Creating Buyer Personas for your business – if done well – provides valuable insight for individuals and teams throughout your company about your target customers and prospects. By creating buyer personas effectively, you provide your sales, marketing, customer service, product/service development, and planning teams with the insights they need to remain focused on your best customers.

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Buyer personas are important throughout a company. For example,

  • SALES: They help the sales team identify the prospects most likely to become customers. They also help the sales team focus on the best prospects and weed out those least likely to convert or to become “bad” customers. Personas also increase the effectiveness of the sales team by matching their message and value descriptions to the actual needs and concerns of the customer.
  • MARKETING: Buyer personas enable the marketing team to search for and engage prospects on the right social media networks, forums, etc. They help the marketing team develop targeted and more effective marketing messages.  This, in turn streamlines the marketing, lead nurturing and conversion process, saving time and money.
  • PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT: Intimate knowledge of your best customers enables the product development team to build new products/services that respond to actual customer needs and to incorporate designs that are most appealing to the target market.

Above all, creating buyer personas correctly provides the information required to know what information prospects and customers want and need, the format in which they want it presented, and delivering it to them at the right time. In an increasingly competitive business environment, when customers expect businesses to engage with them, the ability to deliver the information the customer wants at the moment s/he realizes s/he wants it might give your company the edge with your ideal customers and your best prospects.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are sketches of your ideal/best customers that provide insights into personality, demographics, buying motivations, purchase behavior, needs, pain points, and background. To create a buyer persona, you will bring together everything you know about your target audience(s) to describe your ideal customer as a person (rather than just a set of facts).

Typical sources of information used in creating buyer personas include:

  • Research
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Company information
  • Insights and impressions from sales contacts
  • Web analytics insights
  • Social media personality insights

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If you have analyzed your business and described your ideal customer (perhaps by using the Ideal Customer Worksheet created by Little Black Dog Social Media & More), this is a good starting point. However, what these descriptions typically provide is “disembodied” or abstract facts. The reason to create buyer personas is to put flesh on the skeleton. A buyer persona is a representative personal profile with all of the characteristics of a real person. However, you should not use a real ideal customer for your buyer persona because it becomes far to compelling to focus on that particular individual rather than a representative type.

It is important to create buyer personas for both “good” customers/clients and “bad” customers or prospects. You will save time (and money) by quickly identifying contacts who are unlikely to become customers. Your ideal customer personas will help you identify likely prospects. It will also help you understand what they value, how your solution helps them solve problems, and how to present your value proposition.

A well-crafted buyer persona will quickly highlight the information needed about your ideal customers. The persona will tell you who you are dealing with, what they need, and what typically triggers the sale.  It will include the following core information:

  1. Demographics
  2. Identifiers
  3. Background
  4. Company and Role
  5. Goals
  6. Challenges and pain points
  7. How your product/service helps
  8. Common customer objections or barriers
  9. Marketing messages
  10. Sales approach

What Should You Include When Creating Buyer Personas?

With access to the right resources, you can probably gather a vast amount of information about your ideal customers/clients or your “bad” customers. Much available information will be irrelevant to your needs. Here are the primary types of information you need to gather.

Who is the customer? Remember that even B2B purchases are made by people. What do you know about this person – age, male or female, married, children, income bracket, lives where? More important: what entices this person to buy or take action?

What do you know about this person’s work environment?

  • For B2B, what kind of company does s/he work for? How knowledgeable is this person about the industry? What constraints affect buying? What will help you focus your sales or marketing to resonate with this person?
  • For B2C, what kind of job does s/he have? At what level in the organization is this person’s position? What does this tell you about the individual’s needs, personal life, etc.

What are the customer’s needs, challenges, desires? Why does your customer need your products or services? What feelings or emotions are associated with that need? How does your product or service meet their needs? Can your product or your value proposition change their emotions or feelings? What are the customer’s pain points – the challenges associated with the product or the purchasing process? How can this information help you differentiate your company or your product/service?

The goal of all research for creating buyer personas is (1) to see the buyer in their typical daily situation (whether at home or at work); (2) to understand how the buyer researches, gathers information, or compares products/services and companies prior to purchasing; (3) to discover what information the buyer needs in order to make a purchase decision and how do they want that information presented; and (4) to understand the critical factors in the purchase – for example, the relative importance of price, delivery, shipping costs, discount, customer service, etc.

