OK, we realize you might be thinking, “Whoa, back up! First, what the heck is a buyer persona? Second, why should I care?”
So, let’s get to it and talk about the what, the why, and the how behind strong buyer personas.
What is a buyer persona?
It’s a fancy, schmancy take on the whole “who is your ideal customer?” question that you’ve no doubt asked yourself dozens of times. A buyer persona is a bit more “official” than just a vague idea in your head because it’s an actual written document (more on this below) that outlines details about your ideal customer — your ideal “buyer.”
Why should I care about creating a buyer persona?
Sitting down and creating a buyer persona — actually committing it to paper — is a worthwhile exercise. Why? Because it helps you think things through. The document delves more deeply than the basics of gender, location, income that we’ve typically used in the past to paint a picture of an ideal customer. It goes into understanding your customers’ motivations, how they currently perceive your company, how you want them to perceive your company, and what you want them to do. It’s more than just the “facts” about their age or sex. It, in essence, tells a story about this person.
The other benefit is that it can easily be shared with others, like your marketing team, your sales reps, and your customer service. These folks, who often deal with your customers directly, can offer input as well, which will help create an even more accurate picture of this ideal customer. Once everyone “agrees” on the persona, this document can drive and influence all sorts of decisions, from what you write about on your blog, to the color of your product’s packaging, to how you correspond with your customers.
Is it a lot of work?
Like so many things in life, the answer is, “It depends.” It depends on how much research you want to do before sitting down and creating the persona. Research can take the form of…
- Conducting focus groups (this can be worthwhile, but it can also be cost prohibitive for smaller companies)
- Interviewing some of your current customers, ideally by a third party so that the customers can talk openly (responses would remain anonymous)
- Conducting online surveys of your target audience (using something like Survey Monkey or Constant Contact’s survey tool)
- Culling comments from customer testimonials, comments left on social media platforms (e.g. Facebook), notes from customer service, etc.
You’ll also want to think about and answer the following questions. These answers will provide the foundation for your buyer persona:
- What are we trying to accomplish? In other words, what’s our business objective?
- Who are we trying to influence and what are their motivations?
- What do they think now about our company, our brand, our products/services? (Be honest here. If you have a perception problem be very clear about it.)
- What do we want them to think or do?
- Why should they do this thing that we want them to do? What does our product or service do to satisfy their need?
How do I create a strong buyer personas?
Once you’re armed with the answers to the above questions and any research you’ve conducted, you can sit down and draft the persona itself. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, and you can find templates online (here’s a free one from HubSpot).
We recommend having some fun. Put some personality into the persona by creating a little story (HubSpot calls them “fictional representations of your ideal customer,” and we like that definition):
- Give your persona a name
- Include a “personal” profile that includes sex, age, location, income, marital status/kids, any “insider info” that helps paint a complete picture
- Provide your persona’s goals (specifically the ones that are related to your business)
- Provide your persona’s challenges in reaching these goals
- Provide your solution — how can your company help this person?
- What are some messages that resonate with this particular persona (including ones that address their objections/concerns)?
Again, how you lay it out is up to you, and we’ve seen dozens of ways. Some personas add “pictures” of their “customer” to add even more personality. Some are one-page docs, others are three pages with plenty of white space. Find a format that works for you and then share it with the key players in your organization.
Note: you will likely have several different buyer personas, since you most likely have different types of ideal customers. (Focus on creating two to three that capture your target audience.)
Here’s a brief example:
Let’s assume you own a design/build firm specializing in universal design. You’ve conducted some surveys and have had an outside marketing firm interview some of your clients. You’ve got all the info and you’re ready to write your persona.
Buyer Persona: Meet Mary Smith
Mary is a 50-year-old homeowner with three teenage kids nearing college age. She is married, and she and her husband work full time, and their combined income is $150K. She and her husband have raised their kids in their current home, and instead of selling it or downsizing someday, they view it as their “forever” home, but would like to renovate it so it’s closer to the “dream home” they’ve had in mind.
Mary would like to find a design/build firm that can listen to her and appreciate her design aesthetic. At the same time, she’s looking for a true “partnership” and wants to know she can rely on the firm’s expertise to guide and advise her. Because Mary sees herself growing old in this home, she’s especially interested in the concept of universal design. She wants beautiful and functional. Mary anticipates doing a kitchen, master bath, and family room renovation. The budget is $75K-$100K.
The vision she has for her home might be beyond her budget, but she doesn’t know where to go to see if her budget is realistic. She’s heard horror stories about contractors and is worried about finding a reputable company, and she’s concerned about the upheaval a major construction project like this can have on a family of five. Finally, while she understands the benefits of universal design, she’s worried that it will interfere with the design aesthetic she has in mind.
We can provide Mary with educational materials and information, specifically a white paper on how to understand budgets when it comes to home renovation and articles we’ve written about the inherent beauty in universal design. Because universal design is important to her, we can point her to a comprehensive portfolio on our site with images and give her references and numbers to some of our universal design clients (e.g. Mike Jones and Sally Brown). We can also share our step-by-step approach to construction, and highlight how we work with families who are living in a home that’s under construction (especially when there are kids involved).
We have deep experience in universal design, including certification, and, in the last three years, we’ve designed over ten projects where universal design was a critical component to the renovation. Based on our decades of experience, we’ve developed an effective approach to working through home construction while families are underfoot and have written about it in articles x, y, z. We offer a free white paper on our site that explains the budgeting process to potential clients.
As you can see from this example, we’re essentially telling Mary’s story: who she is, what she wants, what she worries about. Then, we highlight how the company acts as the “hero” of the story by showing how the company helps Mary get what she wants.
Do you use buyer personas in your organization? What’s your process for creating one? If you haven’t created one before, do you think you might try now? Share your thoughts in the comments.