Too often, our grand marketing ideas are thwarted by a real-world marketing budget. What you should do for your business and what you can afford to do are too often at odds with one another. For this reason, buyer personas are a bit of a unicorn in the marketing world: they are critically important to the success of companies of all sizes, but also fit the marketing budget of any sized company. In other words, every company can afford to develop buyer personas, and no company can afford not to!
Of course, in order to maximize the value of buyer personas, it is important to understand what a buyer personas are. Understanding what distinguishes them from other strategic planning tools, however, is the key to really getting the most return for your effort. Lets start by exploring some of the key points about what buyer personas are, and how they are developed.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A Buyer Persona is a highly detailed, semi-fictional snapshot of a business’s ideal customer. This representation is guided by insights gathered from targeted market research. The information that forms this picture of a business’s ideal customer, as well as the methods of gathering this information, is what determines the effectiveness of your buyer persona.
In this way, it is best that you think of a buyer persona as a hypothesis, as opposed to a guess. Instead of being arbitrarily made up, these characters are based on customer research and educated assumptions.
In order to conduct effective research, you must first know what information you are looking for. This will inform your questions, and help you unlock valuable insights into the way your customers think. Some of the larger key pieces of information you want to make sure you uncover include your customer’s demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. In reality, most of this information falls under the umbrella of simply understanding how your customer thinks.
In general, all of the research you conduct in the process of forming buyer personas should be aimed at understanding how your customers think, because this is how we determine how they will act. Aim to learn what buyers’ opinions are of doing business with you. Conduct interviews with people who have chosen to use your product or solution, and find out what gave you the edge over your competition.
Another great way to build your buyer personas is to talk to buyers who did not choose your offering to discover why. Try to uncover the perceived barriers for these customers, which will often times be different from what you are expecting to hear. Determining this information can be especially tricky, as customers often have not given as much thought to why they did not choose something. Instead, this answer will often be derived from explanation.
TIP: It is a really good idea to feature verbatim quotes gathered from your interviews as part of your buyer persona.
What a Buyer Persona Isn’t
It is the comprehensiveness of buyer personas that distinguish them from other market research tools, such as a map of a buyer journey or a customer profile.
While useful, roadmaps of buyer journey are limited in the sense that they only provide an illustration of the consumer process. Similarly, a customer profile draws a picture that is one-dimensional. In either case, you are left with an incomplete look at who your customer is because they ignore a critical question that buyer personas address: What is the customer thinking?
Another way to understand what makes buyer personas uniquely valuable is to recognize that their goal is to learn not just what customers are doing, but why. While a customer profile will identify broad pain points, they do not delve into specifics or underlying factors. What are the specific issues that are significant to this customer? And, more importantly, why those?
TIP: It is often necessary to develop multiple buyer personas to represent the distinguished segments of your customers.
Buyer personas are distinguished by their specific and actionable nature. With the information in a buyer persona, a marketing team is able to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. Instead of looking down at their journey, the company is able to assume their perspective for the experience.
Successfully developing and implementing this useful tool will dramatically increase the ROI for marketing efforts across the board. There in lies the true value of buyer personas.