How to Create Buyer Personas For Your Brand (and actually use them!)
Ashley is a content writer and brand developer. After graduating with a degree in print-journalism, Ashley’s storytelling skills took her from the bizarre world of on-camera acting to the practice courts of NBA basketball players to the virtual meetings of inbound marketers. Today she specializes in building memorable brand voices online, with a focus on the travel & tourism, e-commerce and tech industries.
Inbound marketing is built on the idea of enticing, effective, and engaging content.
Without the right content in place, everything else your team does will fall completely flat.
Which begs the question: How do you go about creating the kind of content your target market actually wants to read in the first place?
The answer is deceptively simple: Address the matters your audience most cares about in an authentic, informative, and personable way.
Thankfully, there is a clear starting point when it comes to crafting compelling content.
After much experimentation over the years, on behalf of our clients and ourselves, we can confidently say that we have a solid process and approach to creating effective and useful buyer personas. Here, we will share our techniques, and how to arrive at a persona that will be useful for your brand.
Before we get started, let's take a closer look at what buyer personas are and why they matter for your brand's inbound marketing success:
What Is a Buyer Persona?
A Buyer Persona is a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer used as a guide when creating content, developing products, and acquiring customers.
A thoughtfully constructed Buyer Persona organizes the characteristics, idiosyncrasies, and relevant aspects of your ideal customer onto one sheet of paper.
Think of it as a marketing character ("Patty The Paralegal," "Chris The CMO," or "Ron The Real Estate Mogul") that can be used as a reference point by you and your team when making any customer-related decisions.
Why Do Buyer Personas Work?
Marketers use Buyer Personas for the same reason authors use Character Profiles: To assist in creating a character that feels as life-like as possible and to provide continuity to an ongoing narrative.
While you may not be writing a novel, make no mistake about it, you are furthering an ongoing narrative each time you communicate with your prospects, leads, and customers. Buyer Personas keep the narrative tailored to the questions, concerns, and needs of your ideal buyer, by providing relevant answers to questions like:
- What are our prospects thinking about during each stage of the Buyer's Journey?
- What matters most to them as related to our product or service?
- What problems are our prospects actively seeking to solve?
- How do they most want to interact with us?
Buyer Personas also reduce the likelihood of producing watered-down marketing materials nobody cares about. Your website exists in service of your customer — not so you can sit around and admire how great your business is all day long! No one cares what you're offering until they believe it can actually help them.
Buyer Personas allow you to keep this mentality by providing a clear customer summary at a glance. This way, you can maintain relevant communications at each stage of the Buyer's Journey (as opposed to hitting them over the head with a solution they aren't yet ready or willing to receive).
What Information is Useful When Creating a Buyer Persona
You may be wondering: If Buyer Personas are so great, why do they sometimes get a bad wrap?
It's because the majority of them are so dang boring that they end up doing nothing but "gathering dust" on Desktops.
Typically speaking, there are three reasons why Buyer Personas fail:
- They are too complicated to easily reference on a regular basis.
- They were created based on hunches, misconceptions, and a handful of past experiences.
- They are too focused on extraneous demographics and psychographics.
OK, let's address these points one by one.
1. The purpose of a Buyer Persona is to inform your day-to-day marketing decisions. If your document is more than one page, how often are you really going to refer to it? When it comes to Buyer Personas, simple is always better.
2. How often in life do we assume we know what other people are thinking when we really have no clue? You don't know your customers as well as you think you do. The only way to really uncover the things that keep them up at night, the language they use to describe their problems/desires and the factors that go into making their purchase decisions is to RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH! If you're writing about the wrong topics, or answering the wrong questions, it doesn't matter how good of a writer you are.
3. Including information in your Buyer Persona that won't actually inform content creation is a waste of time. Whether or not your ideal customer currently drives a Volvo or Prius, doesn't matter unless you're a car manufacturer or dealership. And irrelevant information, like whether they have a dog or a cat, probably doesn't matter unless you're selling pet products.
How to Create a Buyer Persona That Your Team Will Use
- Limit your Buyer Persona to one page.
- Interview, survey, and/or heavily internet stalk your Ideal Customers.
- Focus on internal and external struggles more than demographics.
Begin the process by asking the right questions. Conduct one-on-one interviews with previous customers, send out targeted surveys with incentives, comb through available CRM + Sales data, and do your research.
Whether or not someone makes $80,000 or $120,000 probably won't impact their purchasing decision. Conversely, if someone is living paycheck to paycheck, that most definitely will. You want to find out where your audience spends their time online, what resources they trust, and what pain points they are facing.
Here's an example of the format we use to create an effective Buyer Persona:
You'll notice, we're focused on problems, goals, and objections because those are the facts that allow us to create compelling marketing content that actually speaks to our persona's needs. Though we spend time outlining personal insights (industry leaders they admire and common jargon they use), we only bother with the ones that will actually help us create better content.
A Cautionary Tale
Lest you assume Buyer Personas are only valuable to content marketing efforts, we want to share a quick story. Remember what happened to the Gap in 2010?
The clothing brand released a new logo, hoping to attract a hipper demographic. Unfortunately, the company completely alienated its customer-base in the process. After wading through a PR nightmare, the Gap realized their customers didn't value them for the latest trends; they valued them for their dependable basics. The company switched back to the old logo within a week!
Had the company been working from a solid Buyer Persona, they would have saved themselves millions of dollars in branding, marketing, and advertising expenses! The bottom-line: Everyone from small mom & pops to Fortune-500 companies can benefit from clearly defined Buyer Personas.
Craft Your Buyer Persona
In summary, your Buyer Persona should be the major guiding force of all your sales, marketing, and branding endeavors.
Redesigning your website? Consult your personas.
Developing a new product? Consult your personas.
Creating a campaign strategy? Consult your personas!
Want to create an effective Buyer Persona of your own? Download our Strategy Kit with Buyer Persona templates.