Astute website owners are using buyer personas for some time now to help them understand their target customer segments better. Indeed, buyer personas are the cornerstone of the inbound marketing methodology, says Stormie Andrews in Forbes.
Shuchi Sankhyayan in GoodmenProject concurs: “Marketing can’t be based on guesswork. You need to define your buyer personas to better understand who your ideal customers are, what they value, what their pain points are and what it takes to motivate them.”
This blog post will touch on the following points:
- What are buyer personas?
- How do buyer personas work?
- How do you develop buyer personas?
- Big data to construct buyer personas.
By channeling the buyer’s voice — clearly, accurately and persuasively — the buyer persona gives marketing the confidence to say, “This is what really matters to our buyers. So here’s the plan.”
What are buyer personas?
A buyer persona is an archetype (model), a composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you sell 1. Also, it’s a fictional representation of your ideal customer.
Theoretically, buyer personas are grounded in the motivational research stream of personality theory. Motivational research has attempted to apply Freudian ideas of personality, including psychoanalytic theory, to consumer behavior. This has included a focus on the deeper meaning of products-motive links 2.
How do buyer personas work?
It depends what you want to do with the personas…
Revella, (2011)1 suggests that we should look at buyer personas from two perspectives.
- The “Core Buyer Persona” seeks to understand the buyer in his own environment — without reference to whatever you might want to sell him. This tells you whether the buyer is looking for solutions like yours, or is busy with other priorities.
- The second perspective — which she calls the “Product Persona Connection” — reveals the buyer’s attitudes about your product and company.
In tandem, these two perspectives bring the issues that matter to buyers into sharp focus — allowing marketers to see their product as the buyer sees it.
You create personas to discover how best to serve your different types of buyers, but you should also agree on what you want them to do 3.
Shuchi Sankhyayan in the GoodmenProject names five reasons why businesses should use buyer personas:
- Redefine marketing and sales strategies to evolve with buyer habits.
- Enable identification of the Target Audience.
- Result in generating better quality sales leads.
- Generate more leads.
- Strategically create new products and services.
Let’s see how we can develop buyer personas…
How do you develop buyer personas?
Appropriately constructed and applied, buyer personas can be powerful tools since they are built around buyers’ purchase decisions and reveal insights into their expectations, concerns, and desires 2.
Meryl Kremer in NewBreed Marketing mentions the following steps to create buyer personas:
Step 1. Ask the Right Questions. Developing accurate buyer personas begins with asking the right questions to guide your efforts.
Step 2. Consult Sales and Marketing. Your marketing team can help to identify key firmographic and demographic trends of personas along with their preferred engagement channels or web habits.
Step 3. Do Your Research. Persona development also requires conducting research beyond what sales and marketing can provide from experience alone. A great way to develop personas (and confirm their accuracy) is to visit a recent customer’s profile on LinkedIn and browse their company’s website.
Step 4. Pay Attention to Firmographics as well as Demographics. Knowing who your personas are within the context of their organization can give you a clearer understanding of their unique pain points and goals.
Step 5. Focus on Perfecting Primary Personas. Best practice for persona development involves limiting yourself to three to four primary personas. Primary personas are the ones responsible for initiating or sanctioning a purchasing decision and are most likely to be your point of contact throughout the sales process, so clearly defining these target audiences is key.
Step 6. Go With Your Gut. Buyer personas should be developed from research and experience, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your gut. If it seems like a customer is an unlikely fit for your business, don’t ignore your instincts.
Big data to construct buyer personas
At first, developing buyer personas requires gathering both qualitative and quantitative data that relate to buyer needs, behaviors, and preferences 2. This preliminary step results in broad persona themes and is designed to attain a general understanding of buyers. Eventually the persona themes are developed in greater detail to better understand target buyers through comprehensive descriptions.
It’s here that big data can help. Real-time, accurate third-party data may be key to deliver extraordinary experiences to buyers. Also, the potential of big data to fine-tune your personas is huge but very particular to your business, products and services.
What is certain is that you need to model personas to give yourself a starting point in analyzing all that big data. Conversely, says Denis Kostusev (in Forbes), you need big data to augment the personal data you have gathered from your CRM, interviews and other actual interactions with real customers. The two are inextricably intertwined.
Additional reading: Predictive Analytics helps Retailers to make sense of Big Data
One of the biggest mistakes that we as business owners can make, is to assume who our buyers are and how they behave. Indeed, millions of dollars are spend daily targeting the wrong buyer segment with the right content and visa verse.
Buyer personas that are developed correctly, with real customers and authenticated data are the closest a business owner can come to meet her buyers and realize what their needs and wants are…
A Marketing Plan helps you to communicate the right content to the right audience.
1 Revella, A. 2011. The Buyer Persona Manifesto. E-book op www. buyerpersona.com .isbn, 978(90):8965.
2 Voyer, P., Bhandari, G. and Bussiere, D. 2017. The Power of the Click: a Consumer-Centric Approach Using Online Journey Mapping to Develop Consumer Personas and Predict Future Clicks, Latin America Advances in Consumer Research, 4:124-129.
3 Mulder, S. and Yaar, Z. 2006. The user is always right: A practical guide to creating and using personas for the web, New Riders.