I am writing this post to Michael, Sara, Dave and Erika, one of whom is likely you. You see, Michael, Sara, Dave and Erika are buyer personas. They are created with a combination of raw data and educated guesses, representing slices of this blog’s readership.
"Personas are fictional, generalized characters. They encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among your real and potential customers. They help you understand your customers better." (HubSpot)
Buyer personas help you:
- Determine what kind of content you need
- Set the tone, style, and delivery strategies for your content
- Target the topics you should be writing about
- Understand where buyers get their information and how they want to consume it
The purpose of personas is to create reliable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. These representations should be based on qualitative (and some quantitative) user research and web analytics. Remember, your personas are only as good as the research behind them.
To start with, you need to identify which of your clients you should reach out to. In other words, identify your personas. It’s important to know who you’re going after, in order to know what information you need to build.
Here are three ways to begin the process:
1. Identify your personas
- Customers- Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start interviewing. They’ve already purchased your product and are engaged with your company. Reach out to your customers and talk to them about your product.
- Prospects- You want to balance out your interviews with people who have not purchased your product or know much about your company. Your current prospects and leads are a great option because you already have their contact information.
- Referrals- You'll need to rely on some referrals to talk to people who may fit into your target personas. Particularly if you're heading into new markets or don't have any leads or customers yet. Reach out to your network (coworkers, existing customers, social media contacts) to find people you'd like to interview and get introduced to. It may be tough to get a large volume of people this way, but you'll likely get some very high quality interviews.
As I was creating my personas for work, I identified about 10 people to speak to. You want enough people to get a range of results, but not too many that they begin to say the same thing.
2. Conduct Your Research
Once you’ve identified your individual buyer personas, begin the information-gathering process. Hubspot has great resources and offers interview questions.
- Conduct traditional market research- If you have the budget to do so, investing in focus groups or one-on-one interviews with your target customers can provide great data for your buyer personas.
- Send out questionnaires- You can also generate a tremendous amount of information by sending questionnaires to your existing customer base. If possible, consider offering a small incentive (like a coupon or free sample product) to customers who complete your survey.
- Check your website and social media analytics- Analytics programs can’t tell you who your target customers should be. But they can provide demographic data about the people who are currently interacting with your site and your social profiles.
- Talk to your employees- Your customer-facing employees likely have a wealth of information about the people they work with, but you won’t know unless you ask!
- Guess based on past experiences- If you’re short on time or money, you can build the persona based on your own observations. While this data may be subject to observer bias, it may be enough to guide your future marketing initiatives.
3. Build your buyer persona template
You have your set of questions and you have your information…now it’s time to put your personas together! When compiling buyer personas, you can either use a standard template or create your own file structure. If you prefer to start from an established structure, take a look at these templates.
With all your buyer personas defined, you should now have a much better idea of who, how, and where you should be marketing to achieve the greatest level of success. The demographic information of each persona will help you target your ads more effectively. And the psychographic information can help you write more engaging copy for each particular persona.
With defined buyer personas your ad targeting and communication stands a much better chance. You'll have a better understanding of your core customers, increased engagement on your social media channels, and a greater ROI for your online ads. Taking the time upfront to define your buyer personas can help your online business succeed.
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