Buyer personas, also known as customer or marketing personas, are representations of your ideal customers: who they are, their goals, their challenges, their fears and pain points, and their patterns of behaviour.
If you are to successfully persuade prospective customers to pick your product or service over your competitors, you need to understand what each customer needs, what their behaviours are and where you can find them.
Needs – different customers have different needs. Let’s assume you provide data analysis of some type. Some customers could be looking for a reporting platform that saves them time, whereas others are looking for something that provides real-time information. Your product answers both, but you need to tailor your messaging to each need and present it to the right audience, at the right time.
Challenges and fears – fear gets in the way of making decisions, so the more you can understand what your prospect is trying to achieve and what they dread going wrong, the more you can address their concerns from the outset.
Behaviours – different customers behave differently. Some know exactly what they need and can search and evaluate options quickly. Others may have a longer research and decision-making process. Will a simple landing page do for the latter, or do you need to provide more information to ensure they have everything they need? What information are they after and how do they prefer to consume it?
Where are they? – different customers hang out in different places. You can’t assume everyone is listening to you on social media. So, where else could they be? Are they reading industry publications, or are they members of online forums or networking groups, for example?
These are just four very basic examples to help illustrate how your single, perfectly crafted LinkedIn advert may not be seen by all your prospects, let alone be hitting the spot for any of them.
As few as possible is the simple answer. Each persona will require its own strategy and marketing resource, so, rather than spreading yourself too thinly, we recommend focusing on three or four, possibly extending to six as a maximum.
A common assumption is that personas are only for use by the marketing department, but they are relevant across many business functions:
If you’ve not used personas before, here’s a template to get you going in the right direction.
You can start completing the template with the knowledge that exists in your business. Try visualising a real-life customer or prospect that you have engaged with and imagine how they would answer your questions. The sales team can be really helpful here, so ask them for input. You might even go to those customers directly and engage them in the process. Some of our clients have done this and found the customers really enjoyed helping!
Talking to clients and prospects is the first step in a research project. If you’re a new business or don’t want to rely on what you think you know, then research is really the only way to go to gain correct insights and really improve and refine your personas. Research needs a budget, but you can normally scale your research to fit what you can afford – some knowledge is better than none, after all.
Let’s be clear, buyer personas are not a one-time task to check off your list. Customer behaviours continue to change and so can your business, so review them every 6-12 months and make sure they’re still accurate. To throw away your initial time and effort by allowing your personas to get out-of-date would be a shame.
For more information about how to develop your buyer personas, download this free whitepaper from our friends at Business Advantage. The paper covers common mistakes to avoid and provides a handy buyer’s interview guide.
We hope the resources in this post will get you started. We'd love to hear from you, though, if you've got any questions or think you might need a bit of help with some of the practicalities. Please ask!