She is an accountant, a fan of CrossFit and a young mother. He is the owner of an advertising agency, a bookworm and a bachelor. Do you know which one is a regular customer of your online store? What kind of people are behind the money spent in your store? What are they interested in? What influences their purchasing decisions?
If you don’t know, you’re making one of the biggest business mistakes and wasting a chance to add a degree of personalization to your marketing. That’s why it’s so important to understand the concept of buyer personas and take action to build them for your brand.
Hi, I’m your buyer persona—and you are…?
Communication adapted to the requirements, needs and expectations of customers is one of the most important factors guaranteeing business growth. However, to be able to develop it and use it further, you have to first create the ideal customer profile. This is what helps you to know who you are looking for and will make it much easier for you to find out where to find such people how to reach them.
Communication between the company and the consumer is similar to cultivating a close relationship. First, you meet someone, you have the first conversations, and then you maintain this bond. To do it right, however, you need to know more about the other person. It's the same with the buyer persona.
To give you the most concise and useful definition:
A marketing buyer persona is a picture of a real customer built on the basis of knowledge about his preferences, experience and needs throughout the entire purchasing process.
Among other things, this profile is created based on:
- detailed analysis of buying habits
- insights gained from interviews about preferred products and how they are used
- general examination of how customers behave in your store
We’ll come back to this idea throughout this post.
Why is it worth spending time and other resources to analyze this information?
Speaking in business language - a comprehensive understanding of your business’ buyer persona is crucial to monitoring sales and everything that concerns customer acquisition and retention. Creating engaging marketing content and conducting inbound marketing activities are among the primary means to achieve this goal.
Marketing persona - why is it so important for your business?
We say that creating a persona is a basic step if we want marketing and sales activities to be effective. Let's explain why.
Determining the identity of the recipient of your message will help you better understand customers (including potential ones), and thus establish relationships with them so that they are more likely to come back to your store. Knowledge on this topic will allow you to more effectively adapt the content of marketing messages, as well as the very type of products and services offered. Essentially, it will be easier for you to show that you have something to offer that really interests recipients.
It is worth noting that there are many factors that differentiate potential customers. We are talking about issues such as needs, concerns and previous experience. With this knowledge, you'll be able to develop a strict marketing strategy that will help you attract customers at every stage of the sales funnel.
One of the worst assumptions brands make is that their offer is and should be addressed to everyone.
Why? We live in an age of mass of advertising messages, news and other information that we constantly analyze. As scientists from the University of California-San Diego have calculated, we process thirty-four gigabytes of data every day. With a limited amount of time and energy, we have to choose what we will pay attention to and what gets ignored. Messages that directly address our needs and interests win.
The lack of a clearly defined target group means that by communicating to everyone, in reality you will not be able to reach anyone because the message will not be engaging enough.
Speaking in business language, a company that does not know who its target group is not able to earn in the long run. Its sale is more random than planned, so it's difficult to predict future marketing results.
This is where the role of persona appears in marketing. It’s what clearly shows that the target group of the brand are people who differ from each other in many respects.
Let illustrate this using the example of MAC Cosmetics on Instagram. Although the brand sells the same products globally, its communication varies depending on the country of origin of the target group. Each time it takes into account typical trends for a given region and makeup preferences of clients.
Posts addressed to US residents contain photos of make-up with a completely different aesthetics:
View this post on Instagram
Let your aura shine. Our most brilliant liquid-powder highlighter formula, Extra Dimension Skinfinish, glows up in three palettes packed with holographic shades that wear for 10 hours. Senior Artist @nettart uses the palette Constellation Dreams on model @romakeren. #Regram @maccosmeticsisrael #MACExtraDimension
Than those aimed at Nordic countries:
Please note that if you swap posts from both countries, they could be completely disorienting, precisely because of different preferences of the buyer personas.
Buyer persona and segmentation
People often ask if buyer personas and segmentation are the same thing. The answer is a simple “no”. Although these concepts are similar, they do not mean the same thing. Segmentation is the first stage of activities when the market is divided into similar groups of recipients. Only after creating such groups can you start working on defining shopping personas.
There are several ways to create a persona profile. There are now several ready-made online applications that build personas by asking the user appropriate questions to facilitate the process.
