Understanding your audience is one of the first rules of marketing. It’s easy to think of your audience as one big collective, all with the same desires, fears, and needs — too easy.
The reality is that your audience is made up individuals with a wide spectrum of motivations. It would be impossible to outline them all, but breaking down your audience into even just a few buyer personas will have an exponentially positive effect on your marketing efforts. Of course, this assuming you then know how to connect with them once you’ve defined them.
Connecting with your audience is your job as a marketer. You need to understand their motivations and fears intimately in order to do your job as a marketer well, and creating a handful of buyer personas is quick and effective way to familiarize yourself with your customers.
Defining Your Buyer Personas
Before we get into the research required to understand your audience, we need to know what to look for. Below are some key characteristics that should be included in most, if not all, the buyer personas you outline. However, don’t limit yourself to just these. There’s really nothing off limits, and the more specific you can get, the better.
- Age – One’s age can tell you a lot about them, like their position in life, financial circumstances, and priorities.
- Gender – Most offers will appeal to both men and women. Unless it’s a product that either men or women obviously won’t have an interest in, I always make a point to create at least one persona for each gender.
- (Disposable)Income – The buyer’s income, and more importantly, disposable income, will give you an idea of how much they’re willing to pay for your product, and how hard you’ll have to sell it.
- Job – What do your buyers do for a living? If you’re marketing B2B products or services, are your buyers authorized decision makers for their organization?
- Motivations – What needs and fears does your buyer have in relation to your product? What about your product will attract your buyer? What about your product may prevent them from buying?
- Backstory – Give each of your personas a backstory the explains and corresponds with their previously defined motivations.
- Stage in the customer buying cycle – Problem/need recognition, research, evaluation of alternatives, purchase decision and post-purchase behavior should all be addressed separately with individual personas. I’ll be covering these various stages of the buying process on my own blog in coming weeks.If you can create a persona for each stage, then you’ll already be way ahead of other marketers. You don’t have to do it right away, but if you eventually map out each persona as they travel through various stages, you’ll know exactly what you need to guide nearly every potential customer to your product.
The above attributes are just the tip of the iceberg, or at least they should be. Think about what’s unique about your audience and characteristics that are specific to them. Are there other attributes that you always include in your buyer personas? Share your experience in the comments.
TIP: Give each persona a name. This makes them more real in a way, and easy to refer to in a team environment. Collect some random stock headshot photos to give them faces too.
Collecting Data for Your Buyer Personas
If you have the time and resources to interview existing and potential customers, than you are in a very good position. You can’t do any better than getting it from the horse’s mouth.
For those that aren’t so fortunate, you’re going to have to rely on independent research and educated guesses to fill out your buyer personas. Sites like Quantcast and Quora are goods places to gather demographic data, and get a pulse on buyer needs and concerns, respectively.
Don’t worry if your buyer personas aren’t perfect after the first go-around; nobody’s are. As you grow more familiar with your market, you’ll have the opportunity to refine your personas to be more accurate and valuable.
Refining Your Buyer Personas
If you’re regularly using your buyer personas, as you should be, to develop your marketing strategies, you’re going to notice some discrepancies between your personas and your real flesh and bone customers.
Even making just a few changes to your buyer personas every 3-6 months will have a huge impact over the long run. If you want to further perfect your buyer personas, post-acquisition interviews and small PPC tests can provide you with the data you need.
Putting Your Buyer Personas To Good Use
If you’ve followed this guide to developing buyer personas, then congrats! You’ve probably already learned a lot more about your customers, effectively making your job as a marketer much easier. But that’s not all.
The ultimate goal of creating buyer personas is so that you can integrate them into your unique customer buying cycle. Remember back when you identified what stage of the buying each of your personas was in. Now it’s time to map out their progression through the buying cycle, so you can serve up the content they need when they want it.
The best part is, the longer you use these tools, the more effective they become!
Questions or criticisms about my method of developing buyer personas? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments.
This is a guest post by Paul Gannon, lead copywriter at LPcopywriter, content strategist, and former affiliate marketer. You can keep up to date with his latest writings by following him on Twitter or visiting his blog.