How To Create And Use Buyer Personas
A buyer persona, also known as a marketing persona, is a fictional and generalized representation of your ideal customer. It is an extremely crucial component of effective inbound marketing.
As an online marketer, you have to know who you're marketing or selling to, and buyer personas help you define the ideal customers that you're trying to attract and relate to them as real human beings.
It's easy enough to understand why buyer personas are important but once you sit down to actually try and create one, you may find yourself at a loss for where to begin. In an effort to help make that process easier for you, I've put together an article detailing how to create buyer personas that will enhance your marketing strategy.
In order to create the perfect buyer personas, you have to understand what questions your customers are asking as well as why your audience should trust you to answer those questions.
If you want to be different and stand out among the millions of other marketers online, then you have to document a set of attributes that are unique to your ideal audience (that is, a buyer persona), and you have to talk about those attributes in everything that you do – from marketing and sales to products and services – you have to internalize the right customer that you're trying to attract.
Benefits of Creating Buyer Personas
Well-constructed buyer personas will assist you in discovering:
Who your audience is exactly
The information that they are searching for online
Where exactly they are searching for that information
The challenges that they face each day
The goals they have (short, medium, and long-term)
The means by which they typically find, research, and buy your product
The objections that they may have to the product or service that you offer
The ways in which you're uniquely qualified to assist and serve your audience
A Deeper Look At Effective Buyer Personas
An effective buyer persona goes way beyond demographic information. It documents things like hobbies, interests, hopes, dreams, and fears. It gives you great insights as to how your customers operate.
A buyer persona that is well-researched will enhance everything you do and make it better and more effective, from content creation to the development of new products. It will allow you to understand what your audience actually wants to hear, and how they prefer to spend their money.
In the past, such things as in-depth buyer personas were reserved only for the 'big boys' with massive budgets, but these days, things are very different.
The amount of information that is available online, as well as the direct relationships that marketers are building with their audiences mean that anyone can (and in fact, should) create at least one buyer persona for their audience.
So, without further ado, let's dive into the step-by-step method that you can use to create your own buyer personas.
5-Step Process For Creating (and Using) a Buyer Persona:
Find out what information you need and how to acquire it
Make sense of your findings
4. Create your own buyer personas
5. Use what you have created for more effective marketing strategies.
Now let's look at each of these five steps in detail:
Step 1 - Find out what information you need and how to acquire it
The first thing you have to do before diving into your audience research is to set guidelines for the exact information that you're searching for. If you don't do this, you risk getting lost in the complexity which means you'll probably come out with nothing that is truly useful.
One of the most effective ways of coming up with the criteria for researching your audience is by starting with the end in mind.
Think about the kind of information that you would know concerning your customers in an ideal world, and how you're going to use the information that you will collect.
The best way to make sense of all the data that you're going to collect is by categorizing it into groups, buckets, and themes:
Groups are collections of your audience who have common attributes demographically. They will be the core for your final personas. For instance, you may have one group that is 'Male Content Marketing Managers, aged 35-50, with an income of 60 to 90k per year'.
Buckets are categories under which you're going to capture the information. These areas include things like fears, likes, hobbies, common objections, buyer journeys, and so on. There are many different factors that you could use to categorize the information you capture.
Themes are layers of the buckets. Each bucket in each group has key points. For instance, you could summarize the fears of a particular group in a couple of sentences.
Remember that you will collect vast amounts of information during the process of researching your audience, and so it's vital that you get clear about exactly what you're looking for.
At this stage, you may have to make a few assumptions.
For instance, you'll have to predict broad groups that you believe typify your ideal customers. Afterward, you will be able to work on either debunking or validating these assumptions so don't worry about them being exact right now.
All this will sort itself out during the research process.
After deciding on the groups, buckets, and particular themes of data that you will be searching for, it's time to choose a method of capturing your research.
A simple spreadsheet will do, with different tabs for all the factors that you're taking into account.
Step 2 – Time For Some Research
Now you have to start mining for the information that you've decided you will be gathering. You must find some people to talk to and conduct some interviews to help you determine exactly what it is that drives your ideal customers.
