Have you heard the term “Buyer Persona?” If you’re like most printers, you’re probably more familiar with “Target Market.” But I’d like to explain why creating a Buyer Persona will help you understand your customers in an exciting new way.
Why am I banging the drum about buyer personas? It started when I began to redesign my website.
Websites should do more than just be a sales brochure for your business. They must act as a sales funnel, providing potential clients with the information they need to make a buying decision.
To provide the exact content a person needs to make that decision, you need to match your website to the “persona” of your customer. This exercise will not only define your website, but it should redefine your business.
What do I mean by persona? To quote the internet marketing company HubSpot, “A buyer persona is an archetype of who your ideal customer is. It helps you identify who they are and what matters to them so you can make and sell to them more effectively.”
You laugh. Sounds a lot like the old term “Target Market.” It is, but it’s much more than that.
In the past, defining the “target market” meant focusing on the typical demographics of a customer. A printing exec might be: Male, 45-59, annual income over $250,000. Business owner.
That is valuable information, don’t get me wrong, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. The target market approach will tell you how to find someone, but defining a persona will establish what to say when you meet your customer.
The Questions (and Answers) that Define a Persona
HubSpot, the company that I use for my inbound marketing software, has created a template that you can use to establish your own persona for your customers.
The template works because it asks qualitative questions that get you thinking about your customers in ways you might not have considered before. The ideal approach is to contact your top 5-7 customers and ask them these questions.
If you don’t want to download the template, here are the big questions:
1. What is their demographic information? This is the demographic info I mentioned earlier. It’s important to know as you craft the image of what the persona looks like.
2. What is their job and level of seniority? Be as specific as you can with this classification. When I say “CEO” versus “Middle Manager,”you immediately think of two different people, and two different priorities.
It also clues you in on how the customer will consider your approach. A CEO will be in skim mode; just the facts and the bottom line. The Middle Manager may be more inclined to analyze and read carefully.
3. What does a day in their life look like? Get specific. Think about their day. When are they stressed? How do they work? When will they have time for you?
4. What are their pain points? What do you help them solve? This proved to be an interesting part of the exercise for us.
Like most companies, we tend to be enamored with our products and services. Focusing on their persona’s pain points really makes you cut to the chase, and strip away extraneous services. They might make you money, but if they don’t deal with a pain point, no one will buy them.
Establishing the pain points also provides you with empathy. You can be Clinton-esque and “feel their pain.” They’ll appreciate the fact that you’re thinking about them and not yourself.
5. What do they value most? What are their goals? You’ve just identified their pain points. Now think about the persona’s aspirational goals. What do they truly want to achieve? How can you take them to that level?
6. Where do they go for information? This is a qualitative approach to finding out what websites they visit or who they consult with for decisions. It can dictate where you place your emphasis with your marketing efforts.
Remember, this is qualitative information. Take it with a grain of salt, i.e. don’t create a media plan based on a few interviews. You need more quantitative findings for that.
7. What experience are they looking for when seeking out your products and service? By asking your customer this question, you’ll get a better idea of how to present yourself both in terms of sales and marketing. You might have a vision of how you want your brand to appear, but if the persona isn’t interested in it, what good will that do you? This question could be instrumental in helping you craft your brand.
8. What are their most common objections to your product or service? This is a tough question for many companies to ask, because it will poke holes in your approach. But customers tend to be skeptics, and they’ll dwell on weaknesses if you don’t do anything to address the issue.
Asking this question to a current customer will also provide you with a sense of their perspective. You may think you’re addressing any and all objections with your approach, but that’s not always the case.
An interesting approach HubSpot also recommends is creating an Exclusionary Persona. This is a persona of a person who will never buy your products, but will make constant inquiries and suck up a lot of your time.
It’s a good practice to define the Exclusionary Persona. Knowing their traits will help you formulate a strategy for handling their requests, potentially even developing a strategy in which they’ll lead you to the ideal buyer persona.
What do Personas Look Like In Action?
HubSpot provided some good examples of how companies are using personas to implement and execute marketing campaigns. Here are a few highlights we picked out:
Goodbye Crutches has established the Motivated Mom, age 35-55, who has a full and active life. Note the blog post below is written for “How to Dress for Success with Leg Cast.”
On their webpage, the company offer is targeted at the persona: “The Ultimate Guide to a Great Halloween on One Foot.” I can picture a Motivated Mom, wanting desperately to get out with her kids and make Halloween special. This is terrific marketing to a persona.
JetBlue established a persona of a “low-budget traveler that wants a comfortable yet affordable solution to flying.” In many cases, this is likely to be a small-business owner, or someone who aspires to be a player but might have to sit back in coach.
The headlines use language like “The Boss-Day Sale” and “Fly Like a Boss, Pay Like an Intern” to appeal to this persona.
As you check out the rest of the examples provided here, you may say, “Wait, these are marketing campaigns. I’m a sales organization. How can this help?”
Developing a persona can be invaluable to your sales force. Not only will it help you in the development of an effective sales script, it can even help you in role-playing. Note that many companies, in developing a persona, will actually create pictures to cement an image. Check out these animated personas for various social media, courtesy of SEOMoz.
Developing and identifying personas is something you can shrug off as some sort of fluffy marketing approach, or it is something you can adapt as the cornerstone for your entire company’s efforts.
The companies that get personas, and build everything around them, will be the ones that win – guaranteed. Why? Because you may know everything about your company, your products and your industry, but until you develop a persona, you won’t know the most important thing in business: Your customer.
“Every company’s greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company.”
- Michael LeBoeuf, Author of “How to Win Customers and Keep Them For Life”
Photo by: viZZZual.com.