Now that you know how to research your target audience and have the necessary data, it’s time to create your buyer personas. What are they and why it’s important to develop them?
What Are Buyer Personas? Meet Julie, Matthew and Bob
Imagine that you are selling an online advertising course. Now, let me introduce you to Julie, Matthew, and Bob. Julie is a freelance marketing consultant. She helps small and medium businesses grow with the use of social media advertising. Matthew is working as a digital strategist for a Fortune 500 company in a performance advertising department. And Bob is a small business owner looking to grow his customer base using low-cost social media ads. Why do you need to emphasize all that?
Because they all could buy your online advertising course. But their reasons for buying it will differ – they all have different background and goals.
In a nutshell, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of a key segment of your audience. Usually, personas are based on most important characteristics of your target demographics. For example, in our case age doesn’t really matter. Both people in their 20s and 50s can be interested in an online advertising course alike. What matters is the reason why they are buying it, which depends on their occupation and career/business goals.
Because personas are focused on the core of your audience segments, usually you shouldn’t create more than 3 to 5. Of course, you should include more than just the core characteristic. So how does a buyer persona look like?
What to Include in Your Marketing Persona?
It’s good to start with basic demographic info: age, gender, income, location, education and relationship status. This can be followed by interests, values and fears, beliefs, goals and challenges. When filling those out, focus only on information that is related to your business and could influence the reasons for (not) buying your product or service.
Following the advertising course example, sample values could include on-demand access, reliable support, and a step-by-step approach. The main fear would be a problem to understand or follow the content of the lessons.
Of course, remember that in our example Matthew, who is working as a digital strategist, probably isn’t afraid that he won’t understand the course. But without a doubt, he will value on demand access to different parts of it, so that he can always jump right into what he needs at the very moment.
Knowing what each of your personas is looking to achieve helps you set the right marketing message for them. Keep in mind that each person could interested in different things. But, because you should always present one UVP (unique value proposition) to each target group, it’s good to prioritize the data. For example, you could divide your data following the below:
- Primary value (your UVP for this persona)
- Secondary values (these are the most important benefits of your offer)
Additionally, you can use the same prioritization for your audience’s goals and challenges. That way, once you finish creating your buyer persona, writing marketing materials will be a lot easier.
- Primary goal
How your product can help them achieve it (usually this will be tightly related to the UVP).
- Other goals
Again, what your product can do for them? Often, you’ll use this as a “support” for the UVP.
- Primary challenge
How your product can help (again, this is related to the UVP).
- Other challenges
How your offer can help your audience overcome them? The answer to this will be included in the list of other product or service benefits.
Let’s not forget about potential obstacles that might stop your customers from making a purchase.
- Primary objections. Is there one major thing that could make your potential customers quit the sales process?
- Secondary/common objections. These include both persona-unique objections as well as those that are common among other potential buyers)
Naturally, the above is just a template. But before you get to creating your marketing message and elevator pitch, there’s still more data you could add. Are there any details that are related to the stage of their buyer’s journey, their habits or lifestyle?
Additional Information – Who Your Customer Really Is
Knowing the essential demographic data, the goals, values and challenges of your target customers, is a solid foundation. Unfortunately, some things are easy to miss and at the same time they can have a critical influence on your advertising success.
For example, are you sure your customers are ready to make a purchase?
Or maybe the persona that you were about to create is that of an aspirational customer? Someone who might buy your product or use your service, but is not ready yet? Or doesn’t even know yet that he or she could use it?
Another important factor, often neglected in traditional demographic research, is where your customers get their information from. In particular:
- What blogs do they read?
- Who influences them?
- What social media are they most active in?
- What are their favorite online channels?
- What kind of content do they consume the most?
- What’s their preferred search engine?
- Do they browse the Internet on mobile devices?
The same applies to marketing persona that you create for customers of a local business. Sometimes, small location details can mean a lot. For example:
- What college or university do/did they attend to?
- What neighborhood do they live in?
- How do they get to work (public transport/drive)?
Yet another group of questions that you could ask is that about habits. These can include any habits that are important for your business – from smoking through exercising to traveling:
- Do they smoke?
- Do they drink?
- Do they use recreational drugs?
- Do they eat out?
- Do they travel on vacations every year?
- Are they religious?
In reality, there are hundreds of questions that you could ask. The key is to focus on those that can help you create meaningful and profitable marketing campaigns. If there’s something that you believe is important for your business and its sales process, you should probably add it. In the end, who knows your business better than you do?
Don’t Forget about Your Competitors
Apart from researching your own customers, you should also take a closer look at the audience of your competitors. This is helpful especially if you don’t have any audience yet and are starting out. In this case, targeting clients of businesses you want to compete with is the best way of understanding your potential customers. So how do you research the data for your buyer personas in the first place?
How to Find All the Data?
Don’t forget to read my article on researching your target audience. There are many different ways in which you can collect information about your current and potential buyers:
- Brainstorming (this is where it should start)
- Surveying your potential customers (via email, offline)
- Going over your analytics tool (Google analytics, Facebook Audience Insights)
- “Spying” on your current customers, for example on LinkedIn
- interacting with your customers on social media and asking them questions
- Browsing databanks such as Think with Google or Pew Research Center
- Researching keywords using tools such as Google Keyword Planner
- Using manual ways of collecting data such as review mining
Depending on the specificity of your business and its audience, there are other methods that you can use to find your customers. As usual, it’s important to think about your particular situation. But the above should be enough to create a business persona for almost any business out there. Speaking of it, let’s see how to do that in practice.
Marketing Persona Example
Let’s now take you through filling out a sample buyer persona. I will stick to one of the examples I have already introduced in this article – Bob.
As you can see in the example, Bob is in his 50s, makes up to $80,000 per year and lives in a small town. He’s also a family man and treats his family and his small business as the two most important things in his life. Why it’s important?
Because this makes Bob risk-averse. Being in his 50s also means that he’s not that used to computers and the Internet, not to mention advertising, compared to his younger competitors. Based on that, we can assume that:
- He most likely doesn’t spend too much time online
- He’ll be looking for simple answers to his questions related to advertising
- He’ll value step-by-step instructions in the course
- Good support is essential for him as he’s afraid of being stuck or unable to take action on the product.
- He knows his customers are active online – and is worried that he’ll lose them all to competitors.
Naturally, the above answers don’t have to be true. But it is safe to believe that an average hard-working man in his 50s won’t spend too much time online. That’s why a good way of reaching out to them is by using search engines. He probably doesn’t read industry blogs too often but there’s a chance he’ll search for some of the keywords that are related to your business.
Similarly, even though he doesn’t use Facebook (or does so but without success), that doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried. And, coming back to our advertising course example, that’s exactly what he wants to learn. This gives you another channel which you could use to interact with your persona.
It’s all about helping
Remember that in the end, your primary goal should be to help your customers solve their problems. When working on your personas, it’s worth creating 2 – 3 and giving each of them to someone on your team. Let different people re-read them and share their point of view. This can provide you with many valuable details that you could have initially missed.