Sales and marketing professionals have been known to ask, “What’s your target market?” or “Who is your ideal customer?” These are valuable questions to help provide us with core information we need to be successful in taking our product or service to market. We might be able to zero in on a specific company size (either by revenue or employee count), a particular industry, or even a specific type of business model. But the thing is, we don’t market and sell to companies; rather, we market and sell to people. And that’s why the creation of your buyer personas is one of the most important exercises you can perform for your business.
What Are Buyer Personas?
Buyer Personas are semi-fictional representations of our ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. They’re our people. They’re the reason we exist as an organization. And there’s more to them than a job title, an industry or a region. By better understanding these individuals, we’re able to create better content while also identifying how and where our ideal customers consume that content.
How to Create Your Buyer Personas
Quite simply, your buyer persona process begins by talking to your current customers and prospects, and engaging with sales and customer success professionals who interact regularly with those customers. As part of the interview process, consider questions about the individual’s role, goals, challenges, company, watering holes, personal background and shopping preferences. For example:
- What is their job role? Their job title?
- How is their job measured?
- What is a typical day like for them?
- What skills are required?
- What knowledge and tools do they use?
- Who do they report to? Who reports to them?
- What are they responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in their role?
- What are their biggest challenges?
- How do they overcome those challenges?
- What industry or industries does their company work in?
- What is the size of their company (revenue, employees)?
Their Watering Holes:
- How do they learn about new information for their job?
- What publications or blogs do they read?
- What associations and social networks do they belong to?
Their Personal Background:
- Family (single, married, children)
Their Shopping Preferences:
- How do they prefer to interact with vendors (email, phone, in person?)
- Do they use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do they search for information? What types of websites do they use?
Aligning Sales & Marketing
It’s imperative that buyer personas are developed by sales and marketing together. Alignment is critical as your final documented buyer personas serve as the roadmap for all content creation — which leads to prospect engagement, and then customers. Prior to developing any piece of marketing content or attending any trade show, ask yourself, “Would any of my buyer personas want to read this blog? Watch this video? Attend this conference?”
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Nimble
While developing your buyer personas is meant to serve as a roadmap of sorts for your sales and marketing teams, sometimes on a journey it’s necessary to course-correct. At least once a year, re-assess your buyer personas. Are they still valid? Perhaps you’ve found that one of your four personas is not as relevant in your sales process as you had originally thought. Or, maybe a new product enhancement has opened up another persona opportunity.
It’s OK to Have Fun
Buyer personas are internal pieces of research, so feel free to have some fun with them. Give them names like “Marketing Maddie” or “Tim the IT Manager.” Find stock photos of your personas and give them a face to go with that name. Bring them up in conversation around the office and make them a regular part of your sales and marketing dialogue: “Our latest ebook was written with ‘Hannah the HR Manager’ in mind, so we’re going to promote it in the Society of Human Resource Manager’s LinkedIn group.”
It can be really tempting to make too many buyer personas, but beware — creating more than four or five buyer personas can undo all of your great strategy work. With too many personas, you run the risk of being unable to delineate between them, and the whole idea of buyer personas is to provide you with focus. Start with one main buyer persona and then grow from there. For example, at Allbound, we have three buyer personas … for now.
At the end of the day, buyer personas are all about getting inside the minds of our ideal customers so that we can properly relate to them in a way that simply can’t be done with nameless and faceless figures. The more we know about what makes our ideal customers tick, the better we can not only react to but anticipate their needs in a mutually beneficial exchange.
Also published on Medium.