If you work in marketing you'll be well aware of the importance of understanding your customers, your target market, your audience... whatever you choose to call those people to whom you are reaching out in the hope of getting them to buy something from you. While it sounds strange to many of our clients, we have found that persona development is a great place to start.
What are Buyer Personas and Why do they Work?
Buyer personas are simply detailed descriptions of the sorts of people you want to do business with. Part of the benefit of creating them is that the process makes you narrow down your audience to three or four key segments that are likely to bring you the most business/profits. I say this all the time, but you really can't target everyone. Focus on the most important target markets if you want to make the most of your marketing budget. Create as many as you need, but realistically three or four are a manageable number; any more and you will probably confuse yourself.
To decide on your personas, think of your best current clients - the ones you would like more of. Then think of the sort of person you would like to work with but don't have as a customer yet.
Name and Shame
This is the part where our clients look at us as if we are a little bit deranged. However, it is also the part where they start to get it and become involved. Yes, give your personas a name. It sounds daft but it really helps to bring them to life. It's the difference between talking about MDs of engineering companies and Facilities Managers and talking about Esthers and Jameses. Once your persona has a name it takes on a clearer identity and it becomes easier for you to develop a detailed picture of him or her.
Our Persona Template
We have refined and improved our persona template over the last year or so, and we now find that it really helps provide a useful picture of the type of customer our clients are targeting. We have based it on a combination of two different Hubspot Buyer Persona Templates and added some questions of our own.
Here's what we ask:
- Career - job, industry, company type, reporting lines, skills and tools
- Personal - age, education, location, family, hobbies
- Behaviour - how they learn, network, research, internet and social media use
- Work Goals
- Work Challenges
- How can we help then achieve their goals/overcome their challenges
- Typical quotes and questions - What would they say when they first make contact? What do they want to know? What do they need help with?
- Common Objections
- Why does this persona choose you? Why do they come back?
You should be able to answer a lot of these straight away, particularly if you have a customer-facing role. If not, ask your sales team to get involved - not only will they be able to give you insight into your personas, they will probably enjoy it too. If there's information you can't complete, speak to some clients or send a survey out. The more you know, the more effective your communications will be.
Once you have your personas, with names, you can start developing different messaging, content and marketing materials for each of them, as well as deciding how best to reach them with your inbound marketing communications.
For example, going back to Esther and James:
You discover that Esther, the MD, spends a lot of time travelling, reads a lot of blogs on her phone and tablet, and is mainly concerned with strategy and change management. In her spare time she enjoys yoga.
On the other hand, James, the facilities manager is overworked and worries about budgets. He likes learning by watching videos and competes in triathlons in his spare time.
So you decide to target Esther through blogging, with the message that your product helps improve the business in the long term. The design would imply calmness and peace of mind.
And you produce videos for James, showing him how your product can save money and time, using fast moving, energetic imagery.
We always insist on creating buyer personas when we start working on a new project. It's incredibly helpful and makes the rest of the planning process much easier. Try it.