Data by itself is useless unless you organize it. You can learn about your customers’ age, location, occupation, gender, income level, interests, or any other demographic factoids, but until you can bring all that together into a cohesive profile, you won’t be able to act on it effectively - that’s what a buyer persona does.
A buyer persona is a fleshed-out, detailed, and actionable picture of who your customer is. A majority of the most successful businesses in the world have gotten that way through a customer-focused mission. It is widely accepted that the best starting point to solving most problems is “what does the customer want and what would they like to see?”.
Unless you only sell a very niche product, chances are that you’ll be dealing with multiple buyer personas. Figuring out who these are is crucial to your business - it will help you focus your efforts across your entire organization.
Who am I selling to? For the product I’m selling, what kind of customer would yield the highest average sale? Who is most likely to come back for more? Who will be most likely to form a real connection with my company? Who is least likely to churn?
How do I structure my marketing and outreach? Should I even be selling this product or should I make changes to my product line? How should I best organize my customer service? Where can I find my customers? How can I keep my customers?
These are just some of the questions you can only have a real answer to if you have a detailed buyer persona, each of which will have a different set of wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and buttons you can push to drive a sale.
Of course, a persona is not an exact replica of its intended customer - different customers will line up with different parts of it - but it should be an accurate representation of the ideal customer, and be the best illustration possible of the subset of your clients it is trying to represent.
You won’t just be creating personas for your ideal customers. Sometimes, it can be just as important to have a good idea of who you definitely don’t want to be targeting, preventing yourself from wasting time and money to win them over.
So, broadly speaking, how can buyer personas be used throughout your business? Several ways!
Having detailed buyer personas will let you create far more personalized, and ultimately impactful, content. It’s one thing to write a blog, put a brochure together, or create a video and hope that the right people see it, it's another thing entirely to use your ideal customer as a starting point and tailor the content to what would excite them.
So here’s the bad news: there’s no standardized list of buyer personas. There’s no real resource you can go to and find a long catalog of potential personas and just hope to stumble upon one that will perfectly fit your business. Each business is unique - its customers can be very similar, but will also ultimately be unique.
The good news is that creating personas, while challenging, is not as hard as it may seem at first, and once you have them you open up a ton of avenues for growth.
To create a great persona, you will need a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The first you can get through customer surveys, questionnaires, or just talking to them on the phone. while the second you will need to put a bit more work in - carrying out research like questionnaires and surveys where your customers can give you more in-depth information.
So what will your buyer persona look like in practice? First of all, it will be based on data and research, but it won’t be entirely real. They will be idealized versions of your various types of customers - you could have your average shopper, the returning customer, the skeptical purchaser, your company executive, your B2B marketing manager, your decisive buyer, your hesitant buyer, and many more.
Talking to enough people, you start to realize that a lot of those that are in similar situations are facing similar problems, that may need similar solutions, and you can begin making inferences about different “types” of customers.
Oh, and you won’t be referring to them as “Persona 2” - they will have names. Influencer Ian, Decisive Dan, Student Sam - there are all archetypes of the people you do business with, they may not be real themselves, but the people they stand in for and represent are.
For each persona you can include, among other things:
The goal is to convey a sense of personality - who is this person?
You might be wondering what the point is of going through all the trouble to make up these fake people - that’s fair enough, at first it does seem useless. The reason you need to make them as human as possible is simple - you’re dealing with humans.
The truth about us is that we’re an emotional species - it’s not good enough to know what customers do, we need to know how they feel, what motivates them, and what will push them away. The gut is oftentimes even more important than the head when making a purchase.
One important distinction you need to make early on is whether your persona is a B2C customer, who will be buying for themselves, or a B2B customer that is making a purchase on behalf of the company.
Because they’re buying for themselves, B2C customers will be more receptive to emotional messaging - they’re looking to fulfill their own needs and solve personal problems. A B2B client, on the other hand, has responsibility over a budget that needs to be allocated in the most effective and efficient way it can, so the value proposition of your product must be conveyed with that in mind.
B2B customers, on the other hand, may not be buying for themselves, but they are still individuals with their own opinions, criteria, and ambitions within their business - you need to know how to best make decision-makers choose you over a competitor.
Unlike a B2C customer, who you consider in their personal capacity, for B2B customers you need to consider their professional capacity - who are they at work, as opposed to in the rest of their lives? This doesn’t mean their personality doesn’t come into it - you still need to know what motivates them, but more often than not that will be in the context of what they want from their career and for their company.
