How to create buyer personas for your business.
What are buyer personas and how can they help you?
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer profile. They help marketing, sales, customer services and many other business functions operate effectively, placing the customer at the centre of all activities.
Creating generalised buyer personas will shape your marketing strategy, helping your business to truly serve its prospects and customers in a way that resonates with them. Buyer personas allow you to meet prospects and customers on their terms, humanising automated interactions.
Many companies don’t spend long enough researching and defining their personas, so they end up with something that doesn’t really work. The goal is to have a deep understanding of your personas which is why we give them memorable human names. Investing time into this critical business process will drive improvements in your overall marketing strategy, product development, as well as strengthening your sales processes and rep performance. It really helps everyone who has a role to play in customer acquisition and retention.
Buyer personas are easy to overlook and can be a hassle to roll out in a large business, but they are a proven way of enhancing your customer experience from the initial touchpoint through acquisition and to the promised land of evangelists.
If personas are already living and breathing in your business you know they need revisiting a couple of times a year to ensure they’re still relevant, so it’s worth refreshing your memory to make sure yours are still relevant. This guide shares insight to help you develop strategically-aligned profiles from scratch and improve your existing buyer personas.
Why are buyer personas so important?
Before delving straight into the creation process, here’s why buyer personas are so important to your business.
Buyer Personas help you to understand your customers and prospects better, making it a lot easier to tailor your messaging, content, services, etc, to specific audience segments. This allows you to address their needs and challenges with targeted content. In years gone past half of the customer acquisition journey was trying to find out, through interruptive sales, what challenges prospects face so you could go away and work out how to solve them. Creating personas will help you to understand how to best serve your customers and create personalised experiences for each individual, improving your chances of winning their trust and business.
The best buyer personas are formed from a mixture of market research, the insight you gather from existing customers, and educated assumptions. The creation process should include all customer-facing teams as they’ll have the most insight to share. There isn’t a perfect number of personas. Some businesses will have 2, others may need more than 10. However, particularly if you are starting out, try to keep that number smaller. Try starting with 4.
Why do expert marketing teams use personas?
Personalising your marketing for different segments of your audience is the most effective way of engaging with your prospects and delighting your customers.
A Marketing Mandy and a CEO Clive are going to have very different requirements in terms of what content is going to resonate with them. CEO Clive’s number one priority is probably growing the business through customer acquisition, while Mandy might want to automate some of her time-costly, manual processes so she can spend more time creating valuable content. While their overarching goals may be similar, they have totally different challenges on a daily basis. Challenges you can help them overcome.
The best marketing teams will combine the lifecycle stage (how far along the sales journey someone is) with their buyer personas because this allows you to map out and create highly targeted and effective content. Remember, buyer personas don’t just help marketing teams create content, but they also help sales with business development efforts and account managers with customer retention and cross-selling.
How to create buyer personas.
As stated previously, personas are created by conducting research among your existing customers, searching for further insight online, and ideating how your ‘ideal’ customer profile thinks, behaves, operates, etc.
Here are 4 ways you can get started today:
- Look through your existing contacts and make a list of commonalities between certain leads/customers. How do they find you? How do they consume your content?
- Take a look at the existing forms on your website. Can you add/change a required field to capture important persona information? E.g. if your personas vary based on job title, ask each lead for information about their job role on your forms.
- Ask for your sales, marketing, customer service teams for feedback on the leads and customers they interact with most. What generalisations can they make? Draw up a list. It is critical that you invite contribution from at least all the client-facing teams in your business. This will give you the best representation of your customer profiles.
- Interview your customers and prospects either in person or over the phone to discover what they like about your product or service. This is arguably the most important step and is often the one people are hesitant to pursue so let’s explore this step in more detail.
Who should I interview?
Your customers, good and bad, your prospects, and referrals.
Customers: a great place to start because they’ve already purchased from you and are likely to represent one of your personas. Interviewing good and bad customers will help you uncover challenges you didn’t know they had and allow you to rectify those challenges with product updates, informative content and so on. Customers like being heard and they like being rewarded for loyalty even more, so offer them a small gift in exchange for taking part. More on incentives later.
Prospects: are another good route to go down as you already have their contact information and you can incentivise them to take part. It is important to balance your interviews with people who know your product and those who don’t.
Referrals: you may also rely on some referrals to finish your research. You can use social media, your professional network, and friends to get introduced to people who are likely to fall into one of your persona categories. This is a particularly good step if you don’t have any customers yet.
How do I ask for an interview?
Simply speaking, make it easy to say yes. Take care of everything from suggesting times (or sending a link to your calendar) to sending Amazon gift cards as an incentive. You also want to make it very clear this is not a sales call but you are conducting research and their opinion is highly valuable. It should be positioned as a friendly conversation and not an hour-long sales call.
How many persona interviews do I need to conduct?
We recommend conducting 3-5 interviews for each buyer persona. If you have 4 personas, that’s up to 20 conversations which will all take around 30-60 minutes. It may seem like a large time investment, but the exercise will return significant efficiency and effectiveness improvements. Haven’t got the time? We’ll do it for you.
What questions should I ask?
That’s a big question with lots of answers. To make it easier to choose which questions to ask we created a list of 15 great questions broken down into seven categories; job, company, goals, challenges, resources, personal background, purchasing preferences.
- Could you describe your role?
- How is your success measured?
- What does a typical day/week look like?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- Which industry or industries does your company operate in?
- What is the size of your team, and the size of the company as a whole?
- What are you responsible for delivering?
- What are your top 3 goals for this year?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- What challenges do you face most often?
- What publications/blogs do you read?
- How do you educate yourself on the job?
- Could you describe your background and education in a few sentences?
- How do you prefer to talk to your suppliers? (phone, email, text)
- Could you describe a recent business purchase and how you came to the decision to buy?
- Ask open questions where possible to extract as much information as they’re willing to give.
- Listen intently to their answers and then ask why? This will deepen your understanding of how your prospects and customers think.
Using your research to create your personas.
Now that you have all the data and demographic information you need, you will have to present it in a way that is easy for everyone in the business to make sense of.
When distilling the information you must look for patterns in behaviour, attitude, knowledge, and so on until you have your first, primary buyer persona. For example, if the 4 Marketing Directors you spoke to all mentioned being overstretched, you might describe Marketing Maggie as time-poor.
This stage is where our buyer persona template comes in handy.