If you’ve researched or heard someone online talk about inbound marketing, or really digital marketing in general lately, you’ve likely heard how important buyer personas are. Personas are a bit of a buzzword in the industry at the moment, everyone seems to be talking about them. While I think it’s great that more people are becoming aware of the importance of buyer personas, the term is becoming so commonplace now that it’s close to becoming useless jargon.
It seems for some teams, personas are a quick task to take off the checklist before launching a campaign. Teams classify them without conducting enough research into if they’re correct or make sense. This is dangerous!
Before launching a marketing campaign you have to know the audience you’re trying to reach. If you’re basing your campaign on unreliable data you’ll waste time and money. So let’s break down what buyer personas are.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers (1). Personas typically include demographics, buyer motivation, goals, and behavior patterns. At face value it can seem easy to put a persona together, however, there are key things to keep in mind to create accurate personas.
Your Audience & Persona usually aren’t the same.
First things first, you’re going to need to have specific buyer personas. If you’re selling custom-made basketball shoes to Lebron James and the starting five for the Cavaliers congratulations, you’ve struck marketing gold, your persona and audience are one. The only problem is that this very rarely happens. Take the multifamily housing industry. You may be targeting an apartment manager and c-suite executive, but if you use the same messaging for both you’ll miss key pain points. You need to have personas that reflect the different segments of your audience.
So start with building out the different segments of your audience. Think through what they’ll look like and realize that while they’ll both be looking at your endpoint solution or product, the way you’ll market to them will be different.
Take a few stabs in the dark
At this point, it’s ok to start taking a few guesses. If you’re the owner of the business, or you’ve worked in the business for a while you should have an idea of who your buyers are, so start there. Ask your sales team who they’re interacting with the most. See if there’s any particular group they’re having to most success with. Talk to your marketing team and see who they’re building marketing campaigns around, and what type of content seems to bring in traffic. Take a look at your website data as well. Google Analytics can give you a ton of information on who’s visiting your site.
Take all of this information and start putting together groupings. Age groups, job titles, industry, you should document any information that can be grouped together.
Time to vet your information
This is where the persona process usually stops. Teams think they’ve uncovered enough information and they’re ready to start using the personas. While you may get lucky, this is the time to test the personas you’ve created to see if they’re accurate. If you were to work with me, (Grant H. Williams by the way), my process begins with taking the information from the previous step and creating a survey.
Depending on the project I may deploy the survey to your customers or a larger audience. This allows me to see how your product or service fits into purchasing patterns. Once the survey’s deployed it’s time to take the findings and put them into a market research database. Using this will really allow you to pinpoint demographics, attitudes, and household makeup.
After distilling this information, it’s time to put the personas together. For certain products and services, it’s also necessary to create focus groups, or interviews to get additional feedback from people in your personas.
Take it seriously
Creating accurate personas takes a lot of work. It’s easy to come up with a few general notions about your buyers and launch a campaign, but that’ll cause you to miss out on key opportunities. Correctly putting together personas and creating a strategy around them is imperative in increasing sales and strengthening your brand.