other data. And therefore, it’s a persona you might want to target in your marketing efforts.
On average, companies create between 2-4 personas but it might happen that there are more segments among your target audience. If that’s the case, create additional personas.
Also, create negative personas. As we’ve already mentioned, they’ll represent people within your target market who are unlikely to buy.
And, that’s it
Now you know what are personas, why you need them and what steps to take to create them.
What’s left is to pull sleeves up and get to work researching the data to create buyer personas for your business.