It’s no longer viable to look at a target market as a monolithic customer base. Successful marketers understand that they are more likely to convert and retain customers if they understand them and personalize their messaging.
It’s easy to get caught up in generating a high number of targeted customers. The pitfall is losing track of the quality of those customers. This leads to inefficient sales efforts, poor customer experiences, and high churn rates.
Actionable buyer personas help to shift the focus to the most valuable prospects. They make digital marketing and sales more efficient and build loyalty.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is just an intelligent way to look at your potential customers through a more meaningful, less transactional lens. It’s a way to understand how to speak to prospects the right way. It helps you to address their wants and needs in a meaningful way.
A persona is a fictionalized customer profile based on characteristics found in a segment of your customers or ideal potential customers.
Defining your personas requires a few essential data points; demographics, psychographics, goals, and challenges. You can find most of this information in public profiles without being intrusive.
Dig into your sales data, look at Google Analytics, and see who interacts with your social media posts. You can look at Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram profiles to learn about your customers. Look for patterns that groups of prospects share in common.
Persona demographics are characteristics of human populations such as gender and race. Other demographic characteristics include age and income. Demographic data is essential for businesses to create marketing strategies. Demographics is the broadest category determining if a prospect is likely to convert.
Demographics for a Jane Doe persona might include age 40 to 50, female, married with two kids. It can also include data such as an annual income of $150,000, education level graduate degree, urban homeowner, etc.
Psychographics are psychological characteristics. These are the qualities of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.
Our Jane Doe is athletic and active, thoughtful, lighthearted, humorous, and charitable. She loves the outdoors, and she takes active family vacations. She reads Stephen King novels and uses Instagram and Pinterest to help her unwind.
A persona’s goals can be any number of things ranging from short-term needs to long-term life goals.
Our Jane Doe wants to spend more time with her kids, and she wants to cook more and take pottery classes. She wants to fix her garage door and move to a new home.
Challenges are obstacles to reaching goals.
The obstacle to Jane’s goal of spending more time with her kids would likely be time management. Finding time in her schedule for personal and family activities is her primary challenge. She values products or services that save her time and help her efficiently manage tasks. Think about ways to apply your product or service to help her solve her challenges.
Filling in the Picture
Different attributes, seen collectively, will lead to logical assumptions. We know that Jane is athletic and enjoys the outdoors. She is also active on social media platforms with a strong focus on self-image. We can assume that she is interested in activities like yoga and cycling.
Personal interviews can provide a lot of specific information about your best-qualified customers.
Good interview subjects are past and current customers, leads who didn't convert and went to other vendors and prospects.
The most valuable subjects are the ones that you've successfully converted. They are qualified leads who have accepted and embraced your value proposition. By better understanding them, you'll have a better idea of what your personas should look like.
Interviews are a great way to develop persona profiles but shouldn't be the only one. Since interviews will focus on your questions, you are less likely to discover unexpected attributes that will fill out your ideal consumer profiles.
Starting with High-Level Personas
A high-level persona uses the broadest segment of your customers or potential customers. This is a very general picture of a person that would see a benefit in your product or service.
Creating a high-level persona requires looking at a broad group; this is usually current customers. However, it could be prospects if you don’t have a healthy customer base already.
When looking at existing customers, make lists of attributes and look for patterns and common traits. Take the most common characteristics and use them to build your high-level persona. You’ll see some obvious attributes, like annual income, but you’ll also see some that might surprise you. For instance, 80% of them might be big fans of the Cohen Brothers' films or Tony Robbins.
Building a high-level persona from current customers is valuable because your current customers have already converted. They fit the profile.
Actionable Buyer Personas
After establishing the high-level persona, it’s important to fine-tune and create actionable buyer personas. The more detailed the persona, the more targeted campaigns can be. Four to six specific buyer personas is a good number relative to the industry, location, and product or service.
The specific personas work just like the high-level persona but dial in a tighter set of attributes. Say twenty-five percent of your customer base drive Chevy pick-up trucks. That’s statistic alone is a pretty good insight about one in four of your personas.
Aspirational personas are the ideal customers that haven’t already converted. Aspirational personas are helpful in product and messaging development. They create a goalpost for reaching the ideal customer.
You may do well with B2C customers but want to add some commercial clients to your portfolio. Reaching those commercial clients requires targeting commercial personas. A business client persona may be dramatically different from a domestic customer persona.
Negative personas, or exclusionary personas, create another point of reference to dial in your process. Developing a negative persona requires looking at your “worst” customers. These are the time-wasters, bad fits, the ones that cost you time, money, and goodwill and only produce negative outcomes.
Having a good sense of a negative persona will help you complete your positive personas. It also allows you to focus your efforts where they will be effective. On prospects that will convert, be thrilled with your company, and respond with loyalty for years to come.
The ultimate goal of a buyer persona is to help you focus your messaging to speak to the right prospects. Prospects respond better to outreach when they feel that you know them and speak to them in a personal, meaningful way.
Personas keep your marketing activities focused and help you eliminate efforts that don’t align with customer goals.