Your sales and marketing teams will want to know how and where the customer does research – online or offline. What kinds of products/services does the buyer research? Who will actually use the product/service, and how? Where does this person typically look for information – social media, websites, blogs, or industry sites? Does the buyer prefer to consume information by reading, listening or watching? What kind of questions does this person ask when seeking information or conducting research? What keywords are used to find information? (It is important to keep in mind that search is rapidly shifting from broad keywords to specific questions.)

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Sources of Information for Creating Buyer Personas

Although your sales and marketing teams will typically focus on one or two buyer personas, you might find it necessary to create additional personas. You might have primary and secondary (or tertiary) personas. Depending on the product or service you offer, you might have personas for each type of business or industry to which you sell. You will definitely want to use these sources of information continually. Markets change and people’s needs change, as do your competitors products, pricing and service. You will need to monitor the market continually and plan to make scheduled updates to buyer personas, as well as updating when you recognize a significant shift.

The most commonly used sources of information include:

  • Social listening – If you know where your best customers spend time online, you will be able to learn a good bit about needs, pains and concerns through social media listening. This is one of the great benefits of social media for many businesses. The other side of social listening is to listen to conversations about your competitors. Why do their customers choose to buy from them? What is compelling in their value proposition? What do they not like about your competitors? This information will help you differentiate your company and your products or services. It will also indicate areas where you should direct attention to your ability to shine where your competitor fails.
  • Forms – Use a variety of forms designed to uncover a range of information about your buyers on multiple pages of your website, your blog, social media pages, email, etc. Instead of using one huge (and overwhelming) form to gather all the information you would like to have, create several forms – each asking seven questions or less – and place them on different pages of your site to gather deeper information as the prospect moves through your lead nurturing process. Feedback forms can be particularly informative when used to assess the effectiveness of your content or offers.
  • Website and Social Media Analytics – Analytical tools such as Google Analytics or HootSuite (as well as more sophisticated options) are a good source of statistical information about prospect demographics, email, access to your site or page, social media behaviors, and the like. In particular, you will want to know what information or pages were viewed, how much time was spent, how they found you, and where they went after visiting your page/website.
  • Interviews – Talk with your best and most loyal customers to learn why they choose to do business with you, why they needed your product or service, how they found you, what they like about doing business with you and what they hate about doing business with you. Ask them about the benefits of your product or service. Ask what they do or do not like about your competitors. You should also talk with new customers. Ask the same questions of them that you ask of loyal customers. Analyze any differences. Finally, if possible, try to interview people who chose not to do business with you. Find out why they made that choice. Determine where the lead generation-nurturing-conversion process broke down and address the problem.
  • Listen to Other Teams within Your Company – This is the most commonly overlooked source of information about prospects and customers. The three primary sources of customer and prospect information are the marketing team, the sales team, and the customer service team. Everyone in the company who has direct (or indirect) communication with customers and prospects should document their interactions and their impressions in some central location. This information should be accessible to others within your company as needed.

Using Buyer Personas

Once you have created buyer personas you will find them useful in maintaining customer focus and in communicating with customers effectively. Customer focus is critical for product development, marketing, sales, customer service, and for business planning.

Specifically, the following are examples of where and how buyer personas will help your company communicate effectively.

  1. Value propositions phrased in terms of the needs, desires, pains and goals of customers will create greater resonance.
  2. Differentiating your company from your competitors will be clearer and more effective.
  3. Marketing messages will be focused on specific emotional connections and verbal congruencies with the needs of your ideal customers.
  4. Content production will be fine tuned to provide focused answers to the questions of your ideal customers at each touchpoint in the journey to purchase.
  5. Landing pages will connect with both the messages that drive people to your website or social media page, but will make other verbal, emotional and visual connections with the ideal customer.
  6. Your website will be designed and written to resonate on every level with your ideal customer, providing a purchase path through the site and answering appropriate questions and information as the customer moves through the path.
  7. Your calls to action in marketing, ads, social media, website, email, etc. will resonate with the customer and encourage the appropriate action at each touchpoint.
  8. Your sales team will be able to provide meaningful answers to customer questions because your buyer personas will identify not only the questions, but also the underlying needs and issues your responses should embody.

Creating buyer personas that are well researched and carefully written will provide the insights and understandings that can inform your business decisions, marketing messaging, sales conversations, and customer service. Good buyer personas will help you locate, identify, and communicate with your ideal customers more efficiently and cost-effectively. By creating “bad” customer personas, you will save time, and become more efficient in marketing and sales. Buyer personas will also help your customer service team empathize and communicate with customers under all circumstances.