Last updated on February 20th, 2017
Definitions and examples of buyer personas, why they’re important to content marketing and how to create them.
In the realms of business and marketing, it’s all too easy for us to get caught in the trap of thinking about customers in terms of numbers, data, charts and statistics. Especially if you work for an SEO internet marketing company or online-based business like me, it’s easy to forget that our customers are thinking, feeling and breathing human beings like you and I.
So I must ask: How well do you actually know your customers?
I’m not talking about how much they spend or what their customer ID number is. How well you know the group of people your business exists to serve? What’s their background? What do they like and dislike? What are they afraid of? What are their challenges?
These are questions you must answer if you hope to communicate effectively with your target audience in the long run. “Buyer personas” enable you to answer these questions and help you hone your marketing efforts to improve success – whether you are trying to create compelling content, pursue a lead or close the next sale.
What are Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas (also known as marketing personas) are semi-fictional composite representations of your target audience and your ideal customers. These personas help writers and content marketers (as well as those in sales, product/services, marketing, etc.) understand who you want to attract so they can tailor communication and content accordingly, based on the consumer’s specific needs, behaviors and concerns.
Personas help you personalize or target your content marketing efforts for different segments of your audience. Or to understand “buyer personas” in a different light, this blunt definition from Ardath Albee gives questions that a buyer persona helps provide the answers to:
“Who the heck are we going to talk to? Why will they care? What are we going to say that’s relevant to them?”
The best buyer personas are based on market research and insights gathered from your existing and prospective customer base (via surveys, interviews, social media, etc.) and consist of the following data points:
- Demographics (age, gender, occupation, income, etc.)
- Behavior patterns
- Motivations or objectives
- Problems, obstacles or challenges
- Questions or concerns
Why are Buyer Personas Important?
Whether you’re a freelance writer, content director, product developer, salesperson or customer service rep, creating buyer personas has to be one of the first steps you take if you want your efforts to be successful.
Why? The answer is simple and can be found by answering this question: How do you expect to relate to or connect with your customers unless you understand them?
Buyer personas give you a deeper insight into who your target audience is, what they want/need and how you can deliver a solution. Personas are a driving force behind content creation, customer success, product development, sales, marketing efforts and essentially any other part of your business that deals with acquiring and retaining customers.
Okay, so now that we understand the value and importance of creating buyer personas, how do you actually make them?
How to Create Effective Buyer Personas
When creating a buyer persona, you should be as detailed as possible. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to create a deep insights into your target audience and determine how best to communicate with them.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch when creating buyer personas. There are literally hundreds of free online templates you can download if you do a little digging. HubSpot and Content Marketing Institute offer a couple of my personal favorites.
If, however, you prefer to create your own buyer personas or customize an existing template, here are five components to make sure you include for the best results:
- Background. Age, gender, income, education, job title, career, location, how long they’ve worked and other key demographic information are all important details to add to your buyer profiles.
- Behavior. Include a “day in the life” section where you provide a first-person point of view (POV) account of your buyer persona. This helps writers step into the shoes of the fictional customer and target their content accordingly.
- Motivations. It’s vital to tell writers and your team what motivates your customers so that they can target those motivations when creating content. Be specific when discussing a persona’s objectives and goals. For instance, saying something broad like “Nancy wants to buy clothes” won’t be as helpful to content creators as something more specific like “Nancy wants to buy clothes that are made using environmentally responsible methods.”
- Challenges. You’ll also want to clearly spell out the problem the persona is experiencing and the challenges or obstacles preventing them from solving it. Again, be specific. Creating fake quotes can be a good way to present this information.
- Questions. Form a logical question or set of questions that the persona would ask considering their demographics, behavior, motivations and challenges. This is one of most important parts of the buyer persona and sets your team up to provide targeted answers through informative content.
Additional components you may want to include in your buyer personas are:
- Content Preferences. Determine how your persona prefers to consume content (i.e. social media, blogs, articles, videos, podcasts, interactive games, etc.). Do they like long-form or short-form content? What tone and style engages them most effectively? Some of this information can be gathered from customer engagement analytics, surveys and industry research.
- Keywords and phrases. You may also want to include a short list of keywords that your persona may use to search for terms relating to your business – that way you can segment your content efforts by targeting all the keywords different groups of customers may be using.
- Mapping. Once your initial buyer personas are completed (they’ll need to be updated over time), you may want to proceed with mapping out the buyer journey and identifying how best to communicate to the persona during each stage. As Ardath says, “We need to get immersed, understand the experience from the prospective customer’s point of view. How do we improve on our program? How does everything we do connect?”
Bonus Tip: Negative Personas
Consider creating “negative” buyer personas in addition to regular personas. Negative, or “exclusionary” personas depict who you don’t want as a customer. These are useful in situations when you want to segment out people who are unlikely to turn into customers (and whom therefore you shouldn’t be spending your time and money on).
For example, professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, students who are only engaging with your content for research/knowledge purposes, or potential customers who are just too expensive to acquire may all be negative personas.
Now Your Turn
Now that you know what buyer personas are, why they’re important and how to create them, the only thing left is to act on this knowledge!
We recommend making at least three to five buyer personas to represent your target audience, although you could end up with more like 10 to 20 personas depending on how many distinct audiences you wish to target. Try to keep them as concise, yet detailed, as possible.
Also, remember that your core buyer personas will likely need to be updated regularly to reflect changes in your customer base and the evolution of your business. So if you thought you could create personas and then forget about them, think again!
What do you include in your buyer personas?
If you have any questions about creating buyer personas, feel free to drop a comment below or via Facebook. Thanks for reading!