There are a lot of sources to tap into, but the three easiest ways of doing this are:
Asking your existing customers
This is the perfect place to start your research and it's the most effective way of sussing out who your ideal buyer is.
These people already bought and used your product or service, and they have engaged with your business. Some of them will definitely exemplify your ideal personas.
The trick here is to reach out to the good and the bad customers.
If you want real and useful information, don't just talk to people who gush about your product or service and have nothing but praise for you. Yes, I know that feels really good, but you also need to hear from those customers who were less than pleased with what you're offering.
Those customers who are unhappy with your product will also show you other patterns that will be immensely beneficial in helping you to form a firm understanding of your buyer personas.
Talking to Your Prospects
Balance out the interviews that you conduct with those people who haven't yet purchased your product, and those who don't know a lot about your business.
The prospects and leads that you have right now are a great way of learning more about your buyer persona because you've already got their contact info and you can use the data that you have on them (for example, data from lead generation forms, or your website analytics) to help you figure out which of them might be a perfect fit for your target personas.
If you're heading into a new market or if you don't yet have leads or customers, then you will benefit from getting some referrals to talk to those people who might actually fit into your ideal personas.
You can reach out to those people in your current network, whether it's existing customers, social media contacts, or any other group of people to help you find those you would like to interview and be introduced to.
While it could prove a bit difficult getting huge numbers of people in this manner, you will most likely be able to get high-quality interviews this way.
Begin your search on LinkedIn and look for people who might fit your target personas. Focus on the results that have connections in common with you and reach out to those common connections to get introductions.
Step 3 – Make Sense of Your Findings
At this point, you'll probably be suffering a little from information overload, but that's only because you're sitting in complexity, so don't worry about it.
This is actually a very necessary step toward getting where you want to go.
If you have been refining and adapting your groups and buckets through every stage of the audience research process, then this step is going to be a lot easier.
Now, go through all the information that you just collected with a goal of achieving these three things:
Eliminate all unhelpful and irrelevant information
Capture only the useful information that is based on your Groups, Buckets, and Themes
Refine that information so it can be placed into a format that is easily digestible
Now you can finalize all your segments based on all the data that you've accumulated. Together, these become 'personas' that began as broad and predictive, but now you've made them researched and specific.
Step 4 – Create Your Own Buyer Personas
If you have more than one group or persona, that's alright. But, having more than two or three personas may complicate your progress, so if you do have more than three, go back to your research and clarify exactly WHO it is that you're targeting.
Start dropping the relevant info into each of the buckets in your template. You can even pick a photo and a personality for your persona in order to make it feel more real.
Go through each of the buckets that you have defined and add key themes for each of them. Remember to also document the typical buyer's journey as it will be very useful when it comes to constructing your content strategy.
Ask yourself these questions:
What kind of content is useful for customers researching your product?
And also, what content assists them in making that final purchase decision?
Do this entire process with each of your various groups, and save the document. Now you can use these personas as anchor points for anything to do with your content creation strategy moving forward.
Step 5 - Use what you have created for more effective content marketing strategies
There are lots of ways in which you could use the buyer personas that you've just created. Below are just a few examples to help guide your thinking:
Customize the content that you craft so that it speaks to each persona, well, personally. Come up with ideas to solve their problems and put those in your content calendar. Also, talk about their hobbies and do your best to inspire their dreams.
Track the behavior of your personas to see how it evolves over time.
Create new products and services that are based on the research that you've conducted.
In today's crowded online world, if you have any hope of standing out from the pack, then you have to have a thorough understanding of your customers.
You must know what they want, why they want it, and what they will do to get it. Dive deep into what they are interested in, what motivates their behavior and why they do the things they do.
Follow the steps above to create and develop buyer personas and then use them to craft extremely relevant content that will get you real results in your business or blog. Another great benefit of doing this is that you will get an endless list of ideas for your future blog posts.
There's really no reason not to do this.
You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain. By getting to know exactly who your customers are as well as why they are interested in what you do, you'll be able to control your own results and outcomes in your business.
So get started right now: Prioritize, execute, and start to enjoy the benefits and the rewards.
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Updated: Originally published July 17th 2018