In order to effectively sell something to someone, you need to understand their pain points. How does your product solve an issue that they are having? This is only the first step of the equation that cracks sales.
Maximising your sales means maximising your appeal to the people on the receiving end of your marketing messages. You must understand who your typical customer is, or who your major market segments are, and tailor your message to them. Successful marketers do this by creating what is called a buyer persona. In this post, we’ll take a look at what buyer personas are, how to use them, and how to go about creating them.
What is a buyer persona?
You may have seen a police drama where a profiler will give the police a description of the suspect. Barring a plot twist, the profiler does not know who the suspect is, yet they are able to give the police a very detailed description. They seemingly know how old the suspect is, how tall they are, their relationships with family members, even their favourite types of place to hang out. The police then use this data to narrow down their suspect list and hopefully get the right person sooner.
The profiler does this by matching data about the current crime with historical data about other crimes. Hopefully, your target customers are not criminals, but you can use the same methodology to create a very clear picture in your mind of who they are.
You can then use this information to hyper-focus your marketing strategy on that particular person. You will likely have more than one type of person who is a great potential customer. For this reason, companies often create multiple marketing personas.
You can even create negative personas to represent the types of customers you want to avoid, or those who will oppose your product and you need to win their buy-in. We’ll discuss negative personas in more detail a little later.
5 steps to defining buyer personas
Now that you know what they are, it’s time to learn how you can create your own buyer personas. In order to do so, you’ll need to gather information on your existing customers by conducting interviews or surveys with some of them as well as talking to your sales team. The 5 steps listed below will provide you with a good overview of how to use that information to create your personas.
1. Research your target audience
Proper research of your target audience will come in multiple forms. It’s important to have powerful analytics tools at your disposal right from the beginning of your operation. These tools will give you many insights into who your customers are, and who is most likely to churn or fail to convert. You’ll be able to look at any number of demographics and see which ones have a strong enough trend to paint a picture of who your target audience is.
Regardless of how good your data provider is, many of the types of questions that go into creating a buyer persona will not be answered effectively by analytics alone. This is when it becomes key to ask your sales team and your customers.
This could mean a survey that you create online and invite all customers to fill out, or it could mean interviews with sales teams and existing customers. You don’t want to be picky here, both customers who love you and more difficult customers you will provide you with valuable information about your audience.
2. Narrow down common similarities
By now you have a lot of data to work with. As such, you’ll want to begin to look for similarities that exist between all of your audience. In this first phase, you are looking for broad brush strokes. Once you’ve segmented your audience in the next step you can return to this one to further refine each unique persona. But first, you are looking to find the major distinguishing features that separate your audience from the rest of the population.
To give the broadest example possible, if you are offering a SaaS product that allows users to process video, then a common similarity will be that your audience is predominantly video producers. This is, of course, an example so obvious that you didn’t need surveys and analytics data to tell it to you. Use the data you’ve gathered to refine the obvious and find the not-so-obvious features that dominate your market segment.
3. Segment your audience into different personas
Unless you have an extremely niche product, there are going to be several different types of customers who will make ideal candidates. Trying to shoehorn all of them into one persona is going to result in failure. Instead, you want to look at key differences between your customers and segment them into logical groupings.
For example, job seniority is a good place to start. It is unlikely that a junior member of staff will have the buying power in the target organisation, likewise, it is unrealistic to expect the CEO to fall into your lap straight away. Think about the different players within the buyer’s journey and segment them accordingly.
Segmenting your audience effectively will allow you to create more detailed and accurate personas to represent them. We have an entire blog post dedicated to audience segmentation. Reading through it will give you some tips on how to carry out this step.
4. Create buyer persona templates
The next step is to create a buyer persona template that you will fill out to create your fictional buyer. This is the same type of information that you would gather from an actual person if you wanted to understand your customer base. In fact, it may be identical to the survey that you ask your customers to fill out during the research phase of the project. Here are some things that you may want to look for:
- Location – do they travel to work?
- Urban, suburban, or rural home
- Educational level
- Marital status and family size
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- What is their job role?
- What skills are required for their job?
- What tools are used for their job?
- Who do they report to?
- Who reports to them?
- What is the size of the company (both revenue and employees)?
Habits and Hobbies
- What types of content do they consume?
- What are their hobbies?
- What social media networks do they belong to?
- Are they part of any professional groups?
Goals and Challenges
- What is their primary goal and how can you help with it?
- What is their primary challenge and how can you help make it easier?
- What is their secondary goal and how can you help with it?
- What is their secondary challenge and how can you help make it easier?
5. Iterate and test
Creating buyer personas requires making some assumptions. Is a given persona interested in saving money or are they more motivated by not having to manage an in-house team? If you are unsure, you can create two sets of marketing materials and A/B test them to see which one performs better. Remember that when A/B testing you only want to change the variable being tested. Both sets of materials should otherwise be targeted firmly at the same buyer persona.
Continue monitoring whether your content and marketing campaigns are creating quality leads and your ads are generating conversions and use this data to further refine your buyer personas. Constant feedback from your sales team is essential here.
As we’ve seen, buyer persona templates are complex, so it will take many iterations to ensure that you have perfected each persona. It will be time well spent, however, as you cannot have an optimal marketing strategy until you have optimal buyer personas to target.
Why should you use buyer personas?
Convincing someone to buy your product or service depends heavily on the ability to push the right emotional buttons. You want your prospective customers to get a warm and fuzzy feeling about dealing with your company. You want them to feel a connection between themselves and your company that reinforces the notion that you are their partner in their endeavours and not just a service provider.
Detailed persona information will help your marketing team create content that will resonate with the types of customers that are most likely to purchase your product. These should be built in collaboration with your sales team. After all, they are the ones speaking to your prospects day in, day out and will have the best knowledge of their pain points.
This is the same for negative personas, which as mentioned earlier, are customers who are the least likely to purchase your product or those that provide a barrier within the organisation you are targeting. Perhaps your product is at a technical level beyond what this person is at, or perhaps it is too simple for their needs. Alternatively, they could be in-house IT teams that don’t want the hassle of new tech. Either way, your sales team will have the knowledge and experience of dealing with these people.
After all, if a segment of the population isn’t likely to buy your product, you don’t want to spend any time trying to appeal to them, and if they oppose your offering, you need to ensure your value proposition highlights the benefits it will bring them and personas are crucial to getting that messaging right.
But your marketing team isn’t the only part of the business that benefits from buyer personas. By fully understanding your customer base and their pain points, your product development team can guide their efforts on new features for your SaaS platform that can help resolve those pains.
Ultimately, if you convince lots of poor-fit customers to buy your product, they won’t perceive the value of your SaaS product highly, and you will see an increasing number of customers churn. This makes customer personas an integral part of a successful sales, marketing, and product development strategy, and the steps we have outlined above will aid you in attracting more high-quality leads that can be converted into sales.
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