“You gotta know your buyer!” That’s a statement we hear over and over again, to a point where it starts to lose its meaning. Well, obviously!
But most companies have a diverse array of products or services, and multiple potential buyers for each. It can be hard to really narrow down your audience and successfully market to all of them, individually.
That’s why some companies invest in developing buyer personas, or a general representation of their ideal customers. But unfortunately, “personas” are often a buzzword concept in marketing— generously discussed, but never actually used.
In this post, we’re here to defend the value of creating and leveraging well-thought-out buyer personas to help you better define and cater to your preferred audience.
What is a Buyer’s Persona?
HubSpot defines buyer personas as “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research.” Basically, these are generalizations of your buyers, as if they were a real person with tangible likes, interests, pain points, etc.
The difference is, instead of pure guesses about your customers, buyer personas are developed by analyzing hard data, leading to educated decisions about what your audience really looks like.
There are some myths out there about buyer personas, like that personas should be surface-level and broad. There’s also some confusion about the difference between buyer personas vs. ideal client profiles, so we recommend doing a little research before getting started creating personas. We’re here to help with that!
Why Create Buyer Personas?
What’s all the fuss about? Why create personas? These aren’t the only reasons, but they’re three pretty strong ones, if you ask us!
- Craft personalized content. Ever get an email that’s just off-the-mark? It’s like the company doesn’t even know you. Speak to your specific customer’s pain points, use their tone and language, and market more empathetically by knowing your persona.
- Laser-in on your customer’s goals. Get to the bottom of what motivates different buckets of people in your audience, so you can do all you can to help them reach their unique objectives.
- Understand your audience lifecycles. Ever heard of a thing called the buyer’s journey? Your prospects aren’t ready for sales-related content immediately after learning about your brand. Nurse them from visitor to lead by understanding what they need to move from one stage of their buyer’s journey to the next.
Getting Started: User Research
Before you can dive into and analyze data about your prospects, you need actual data to look at.
- Capturing leads. Do you have clear conversion paths on your website? Try adding forms or live chat to start acquiring names, emails, and other personal information from digital prospects.
- Reviewing your contact database. Do you have a decent-sized contact list? Dig through the information you currently have captured on your CRM and try to uncover some trends about your leads and customers.
- Asking important questions. If you don’t have enough data to do your persona building justice, it may be wise to set up interviews. Here are 20 questions HubSpot recommends asking when conducting persona interviews with your audience.
After you start noticing patterns and shared characteristics amongst some of your audience, start siloing them into individual buckets.
Developing Info About Each Persona
There are a few important things to consider when developing each of your personas:
- Demographics. How old are they, roughly? What’s their identified gender? Marital status? Where are they located?
- Job Title. What field are they in? How many years experience do they have? What’s their current job title? What about their goal; what position are they hoping to advance into over the next few years?
- Lifestyle. What’s a day in their shoes like? How long do they work each day? Do they have a family? What do they like to do outside of work?
- Pain Points. What are some of their struggles— both as they relate to your product or services and in general? For instance, do they have limited time, a restricted budget, or challenges at work or in their home life?
- Goals. What motivates this person? What are they trying to achieve as it relates to your products or services and more generally?
- Problem-solving. When this person is looking for help, where do they typically turn? Are they looking for how-to articles? Videos? Referrals from a friend?
- Objections. What holds them back from choosing your products or services? This ties in with Pain Points characteristic above, however, it’s more specific to your business. What are common complaints about your specific offerings and which do you think would apply to this particular persona? For instance, if your product or service is more expensive than your competitors, this may be an objection to one of your personas and a roadblock to sealing the deal.
- Language. We don’t just mean do they speak English vs. Spanish. What are common words or slang they might use? What tone of voice feels most appropriate based on their other demographics? This is an important point to consider for search engine optimization and keyword research.
Want more help working through these buckets? Download our free 8 Questions to Ask When Developing Buyer Personas ebook, which breaks each down and includes examples to help you create personas of your own.
How Many Personas Should I Have?
While segmenting your audience, you’ll probably want to know how many different personas you should create. This number will vary drastically on the size of your company and the customer base you serve, your number of products and services and how similar they are, as well as other factors.
Generally speaking, you want enough personas to get an accurate snapshot of your ideal customers, without getting too segmented and niche. We recommend starting with five to eight buyer personas and reassessing from there and you expand your offerings or your business model adjusts or develops.
An Example of a Buyer Persona: Marketing Manager Mark!
You can break down your persona into three main categories: their background, their demographics, and their identifiers. Let’s walk through an example of creating a persona together.
This will tell you a little about their job position and career history, as well as their family.
PERSONA EXAMPLE: Our persona Marketing Manager Mark is (you guessed it) a marketing manager. We might see in our research that people who fall into this persona bucket have at least 10 years of experience in marketing and at least 5 years managing teams. We might also say he’s married with a kid.
- Marketing Manager
- 10 years experience in marketing, 5 managing
- Married with child
This is where we’ll group information about their identified gender, their income, where they live, etc.
- Age 30-35
- Lives just outside the city
What’s Mark like in real life? What are some of his preferences or dislikes? What are his pain points and struggles (especially, those you can help to solve)?
- Big talker, ambitious
- Likes structure and hitting goals
- Dislikes winging it or laziness
- Struggles with limits on in-house support. Is unable to produce enough content to get the results he desires and is restricted on the headcount he can hire to do it.
- Considering an external marketing agency to help him create blogs, ebooks, videos, etc.
Add any other helpful information you gathered from our sample above to your persona sheet. Don’t fixate too heavily on each persona or add too, too much; however, it’s important to think each persona through carefully and remember that your descriptions will evolve as you learn more about your ideal audience.
Once you do this for each of your buckets of personas, you can compile your findings into an organized template or upload them into your CRM system like HubSpot.
Check out HubSpot’s helpful buyer persona templates here. This way, each time you go to make a marketing move, you can reference your sheet to understand exactly which persona you’re targeting and personalize your messaging and approach appropriately.
Buyer Personas & Keyword Research
In order to market to your individual buyer personas, you need to understand what your ideal audience is actually searching for on Google and other popular search engines.
Download The Complete Keyword Research Workbook to get started discovering what your buyer’s are entering into the search bar to craft the perfect content to solve their problems. In this free ebook, we go through real exercises, giving you the examples and tools you need to find keywords for every stage of your persona’s buyer’s journey.