Buyer personas are important because in order to capture and retain customers we first need to understand who they are, what their lives are like, and how they consume information in the purchase process.
Developing buyer personas is one of the first steps a business owner should take when developing a marketing strategy. I found that my clients never wanted to hear about buyer personas. I assume because it seems like such a juvenile exercise on the surface that it encouraged them to scoff at the idea that I was going to help them locate their customers. “We already know who our customers are!” Yea, OK.
Deep understanding of the person buying your products
Successful businesses have one thing in common. They completely understand their customers. They know exactly who the customers are, how many kids are in their family, how old they were when they got married, how much money they make at their job, when they might retire, and the list goes on. Do you know any of that information about your customers?
Buyer personas are the stories we use to describe the people who use our products or services.
Typically, I hear from business owners that their customers are “teenagers” or “divorced moms” or “college students”. Sure, that’s a good start. However, within “teenagers” are an entire universe of different species. Some are straight A students, some are heroin addicts, some dropped out of school, some are orphans, some are athletes, some hate sports, etc. You throw your money out the window when you market to “teenagers”. Imagine if you took all the money you were going to spend on that horrible blanket-marketing strategy and focused it directly on the niche of teenagers who actually want to buy your product and have the means to do so.
Buyer Persona Canvas
HubSpot first showed me the light in regards to the importance of developing buyer personas, but it was not until I found this app was I able to truly dive deep into the process. Here is a screenshot from the Persona App:
Sofia Style is a fictional example that was made up by the company responsible for the Persona App. A few months ago, I was working on a redesign for a lawyer in Atlantic City, NJ. He was super cooperative and was eager to answer any questions we had about his business model and customers. I was able to fill out nearly five detailed buyer persona canvases which represented different buyer personas from specific customer types.
It was not until this exercise with this specific lawyer did I realize how powerful a comprehensive buyer persona can actually be. I believed in them from the start, but this allowed me to experience it firsthand.
For example, one of the buyer personas was for 17-18 year old high school students during the months of May and June who are at the Jersey Shore for their prom weekend. The lawyer noticed a trend of new cases that always seemed to come in during that time from high school kids who got arrested for underage drinking, fighting, or DUI. You’ll see more details about the persona in the PDF, but just to tell you one of the ideas:
- I began to think about these high school students who get arrested during prom weekend. I unpacked the process. How do they get down the shore? Some may just drive their own vehicles down. Others may have the means to take limos. I wanted to take that a step further – follow the money. How do these kids rent limos? One of them goes online, searches for limo services, they may shop around a bit, and then ultimately makes a decision to pay for and book a limo. This is the place I wanted to introduce the lawyer to the high school student – long before the student actually got arrested. I told the lawyer he should partner with some of the top limo services in the area. The limo services who get found in search engines by the high school students looking for limo rides during prom weekend. While the student is booking the limo she or he has a credit card ready. Why not include an add-on package with the limo reservation that says something like, “An additional $250 gives you a dedicated attorney for prom weekend! Don’t let your parents know you got arrested during prom weekend! Your dedicated attorney will meet you at the police station and see that you are bailed out without calling your parents!”
I had worked with nearly 20 different attorneys before this project, and I never came up with anything so original and focused on converting an exact customer type as I did with the above example.
Here is the PDF that contains all five buyer personas from that client. Some are better than others, but you should be able to get the idea.
Click here for the 5 Buyer Persona Canvases
How to develop buyer personas
Again, I repeat, developing buyer personas is a step that is crucial to making your marketing strategy a success. Building a persona requires a shift in thinking from “your business” over to a “customer-centric” thought process. Ideally, a comprehensive persona will include information such as:
- behaviors and habits
Customer needs are important when I think about designing a solution for a client. In other words, the solution to your problem can only exist if we know what the customer needs. Otherwise, what are we building?
I understand you want to get as many different customers as possible. If you try to please everyone you’ll wind up pleasing no one. You need a separate buyer persona for each of the four or five customers.
Use the list below as a starter guide to help you think through each customer and their buyer persona.
- Start with the basics
- age, job, family, habits, hobbies, etc
- What does the person’s typical day look like? Talk about the person’s behavior patterns throughout their day. Focus on the moments relevant to your product or service.a. Tip: Sometimes the most relevant moments of your customer’s day don’t have a direct connection with your product or service.
- What common questions do they ask you?
- What do they seem to be frustrated with when you speak with them?
- Describe their attitude they have when you first speak with them.
- Are they always a nice person?
- Were they angry in the beginning and then became nicer as you educated them on your process?
- Describe their work environment
- What is their occupation?
- What is their work environment like?
- Can they answer phone calls at anytime in the day?
- Where are they in the totem poll?
- Describe how the person finds information
- Do they use search engines to research?
- Are they active on social media?
- Do they ask their friends for advice?
Now you know what a persona is and why it’s important. Start building your own buyer personas with the buyer persona questions below.
Buyer Persona Questions
- What is their demographic information?
- What is their job and level of seniority?
- What does a day in their life look like?
- What are their pain points?
- What do you help them solve?
- What do they value most?
- What are their goals?
- Where do they go for information?
- What are their most common objections to your product or service?
Below is a list of external buyer persona resources:
- Persona Canvas
- Buyer Persona Institute
- 9 steps to profiling buyer personas
- 3 tips for keeping your buyer personas fresh
- Persona and user experience on Wikipedia
If you only do one thing today, make it a buyer persona.