Introduction to Buyer Personas
One of the biggest challenges marketers face is targeting the right people at the right time with the right message. Failure to do so can lead to severe consequences for a business. So, how can you find you your ideal audience and personalize your marketing messages to attract those buyers?
Enter buyer personas.
Hubspot deserves credit for the widespread practice of businesses adopting buyer personas in their marketing efforts, so let’s use their most concrete definition to explain the concept:
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
Put more simply, you segment your ideal customers into different categories and call them goofy names like Sign Industry Steve, trying to get into their mindset and understand their pain points, goals, etc. so that you can begin marketing more poignantly to that customer type.
Why do we create Buyer Personas?
When done purposefully, the buyer persona exercises can be illuminating in helping you understand your prospects on a deeper level.
Again, we’ll let Hubspot explain:
Developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also enables you to target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.
What are Some Examples of Buyer Personas?
- A politician’s buyer personas include voters, supporters, and contributors;
- Universities’ buyer personas include prospective students who might apply, their parents who will foot the bill, and alumni who might donate;
- A golf club’s buyer personas are potential members;
- A nonprofit’s buyer personas include corporate and individual donors.
One key thing to keep in mind – marketers can get a little out-of-hand with “personas.” There are negative personas for prospects you wish to avoid, referral personas for the people who recommend you to new customers, and user personas for websites trying to collect your data.
If you strip everything away, “personas” are just the people you are targeting to help you grow your business. So throw “negative personas” in the trash and bundle your buyer personas, user personas, and referral personas into one clean name: Target Personas.
Okay, so we’re calling these “Target Personas” now?
And they are exactly like buyer personas but with the flexibility to loop in referral sources and other users?
Great! Anything else we should know about our target personas before moving on?
As with most marketing exercises, there’s a WRONG way to do this. Look no further than the funniest blog post in the history of the internet: 100 Questions to Build Your Buyer Persona.
As much as we praise our pals at Hubspot above, this particular approach from one of their bloggers to persona building desperately needs a shot of “settle down” juice. Creating 100 answers to a fictionalized version of your ideal customer may be well intended, but so far beyond what’s necessary that it actually gets in the way.
Examples of pointless questions in the article above to avoid in this exercise:
(Note that the persona is identified as a male in the original article)
- Did he grow up in a rural, suburban, or urban area?
- Did he get in trouble at [elementary] school?
- Where does he fall in the birth order?
- What kind of house did he live in growing up? What type of housing does he currently live in?
- Did he enjoy his college experience?
- Does he enjoy traveling?
- Does he make an effort to stay fit and healthy?
- What is his favorite TV show?
- Does he cook at home or eat out?
- Does he experiment with recreational substances?
Alright, now that we’ve had some good-natured fun identifying that living as a child in a Craftsman style home instead of a Spanish colonial makes no difference at all, let’s cut to the core of what DOES matter.
How the Purposeful Marketing Method builds Target Personas
Like every other exercise in the Purposeful Marketing Method, we want to go laser, not lantern, with our focus. Our target personas can be flushed out on a single page (download the template here) and consist of five sections:
I. Core Information
V. (How We) Approach
Let’s break down each section and identify how you can best create target personas that will help you segment your upcoming marketing efforts.
I. Core Information
Here’s your opportunity to have some fun with a personified name that’s easy to remember. Don’t go overboard with the “fun,” but make sure the name is memorable.
Be as specific as you can.
Titles don’t matter. Responsibilities do. What is he/she responsible for?
Stay simple. Sex, age, geography, etc. Don’t overdo/think this part.
This will tie in closely to his/her job role.
Next, let’s explore what your target persona wants.
What is their primary objective?
What change needs to happen first?
What change needs to happen second?
What does this person believe in? When they read the opening line of your Why-How-What Positioning Statement, how does it resonate with them?
Now, let’s dive into the things that are holding your target persona back.
Pain Point 1:
What is the biggest problem they need to be solved?
Pain Point 2:
What is the second biggest problem they need to be solved?
Buying Hesitation 1:
Why would they NOT go with you?
Buying Hesitation 2:
Is there another reason for their caution in pulling the trigger?
Who Else is Involved in the Decision? How do they factor in?
Next, you’ll want to take a look at the professional behavior practices your target persona tends to sway towards….
Software + Apps:
What type of software and applications do they use (strictly for business purposes)?
Events + Industry Involvement:
What events do they attend? How do they connect within their industry – digitally and in person?
What is the best way to correspond with them?
From start to finish, how would they make a purchasing decision like this?
V. How Do We Approach
How do we speak to them?
Services/Products to Offer:
Which of your services or products do they need?
Services/Products to Avoid:
Which of your services or products are not wanted/needed?
Target Personas Example
One of our dearest clients is We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS), a kids gym franchise that caters to special needs children. When we began working with the company, they had five locations across Southern California. By the end of 2018, they had 70 locations in over five countries.
As they grew their franchise across the globe, We Rock the Spectrum learned a lot about their target personas. One of these personas, we’ll call her “Stay-At-Home Sandy,” was a former business professional who now found herself a stay-at-home mom to a special needs child.
