Picture a world where you really understand your ideal customer profile. You would know their behaviors, how they think, and why they make buying decisions. And with that information, you can create targeted online experiences for your audience, an SEO plan that will bring in the customers you actually want to talk to, and you wouldn’t have to question big content decisions.
Enter buyer personas. Unlike traditional audience segmentation where you divide users into groups based on factors like demographics or purchase history, buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your real life buyers.
In the process of creating buyer personas, we take a deep dive by focusing on one character who embodies the predominant qualities of the larger group. The more detailed the persona profile, the better. For Mediacrrent's digital strategy team, we customize each persona to the business we're working with. Some key sections we include are:
- Demographic information: occupation, age, average income, level of education, etc.
- Trusted sources of information
- Personal values
- Problems and questions the business can solve or answer
- Current beliefs about the business
- Most common objections and responses to the business, product, or service
- Desired online experience
- Primary marketing channels
- Day in the life
- Desired online experience
- Incentives and motivators
Through interviews with real customers, intensive workshops with business stakeholders, and rolling up our sleeves and doing the research, we distill all the most important information into one page per persona.
Now, if you haven’t already guessed, it takes a tremendous amount of time, insight, and research to craft accurate buyer personas. Which, admittedly, can be intimidating for a lot of businesses, especially if they haven’t gone through this process before.
You might get lucky and get it right without them, but wouldn’t you rather stack the odds in your favor by getting real information on your target audience? Me too. Which is why we’ve compiled a list of my insider tips for creating buyer personas that will give you the most bang for your buck.
Tip 1: Don’t Create Too Many Buyer Personas
Here’s the scoop: more is not better. If you have too many personas, you will put yourself in the position of trying to please everyone which will ultimately dilute your message and your ROI. Instead, focus on your most ideal customers and not on every customer you could have some day.
Tip 2: Understand Their Role in the Purchasing Decision
Depending on your business, the person who is researching your company or making the first contact might not be the person who ultimately makes the decision to do business with you. If they are a gatekeeper, think about what information will help them when they talk to the final decision maker. You will need to understand what aspects of your products or solutions address each persona’s specific pain points, so you can build campaigns promoting those features.
Tip 3: Interview Your Sales Team
The sales team is on the front line every day, so they have a good idea of the common questions potential buyers ask, the things that make them uncomfortable, and they will know what pitches seem to resonate the best. If your marketing is in alignment with sales, the end to end experience will be better for you and your users. After all, you want the marketing campaigns you’re creating based on these personas to send leads that will be easier for your sales team to close.
Tip 4: Interview Your Best Customers
By opening a dialog with your best customers, you’re showing you care about their opinion and it gives them the opportunity to give you constructive feedback. Before you go into the interview, do some upfront research, so you don’t have to weigh down the interview with questions about their job title or company’s services.
Nine persona-building interview questions to really know your customer
Some of my favorite questions to ask are:
- What is life like for you? Tell me about home and work.
- Why did you start looking for companies like [business]?
- How did you hear about [business]? Why?
- Who else did you evaluate?
- What made you decide to work with [business] over someone else? Why?
- Why do you continue to work with [business]?
- What would have made the purchasing process easier? Why?
- Where could [business] improve?
- [Business] loves working with you. Where do you think we could find more people like you / your company?
The goal is to get them to open up, so don’t be afraid to ask for more detail. You want to leave the conversation with a good idea of their point of view, personality, what drives them, and how it all relates to your business.
Tip 5: Never Stop Testing Your Assumptions
You can’t simply create buyer personas and then wait for the money to roll in. How you use this valuable information is just as important as gathering it in the first place. Continue to refer back to your personas, test the assumptions you made when you created them, and don’t be afraid to evolve them and your campaigns to meet market shifts.
Bonus Tip: Get an Outsider’s Opinion
You might be too close to see the big picture which is why a lot of companies hire outside agencies to create their buyer personas. It helps the business get an unbiased viewpoint and prevents them from seeing only what they want to see. We’ve also heard that sometimes customers don’t feel comfortable giving negative or candid feedback to the business directly.
Put Your Personas Into Practice
Explore our new buyer persona ebook for the tools to make meaningful connections with your target audience, including persona examples and a quick start template.
Editor's note: This post was originally published on February 4, 2015. It has been updated for accuracy and completeness.