A buyer persona is a written representation of a customer group (i.e., a segment of your audience). Buyer personas are developed using a combination of primary and secondary research and are based on customer demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Demographic characteristics represent the physical and tangible characteristics of a person such as their age, income, gender, marital status, education, and whether or not they have children or own a home.
Psychographic characteristics represent the emotional and intangible characteristics of a person such as their beliefs and values. These characteristics are influenced by human psychology and philosophy.
Behavioral characteristics represent actions that a person takes which can be used to identify customer preferences such as the type of car a person owns, the websites they visit, the magazines they buy, and the television shows they watch.
How to Create Buyer Personas to Understand Your Consumer Audiences
You should create a buyer persona for your ideal customer (i.e., the person who is your best and most profitable customer) as well as for other niche segments of consumers. Each segment should have its own corresponding buyer persona. You can give these personas names to make them more meaningful to you.
Your goal in creating buyer personas is to identify like motivations and challenges so you can create marketing offers and messages that will appeal to specific groups of people.
To develop your buyer personas, you can interview customers, prospects, and your competitors’ customers. Talk to your sales team, customer service representatives, and anyone else in your organization who has direct contact with your customers and can give insight into their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can also conduct surveys online, by telephone, or by mail.
As you speak with people to learn about their needs, problems, challenges, and motivations, ask as many open-ended questions as you can. The secret sauce to creating effective buyer personas is diving into conversations. From these discussions, you can identify common themes and use those themes to group customers into segments that will become your buyer personas.
Information to Research and Include in Your Buyer Personas
Your buyer personas should include information about the following 13 areas of focus at a minimum:
- Demographics: Age, ethnicity, gender, etc.
- Psychographics: Values, beliefs, etc.
- Behaviors: Hobbies, television shows they watch, brands they buy, etc.
- Pain Points: Money, time, ease of use, etc. Think of the emotional triggers that affect each audience.
- Problems: What problems are they trying to solve by buying a product or service like yours? What problems is your product or service capable of solving that they might not realize they have?
- Differentiators: Why should they buy from your business? Be sure to include quantifiable differentiators.
- Information Sources: Where do they get information that influences their buying decisions for products or services in your category? This could be websites, word-of-mouth recommendations, television, industry periodicals, etc.
- Engagement: What level of engagement do they typically have with you? This could range from no engagement all the way to brand advocacy where they talk about your brand, promote it, and defend it to other people.
- Attitudes and Concerns: What attitudes or concerns prevent them from buying a product or service like yours (from you and/or from anyone else)?
- Outcomes: What results do they want to get when they buy your product or a product like yours?
- Features: What features of your product are most important to them?
- Benefits: What benefits of your product are most important to them? Make sure you understand the difference between features and benefits before you tackle numbers 11 and 12 on this list!
- Decision-making: Do they make the decision to buy a product or service like yours or is another person the decision maker?
Buyer Persona Mistakes to Avoid
Once you’ve collected all of the information related to the above 13 areas of focus, you can create your buyer personas. These will be your marketable consumer segments, and your marketing messages, ad placements, content marketing, and more will vary based on which personas and segments you’re speaking with at any given moment in time. But be careful to avoid these common market segmentation mistakes:
- One-Time Segmentation: Effective market segmentation is not a once-and-done activity. You need to continually analyze your segments as well as the overall market to ensure your segmentation is still valid.
- Broad Segmentation: If your segments are too broad, then there isn’t much sense in segmenting at all.
- Too Much Segmentation: Don’t create so many laser-focused, niche segments that marketing to them ends up delivering a negative return on your investment.
- Over-Analysis: Don’t become a victim of information analysis paralysis! In other words, avoid getting lost in statistical analysis that causes you to miss the most important (and obvious) details or keeps you from moving forward.
- Focusing on Quantity Rather Than Quality: Don’t let size fool you. Just because a market segment is the biggest doesn’t mean that segment will drive the highest profits for your business, nor does it mean that segment should be your top priority.
Market segmentation is amazing and really can boost the return on your marketing investments. However, too much (or too little) segmentation won’t help your business at all. The truth is that buyer personas are never set in stone, so don’t feel like yours need to be perfect today. They’ll evolve as you learn more about your audience, so just dive in and get started creating your first persona!
This article was adapted from my online course, How to Write Messages that Convert Leads into Sales, offered through Women on Business School. Sign up to learn more and get a free Buyer Persona Worksheet as part of the course materials!