Digital marketing and eCommerce have evolved by leaps and bounds over the last thirty years, and today data – in particular data about our customers – has become crucial in order to compete in the digital landscape. Data helps us to better understand how successful our marketing efforts are, and which ones actually drive sales. In order to get the most value from your data and avoid wasting time on ineffective marketing campaigns, you need to develop buyer personas that are representative of your target audience. In fact, websites created with the use of buyer personas are two to five times more effective and user friendly than those created without personas. In this post we’ll delve into the benefits of buyer personas and how you can create them for your own business.
A buyer persona is essentially a composite profile of your ideal customer. It outlines who that person is and why and how they make purchasing decisions. Naturally, you’ll have more than one buyer persona for your business and market. For example, if your business sells second –hand designer clothing, you could have a variety of customers who fall into a few different demographics and who have a range of purchasing habits. Your buyer personas could include:
It’s important, however, that your buyer persona focuses on more than just the who. While demographics tell you who your customer is, psychographics explain why they buy what they buy. Your focus in creating a buyer persona should be a combination of both. As Content Marketing Manager Alisa Meredith explains, demographics include things like age, gender, occupation, ethnicity, education level, and religion. Psychographics, however, include things like lifestyle, personality characteristics, social class, attitudes, principles, and activities and interests.
So, why should you take the time to create a buyer persona? Why not just focus on making the best product possible and let it speak for itself? Well, the only way to effectively engage with your audience is to truly know who they are, what they like, what they need, and how to deliver that to them. Without a deep understanding of the ways in which your customers make their decision to purchase and what pain points may arise for them in the purchasing journey, you’re missing out on opportunities to convert their search of your site and offerings to a sale. Being able to speak directly to your customers and their motivations and challenges not only illustrates that you truly know your audience, but it provides your customers with a more personalized experience and more tailored offerings.
Developing a buyer persona is first and foremost a matter of research. Many businesses make the mistake of either creating personas based solely on demographics or creating too many personas that then fail to help them understand purchasing motivations. A successful and effective buyer persona is a collaborative process – it involves not only researching your customer base, but bringing together your sales team, your marketing team, and your customers themselves! What better way to understand your customers than to speak with them directly?
Interview your customers to understand them as people by sending out feedback forms, website surveys, or email blasts. Ask them why they chose your product and what helped them make that choice. Each persona should paint the picture of an individual person that represents the type of customer that you do business with, from their age and occupation to their weekend plans to how they take their coffee. Award-winning marketer Katie Martell explains, “Buyer personas should seek to understand targets as humans, how they are going to make a buying decision, and what drives their actions at work. This goes beyond demographic information (e.g. CIO at large company).”
Use the historic sales data you already have available to help inform your buyer personas. There is often a wealth of information at our fingertips that we don’t always recognize! Look at things like your customers’ jobs, location, gender and age, when they purchase, if they purchase a single item or multiple items, and how they came to purchase from you (such as via an ad, social media post, or direct referral).
There are three main questions you need to ask when developing a buyer persona:
What are your customers trying to accomplish? What do they need, why do they need it, and when are they seeking it? This is important to help align yourself with your customers and fulfill their needs.
What influences your customers? What barriers do they face? This is important to help you determine how to relieve those barriers for them.
How do your customers reach you? That is, what platforms or methods do they use to make contact with you? Do they do a lot of research before they make a purchase, or are they spontaneous buyers? This is important in understanding how best to reach your ideal customers and how to speak (think website or ad copy, images, campaigns) to them when you do make contact.
We’ve already covered the fact that your buyer persona should focus on both demographics and psychographics, but there are a few other common mistakes that many businesses make when developing these helpful marketing tools.
First, don’t get caught up in creating too many personas! Stick to four or five personas at most that really home in on why, when, and how your customers make decisions around your product. Remember that their purpose is to give your marketing and sales efforts focus, so prioritize those that make up the bulk of your revenue.
Next, make sure you actually speak to your customers! Katie Martel notes that “Correct personas require speaking with real buyers to understand them (not typically the kinds of questions you ask on a sales call).” Again, the only people who can truly tell you your customers’ motivations are your customers themselves.
Finally, while it’s helpful to create fun names and include stock photos for each buyer person to help your team better conceive of them as a real person, the focus should be on their motivations and behaviours. Justin Gray, founder and CEO of LeadMB, explains that “marketers need to go deeper into the personalities and primary trust drivers within their buyers … Once we begin to understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of buyer decision-making, we can assemble content they identify with on a much deeper level.”
Make sure that your marketing efforts are not going to waste by creating well-researched and thoughtful buyer personas.