20 defining characteristics and 5 uses for buyer personas
Let’s start with a definition.
A buyer persona is a character you create. He or she is fictional and meant to represent one of your typical buyers, assuming of course, you have more than one kind of buyer.
Why do you need buyer personas?
The number one reason you need buyer personas is because you, and everyone else in your company, is human. And, as humans, you relate better to other humans than you do to abstract concepts or generalizations.
It’s always easier for you to write to, talk to, or think about Austin, a white 24-year-old UCLA alumni, originally from Connecticut who is now working at a start-up in Silicon Valley, surfing on the weekends and addicted to his Apple Watch than it will be to write, talk to, or think about a male age 18-24 with a college degree.
So, let’s get into the detail.
How do you create buyer personas?
First, you need to think about or research who your buyers really are. For this article, we are going to focus on the creation of B2B buyers which are more complex than consumer personas. And we are going to focus on buyers as opposed to users, and assume that the end goal is to increase sales and improve return on marketing.
One thing to remember is that with complex B2B transactions, it’s not just the person with the budget or the decision-maker that you care about. You want to think about anyone who influences the buying decision – you should consider the person who researches solutions and vendors, recommends them, or approves the approach.
This “research” into buyers can simply be you digging deep and thinking hard about it. You can do a review of your CRM if you have one or your sales data, or you can interview your sales teams or executives. You can even interview or survey your customers.
Once you’ve identified all the various buyers, pick 2-3 that are the greatest priority for you. They may be a priority because they are involved in the bulk of your sales or because they represent the area of greatest growth and opportunity.
Now that you have your priority buyers identified, start drawing some generalizations and stereo-typing a bit. Seriously. Get your team, ideally sales and marketing together, to answer the following twenty questions about each buyer. If you can, and we know not everyone has the time, access or budget to do this, survey your buyers directly. Set up phone interviews with them or send them an online survey to complete. Either way, you want to get a clear picture of who they are, what they’re like at work, and where to find them. Start with the following questions and tailor them to suit your needs.
- Is the buyer typically a man or a woman? Not sure? Pick one.
- How old are they usually?
- What kind of education do they have? Get detailed. What did they study and where did they graduate from?
- What race are they?
- Where do they live?
- What do you know about their lifestyle?
- What language(s) do they speak?
- Do they have any hobbies or is there anything noteworthy about their lifestyle that will help you appeal to them?
- What is their job role at work?
- If they consistently have the same title, what is it?
- What type of employee or professional do they tend to be? A mentor? An independent performer? A team player?
- How are they measured at work? What are their performance goals?
- What worries them at work? Are there specific challenges they must overcome?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What are their communication preferences? Do they prefer contact by email? Phone? In person meetings? Text messages? Other?
- What are their trusted sources? Where do they go for information? The internet? Peers? Industry associations? Their box?
- What are their likes/dislikes? Think about pet peeves both personally and at work and what makes them happy.
- What are their most common objectives to using your company or the kinds of products/services you supply? Too expensive? Too time consuming? Can do it on their own?
- What level of comfort does this buyer have with social media? Which channels do they use and how?
- What can you tell us about their technology? What do they use and how?
Once you have a good feeling for your buyer persona, choose a picture for him or her. If you can use a real person, great! If not, choose a stock image, but someone that looks real. Someone you and your team can relate to and then create a summary deliverable that makes the buyer person instantly understandable. Download some examples of the WPWizard buyer personas here.
SIDENOTE: We work with our clients all the time to help them create their buyer personas and once we’re done we give them a nicely designed deliverable and we also insert their final personas into the back end of their WPWizard website so as they create web pages, blog articles and other pieces of content or site functionality, they can assign each item to a buyer persona to help guide those responsible for the content or design or to be able to report on how well that page or article performed with that persona. With personas built into your website you can answer questions like “How many blog articles have we written for our buyer persona Austin and how are they performing?” or “How many leads have we gotten from Austin and on which pages did he convert most often?”
What can buyer personas do for me?
Now that you’ve really thought about each of your buyers and feel like you really know them, you’re referring to them in meetings, aren’t you? As in “I’m not sure if Austin will be at that conference. Do you really think we should attend?” Besides using them to help you discuss ideas, what else should you be doing with them? or better yet, what else can they do for you?
Inform your content marketing strategy
Well-built personas can help you meet whatever objectives have been set for your content marketing programs. If your objective is to increase buyer engagement, then your newly created buyer personas should provide you the insights you need to develop a voice and style that appeals to your buyers and keeps them engaged. If you understand how your buyers are measured and what keeps them awake at night, you’ll also understand what topics will be important to them. If your goal is to reach more buyers, your personas can tell you where they’ll be, which social media channels are important to them and who they go to for advice.
Guide your product development
Use your personas to guide your thinking about where to invest in new features and functionality or updates to your services. Let the voice of your personas tell you what they want or need from your offerings. Ask everyone in the company to think about what each persona might want or need and provide you with a list. We’ve even see companies hang posters of each person, color-coded, with matching post-its and ask employees to add to the list at their leisure.
Provide direction for your marketing activities
Your personas can provide great direction for your marketing activities. Understanding their typical day gives you a sense of when they may be receptive to marketing messages delivered via social media, email or other means. Understanding their communication preferences provides valuable insight into where you should be investing your time and budget.
Advise you on your marketing channels
Thinking carefully about which social media channels are used by your buyers obviously helps you figure out which channels deserve most of your attention. In addition, understanding where your buyers turn for advice and who they trust gives you direction for your influencer marketing programs and helps you narrow down the seemingly endless choices for industry publications, blogs and events.
Help you with your branding initiatives and messaging
It’s relatively easy to take an inside out approach as you create your branding and messaging playbook. Sure, you must think carefully about what you want to convey and how you want people to feel when they see you – but what if you flipped that exercise on its head? What if you thought instead about how your buyer personas want you to appear? And what they want to hear from you? Interesting concept, right? Instead of you deciding how you want to appear, consider a customer-centric view of your brand.
Creating fictional representatives of your typical buyers gives you real people to speak to, write to, think about, consider, and plan around. It’s far easier to try and please a real person that it is an abstract category.
There is a structured approach to creating buyer personas and it’s up to you to decide what level of investment you can afford to make in creating them. Even a “down and dirty” quick exercise to create your buyer personas will yield great benefits in terms of providing direction for your editorial calendar, marketing activities and channels and even product development.
So, what are you waiting for? Get those personas defined today and let them get to work for you!