One of them is Personapp, which is fast and easy to use without even having extensive marketing knowledge.
You can also approach the topic more professionally. The starting point for building an advanced persona is to gather and use as much information as possible. In the era of marketing automation, of course, it's not difficult to access huge amounts of knowledge about your clients.
The sources of this data can be divided into two groups—direct and indirect. Obtaining information directly through surveys, interviews, ethnographic research or data obtained from web forms is, of course, the best way. However, don’t underestimate indirect sources from which data can be obtained:
- Site analytics - Google Analytics can be more effective than most detectives. Thanks to this tool, you can easily get lots of information about potential customers: their online activities, the site from which they came to you, the type of device they use to make purchases, demographic data, etc.
- Marketing automation tools - most of them, regardless of whether they are based on email marketing or web push notifications, give you the opportunity to track the behavior and interests of visitors to a website and segment them accordingly.
- Media monitoring - this lets you gain access to all online mentions of your brand and very often product photos that customers have posted. User-generated content - all the content that your customers create - is a source of invaluable information about the products you sell and their new applications.
- Social media analytics - Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and more. These days, people are happy to share their thoughts, which will certainly help you understand their needs and expectations.
- Information from your customer service office or from sales people. Remember that they know the most about your customers.
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After getting data from every source, you must focus primarily on the information that will allow you to best prepare your client's model in business terms. In this case, the following questions will be helpful:
- What factors motivate the customer to buy?
- What does your customer want to achieve by buying a product?
- What values does your client hold?
- What are his criteria do they base their decisions on?
- Are there any barriers to decision making?
Only after gathering this information can you start the process of designing your buyer persona.
Practical methods of gathering information about potential customers
Here are a few tips that will help you collect the data you need to create detailed and accurate personas.
- Browse your contact database to discover trends on how individual potential customers find and use your content.
- When preparing forms for the site, remember to make full use of the fields that will allow you to ask for specific information. If potential customers are, for example, business owners, ask them for information about their company.
- Don’t forget about the opinions of the sales team and other members of the company who may know more about this topic. Remember that employees interact with potential customers, so they can have some valuable information about them.
- Take the initiative and talk to potential customers yourself. Ask what they think about your products or services and what you could possibly change. This will help you build a long-term relationship.
Using research to build the ideal persona
Once you get through the data collection process, the next step is building the persona itself. Start by identifying the patterns and similarities accumulated in the answers to questions during the interview. There are plenty of tools available on the web that can help you with this. One of them is a template from HubSpot, which draws attention to important and necessary aspects of the profile.
The Rossiter-Percy matrix will also help you look at customers from the perspective of your brand awareness level:
The Rossiter-Percy matrix
based on Marketing Communications Classics: An International Collection of Classic and Contemporary Papers, Maureen Fitzgerald, David Arnott,1999)
Common mistakes in the persona-building process
A well-prepared persona is based on reliably collected data that was obtained using the sources listed above. The marketing persona “thinks” like a potential customer, knows the same vocabulary, uses the same language, and makes similar decisions.
1. The first and most serious mistake made by both B2C and B2B marketers is to describe the client in detail, not his decisions. When creating a persona, it's about the characteristics of behavior, as well as understanding how it makes a decision to buy specific products or services in your store. In this case, you need to focus on information like:
- his problems in his daily work
- criteria that guides the selection of products and services
- additional factors influencing his purchasing decisions
- issues that he pays attention to first
- his needs and interests
2. Building persona based on your own imaginations and imprecise data is another mistake that is practiced by many marketers. Most people look at others from the perspective of their own point of view, which can have unpleasant consequences for business. Such actions will certainly not be effective, let alone profitable.
3. The third most common practice that is definitely a mistake is creating too many personas. So how do you know how many personas you need to create to make your marketing plan work? To determine this, you need to carefully analyze your product range and think about your goals. In this case, it is worth considering whether your resources are sufficient to implement the strategy based on several personas. It may also be important to consider whether each segment of the market needs a separate persona.
Building a persona requires tremendous knowledge and commitment, although it is worth doing. If you want to convince someone that you are right, you must have the right arguments. The same principle applies when convincing the consumer to make a purchase. Think about which brands have managed to open such a dialogue with you. Do you see what they’ve done to establish that connection?