With so many gyms open and access to such an abundance of data, it became clear after a few years that not only were there so many “Sandy’s” interested in opening up a franchise in their respective communities, but once these Sandys came on board and opened their doors, they tended to be more profitable than the gyms without any ties to the special needs community.
Therefore, we decided to help We Rock the Spectrum break down this persona even further.
Here’s what Stay-At-Home Sandy looks like in action.
Name: Stay-At-Home Sandy
Industry: Stay-At-Home Moms who had previous professional experience
Job Role: Sandy is responsible for the health and well-being of her child(ren)
Company Size: Most Sandy’s have a partner in the house (husband or wife), but many are younger, single moms with a financial partnership tied to her parents.
Goal 1: Bring a profitable sensory gym to her community. Sandy’s always value community over their singular situation. Sandy’s must be leaders.
Goal 2: Re-enter the workforce in a way that benefits her child. Sandy misses the hustle and bustle but can only return if she knows her child is okay.
Priority 1: Understanding the feasibility of opening the gym from a costs perspective.
Priority 2: Understanding the feasibility of opening the gym from an operations/entrepreneur perspective.
Personal Values: Family first. Sandy always cares about her family and other family units above all else. She is compassionate, inclusive, and flexible in solving problems.
Pain Point 1: Sandy feels trapped at home but doesn’t see a lot of ways to get back to work or bring her child into community playgrounds/spaces.
Pain Point 2: Her child is getting older. She is getting older. Time is ticking.
Buying Hesitation 1: It is a very big “leap.” It’s a big financial leap, it’s a big life change. Is the timing right? Is the timing ever right? Can she handle the giant learning curve?
Buying Hesitation 2: Because of how the boundaries are drawn, there’s only one WRTS gym allowed in a given geographic area. That means the local community does not have a concrete pioneer to pave the way and make the purchase feel as safe. What if they open their doors and nobody shows up?
The Others: The financial partner, usually a husband, but many times a parent.
Software + Apps: Sandy is a little green on the technology side of the business. She is good with parts of social media – particularly Facebook and Instagram. She uses her Gmail regularly but has little experience with platforms like QuickBooks, MailChimp, and other popular tech that has been around for at least a decade.
Events + Industry Involvement: She’s incredibly active in the local special needs community. Many times, she organizes events like Autism walks. She’s friendly and inviting to other special needs parents in her child’s classes. She is quick to tell others about great resources in the community and help newer special needs moms by providing advice she wishes she had when she began her journey. She is VERY active in the local Facebook Groups for moms, especially special needs moms.
Communication Preferences: She is always on her phone. So text, call, or FB messenger.
Purchase SOP: Sandy is thorough. Upon finding out about We Rock the Spectrum, she will inquire about more information and start researching every little bit that she can. She will need to feel comfortable over a 1-2 month period of having her questions answered before feeling ready to make a decision.
How Do We Approach Them
Tone: This is very important – we must be incredibly compassionate about Sandy’s life situation and spend a lot of time listening to her. Let her talk about all of the obstacles mentioned above and use as many specific examples of current gym owners who had similar situations/struggles and tell their success stories. Because of this big life change, we need to act with patience as we educate her on all aspects of the business.
Services/Products to Offer: As long as Sandy is financially secure, we should sell her on opening up a brick and mortar gym. If she may be a little questionable on the financial side, we should inquire on if the mobile bus concept would be a better fit for her.
Services/Products to Avoid: Many owners will either add a mobile bus concept along the way or open up a second gym. Gauge an initial interest but if it’s not met with enthusiasm, do not mention it again.
Start Building Your Personas!
Alright, it’s time to build out your Target Personas.
A few more guidelines before you get started:
- Start with 3 Target Personas. In the exercises ahead, we will be outlining exactly how your company should Attract, Connect with, Close, and Delight each persona. A lot of work is involved in managing three different persona campaigns. If you go after four or more, the chances of you following through on your campaigns decrease tremendously. Start small and if you get the hang of it, you can build out from there.
- You’ll notice we have suggested two goals, two priorities, two pain points, and two hesitations. Make sure you understand with each of these which is the primary and which is secondary. There are layers to everyone’s desires and obstacles but this should help you keep things focused on the most important elements.
- Compare and contrast some of your current customers that fit into these personas. Think of your favorite/most-profitable buyer. Do you want to clone him/her? What would that look like?
- After going through the exercise, challenge your team to come up with two situational questions to ask of your persona. Remember, every industry is different. For instance, if you are an accountant creating a persona for entrepreneurs you want to work with and a major tax cut has happened recently, consider the question “How does Ernie Entrepreneur feel about the new corporate tax cuts?” Another example would be if you were a retail clothing store, you may want to consider something like “What time of day does Fashionable Fran usually buy her clothes?”
With the guide in hand, you get the intention here – what are the details you need to understand about your customer to properly market to them? Figure them out, and jot their answers down.
Alright, get out there and start building your personas!
Stick to what matters, and get to know your customer!