By Mark Harrison
In order to appeal to your audience, you must first determine who your audience are, their likes and dislikes, and what motivates them. Creating buyer personas will help you with this.
Based on demographics, behaviour patterns, and consumer intent, buyer personas are essentially semi-fictional profiles of your ideal customer. They’re not meant to be real people, so much as detailed simulations of the customers, you’re aiming to attract.
Every company, from the smallest business to the largest global brand, can benefit from buyer profiles designed to guide your content marketing. If successful, they provide tremendous insight into your potential audience and what kind of content they like.
Using this valuable insight, you will be able to figure out what you’re doing well and what needs to improve, allowing you to prioritise your workload, direct product development, and align your organisation in order to appeal to the most valuable customers.
Most importantly, this will help you to make sure your marketing is relevant to the needs, behaviours, and concerns of those you are trying to reach. This will save you time and money and save your potential customers an annoyance that might reflect badly upon you.
Whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to get a better idea of your existing audience, here are six steps to help you create, develop, and harness buyer personas in your content marketing activities.
Step 1 – Define Your Ideal Buyers
In order to build an understanding of the kind of customers you want, you must first define what it is that you want. Your ideal buyers needn’t only be new ones – you should study customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey in order to gain repeat customers.
Take a look at your whole target audience and divide them into distinctive marketing segments. Examples from across the buyer’s journey may include:
- New Visitors
- Discount Chasers
- Lapsed Customers
You wouldn’t talk to all of these different types of customers in the same way in person and neither should your messaging be uniform across the board. In creating detailed buyer personas, you will better understand how to personalise your marketing to buyers with different motivations and goals.
Unless you are a national or global business, demographic information is arguably less important than finding out what actually motivates individual customers, including their background, personal interests, and what they think of your products or services.
While factors like age, gender, and social class are useful to your audience research, eCommerce research should also consider equally important individual points such as:
- Frequency of Transactions
Speaking in general terms, your ideal customer is one who wants to buy regularly and has the budget to do so, but your buyer personas must not be general profiles. This is where demographic information is more useful.
Your buyer personas must be detailed in order to be effective, but it helps to define your marketing segments and then use analytics to research data points and trends within these groups.
Step 2 – Design Your Survey
Analytics can only get you so far and it’s only fair that you should talk to some of your actual customers while designing profiles of your customers. After all, the goal is to find out what they like and what they don’t like.
Before you survey your customers, you need to think carefully about what questions you would like to ask and what you need to know. Beyond demographic information, your buyer personas should also answer a variety of questions for your organisation, including:
- What challenges do they face?
- What do they love about you? What don’t they love about you?
- What makes them choose you?
These aren’t necessarily questions that you should just baldly deliver to your customers, so designing your survey correctly is a crucial part of the process. Questions and follow-ups about your business or industry must be carefully phrased to avoid leading your interviewees.
The key is not to base your questions on what you already know about your customers, but to research the industry. Find out more about common problems in your industry and address these in your study in order to find out what your customers think.
Step 3 – Research Your Audience
Once you have designed your study, it’s time to field it with your audience. This requires going back through your past customers and selecting which ones you would like to talk to. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out, it means identifying prospective buyers and talking to them.
Remember that it’s not only about zeroing in on positive feedback. If some of your customers had a bad experience, it’s just as valuable to gather these details to identify pain points and avoid these in future. It’s always helpful to learn where you can improve.
By the same token, positive feedback may influence your research in other ways. Buyer personas are largely seen as a positive tool, but you may also find it instructive to design negative personas.
These would establish which customers cost a large amount to service for little return. Just as your positive personas give your company something to aim towards, avoiding negative personas may boost your conversions as well as your return on investment (ROI).
When you have identified who you want to include in your research, establish a panel that covers a wide range of different personas. Once your participants have agreed to take part, send out your survey via email and collect responses for further analysis.
Step 4 – Review Your Data
Working within your chosen segments, perform an objective review of the data you have collected in order to identify trends. Use other data, such as your sales figures and any pre-existing surveys to provide context and identify distinctive motivations and behaviour patterns.
These trends will help you generate ideas about how to market to each buyer persona specifically. By analysing your results and carrying out a thorough and honest audit of who your customers are and what they want out of your industry, you will create benchmarks that are consistent across your entire organisation.
Honesty is the operative part. Don’t just look for the results you want to see. Instead, find out what the data tells you instead and start to create profiles of different segments from your target audience.
Step 5 – Create Your Buyer Personas
Having analysed your data, you’ll be able to create buyer personas for each of your specific groups. Collecting all the information about respondents in each specific segment, you’ll be able to generate a profile of that specific group.
Each profile needs to be detailed enough that it will enable anyone in your organisation, whether they are familiar with the study and its participants or not, to cater to the needs of the person being described. This includes information such as:
- Demographic Information, e.g. Age, Sex, Location
- Personal Background, including Related Interests and Education Level
- Role of Your Product or Service in Their Life
- Objections or Barriers to Making a Purchase
The more you understand each persona’s primary motivations and goals, the better you will be able to serve them individually, recognising the unique requirements of, for example, a new visitor or a lapsed customer, rather than developing a “one size fits all” tone of voice.
As mentioned these personas may be characterised as positive or negative, helping you to determine which tactics and behaviours to embrace or avoid in order to improve the ratio between your average Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value, (CLV).
It’s vital to understand customers’ needs, not only to provide individual service but also to recognise the problems that they may have with your business or others in your industry. Having understood the problem, you will then be able to position your organisation to provide the solution.
Step 6 – Update Your Buyer Personas
Even when your buyer personas are complete, they’re unlikely to remain fixed. The world is constantly evolving, particularly in the competitive eCommerce market, which is why it’s crucial for your personas to evolve too.
One advantage of generating buyer personas instead of undertaking case studies is that this is a case of updating your existing profiles rather than starting again from scratch. As your customers’ needs and motivations evolve, so too will your approach to meeting them.
Collect new data to complement your existing work, phasing out aspects that are no longer relevant or accurate or otherwise just adding more detail. Keep reviewing your personas on a regular basis or if anything about your business changes, i.e. if you offer a new product.
Updating your buyer personas is particularly important if you want to keep attracting new customers over time, but it’s essential to acknowledge that your customers are not static, and nor should your profiles be.
Conclusion – Why You Need Buyer Personas
Keep these six steps – define, design, research, review, create, update – in mind when developing profiles of your customers.
Hopefully, you have a clear idea of the advantages of creating and maintaining buyer personas for your target audience, from gaining a greater understanding of your customers to improving conversion and customer retention rates across the board.
It’s all about going that extra mile in order to get to know your customers. The greater your understanding, the more efficient your marketing will be. By tailoring your products and services to individual buyer personas, you will find that growth follows naturally.