Ambitions and goals
Fears and worries
Brands they associate with
Ambitions and goals
Fears and worries
Brands they buy
So what does this profile tell us about how you could sell to both of these?
Firstly, neither of them would buy just any old junk. Victor will want to know that what he is buying represents value for money, but that doesn’t mean he wants the cheapest thing out there. If he has two options of the same product, he will take the cheapest one if the quality is roughly the same, but he will also pay good money for a high-quality product that will last him years.
Always on the hunt for a bargain, Victor will be highly susceptible to the sense of urgency that comes from offers and discounts, especially for high-quality or premium products. Vouchers, sales events, seasonal sales, or other exclusive promotions are good routes to take.
He is a firm believer that if you buy cheap, you buy twice, so he’s willing to pay a bit more if he determines that an option would pay itself off after a while.
This type of customer is all about the value proposition - they need to clearly be shown the functional benefits of your product.
You’ll have the highest chances of reaching him through email, PPC ads (as well as display ads because he often browses but does not make a purchase, making him ripe for remarketing campaigns), and even over-the-top marketing.
Sharon, for her part, will be just as receptive to lifestyle imagery and appeals to emotion as she would be to functionality-based marketing. Social media is her domain, and she can function as both a customer and a multiplier of your marketing efforts if you target her correctly. If your product can somehow be used in her content and has the potential to generate views for her, she is likely to use it.
Unlike Victor, Sharon is open to cross-selling and upselling, meaning you can push more premium products.
Role within company
Objectives and goals
Issues and pain points
Preferred communication channel
Role within company
Issues and pain points
Objectives and goals
Preferred communication channel
What potential approaches can we take from these profiles?
Adam is, as his name suggests, ambitious. He’s a hard, diligent worker who is not satisfied with his current place and wants more. It’s not just for his own sake, but he also genuinely cares about the success of his company and wants to grow with it.
He’s happy to sign up for free trials, but it’s much more difficult to get him to actually become a client because he will only accept a new service that would have an immediate tangible benefit to his business - one that he can justify to his superiors and be able to demonstrate results for in the short-term.
Just because he needs to justify his decisions doesn’t mean that he looks for consensus, though. He’s decisive, results-driven, and doesn’t mind a bit of conflict if it means getting him close to a win. For you, this means that he’s the only one you need to convince, without needing to think much about what his team might think.
Carla, on the other hand, will want to run everything by her team. She’s probably more personable than Adam and easier to deal with, but it won’t just be her objections that you’ll need to respond to, but those of all her colleagues as well. It also means that decisions will take quite a bit longer and get the sign-off of multiple people. Unlike Adam, who is motivated by getting the credit of having made a winning decision, Carla is motivated by the fear of catching the blame for a bad one.
You have a lot of flexibility with how you display that information on the profile. You could do it all in bullet points, for example, which is great for conveying information but it takes effort to decipher at first glance.
Visual aids such as filled bars and sliding scales will go a long way to making a profile more readable and make it easier to make side-by-side comparisons of the difference in strength or aptitude of different traits between them, here’s one example of a B2C persona:
Here are a few more designed by Arthur Chayka via Dribbble :
B2B personas can also be designed in different ways, such as this one from Fastmarkit’s Suttida Yang:
This one from Cooler Insights:
And this one from Buyer Persona Institute, which also features a series of tabs across the top that open to even more detailed sub-sections:
Beyond just the marketing itself, having a deep understanding of your personas can help you with some bigger business decisions you could make down the line. For example, if you find yourself in a position where you could potentially strike a partnership or collaboration with another brand or an influencer, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not your customers would be on board and the extent to which it would make them do more business with you in the future.
The name of the game, ultimately, is empathy. The whole point of fleshing out a character for your customers is so that you can put yourself in their shoes and see things their way to work out how best to reach them.
Remember that nothing is set in stone. All things change with time, including your customers’ preferences, personalities, and habits, so these personas are living documents and you need to be ready to revisit them continuously as you learn more about your clients.
Threecolts acquires, launches, and grows eCommerce software & services, and owns other stellar businesses including Old Street Media, HotShp, SellerBench, Tactical Arbitrage, Bindwise, RefundSniper, ChannelReply, and FeedbackWhiz.
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