Whether you’re a new or veteran business owner, then you know how tough it can be to understand your customers. You’ll often find yourself asking: “What do they want?” and “How do I know what they need?” And just when you start to think you’ve figured them out – bam! They want something different or behave in an unpredictable way. Instead of trying to chase buyer behaviors with your marketing efforts and throwing marketing dollars at campaigns that you think might work, get to work on developing your buyer personas.
In our last segment, we introduced the what, why and how behind the importance of buyer personas. A well-defined buyer persona will help you better understand who your customer really is, allowing you to make even smarter decisions when it comes to marketing and product development. In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits of creating a buyer persona for your business, as well as provide the step-by-step instructions on how to get started.
Where to Begin When Creating Your First Buyer Persona
Sometimes the very first buyer persona step is the hardest to take. So, here’s a rundown of what to consider when you first sit down with your idea for a buyer persona.
Research the target market
Do your homework. Research anyway, even if you think you already know everything there is to know about your ideal client. You may uncover unique details you didn’t know that can be incredibly helpful in identifying with your key audience.
Narrow down the most common details
Look at past customers and sift through commonalities between them. Dive deeper if you need to find those common threads. Keep detailed notes, making them easy to reference as you bring your personas to life.
Look at current customers AND ideal customers
Don’t just sift through the details of your existing customers. Go back to your original vision and consider who your initially intended and most ideal customer might be. This will help you identify traits of those who buy from you now as well as those you want to engage but aren’t targeting yet.
How to Analyze Your Customers’ Preferences
So now that you know which of your customers are cat people and which are dog people, what the hell are you supposed to do with that information? This is where analysis comes into play regarding those buyer persona characteristics. You can now begin to apply what you know to each persona and start putting the puzzle together.
Review past and present sales data
Start your analysis process by reviewing your current sales data. Identify who’s buying the most and who’s buying the least now. You can also reference historical sales metrics to help you identify any trends. Is one product selling more than another? Can you determine why that is? Or can you spot a pattern of which product or service serves as the gateway to your business? In other words, what is it about your company offering that first inspires someone to engage with you?
Ask existing clients about their experiences with your business
Your process should also include asking your best clients to describe what they appreciate most about your business. Leading with your best foot forward means identifying those instances when you did everything right. The product or service was perfect. The customer experience was spot-on, and the follow-up was impeccable. Analyzing every angle of some of your best customer experiences can help you lay out a roadmap for replicating those experiences. And who those customers were will help you develop similar characteristics within your buyer personas.
Listen to customer feedback
Don’t shy away from customer feedback online. Of course, if you’re a brand new business, you won’t necessarily have a large pool of existing customers to reach out to just yet. In those instances, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with potential customers for their thoughts and preferences. Ask for sentiments from the general public on social media and talk to any networking resource you have. You can also consider sending out surveys to get target audience insights. These are great for learning valuable details about customer preferences. You can also easily identify problems they may have that your product or service can uniquely solve. These responses can also guide you in evaluating what’s important and what’s not important to those potential customers. In turn, you can transcend those insights into your buyer personas.
Study how your competitors are reaching customers
Always be identifying new ways to improve your engagements by studying how your competitors connect with your shared audience. Remember, business is an infinite journey. There is no end, and ongoing surveillance of your competitors will help you keep a finger on the industry pulse of what works and what doesn’t work in marketing. The details you can gather from your business rivals can ensure you never miss an opportunity to improve your buyer personas, as well.
Tina’s Cleaning Service: Tina knows that much of her current business comes from busy families who need regular help with housekeeping. She decides that building her buyer personas should start with this key audience of customers. So, she reaches out to a few of her favorite clients and talks to them about why they choose her service over competitors in the area. She knows to ask about how they found her service in the first place and what led to their purchasing decision. But with all this feedback, what should she do with it? And what details does she need to create for her “busy mom, house cleaning” persona?
Characteristics Each Buyer Persona Should Have
We have a template that can be really helpful in organizing your customer profile data. You can check it out here. You can also print out this questionnaire list to begin the development of your buyer personas.
- Who are they? Demographics such as gender, age groups, and education are critical to include.
- What is this person’s job? Include the position title, company type, industry and general job responsibilities.
- What is a day in this person’s life like? Describe as best you can their routines, who they encounter regularly, and what daily life decisions they are making.
- What are the primary pain points for this person? Try to identify the primary challenges they face as they relate to your core products and services.
- What do these individuals value most, and what goals do they have? Detail what matters most when making a purchasing decision, including price, convenience or support. Think about what it is this customer is trying to accomplish.
- Where do these individuals go for key information? Establish what the primary sources are in terms of where they gather information and how they research options before purchasing.
- What’s important to the individual in selecting a provider or product? List what value is most important, like being a technology leader, choosing a company with social or environmental responsibility or the availability of added value services, etc.
- What are the most common objections for these potential customers? Create a list of the reasons you hear most about why your solutions won’t meet their needs.
How Many Buyer Personas Should You Have?
If during your data gathering, you notice two or more different target audience members emerge as principal characters, you’ll likely need a separate buyer persona for each. There is no hard-fast rule about how many buyer personas it takes to be successful in marketing. And businesses and customers change over time. So, it’s entirely possible to start with one or two personas now and add more as you grow and expand in the months or years to come.
Paul’s Used Car Lot: Paul knows that technically he has a product that everyone needs. But his used car lot has a unique value proposition for those customers who may be on a budget. But even that audience, the budget-conscious consumers, can be split up into multiple personas. He tends to sell many of his cars to families buying vehicles for their newly-driving teenagers. He decides that’s a great first buyer persona to develop, the decision-making mom or dad who are on the hunt for a safe, reliable and affordable vehicle – but who also NEED a cheap car. But how many other personas should he consider? What about retired individuals he sells to or those who are credit challenged? Is it possible to have too many personas?
In Paul’s case, he should definitely create two different buyer personas, representing those teen car buyers and the credit-challenged budget buyers. For now, those are the two types of car buyers he sees the most. He can eventually look to branch out to include others, as his business warrants growth. It’s important to note that buyer personas, like everything else in business, are subject to change. Your existing personas may change preferences of how they browse online. You may find your product or service starts to attract a new character altogether. The only way to stay on top of these potential shifts in buying behaviors is to always be evaluating. Continue to explore current customer feedback. Send out those surveys often. Never turn your back on what your competitors are doing.
If you’re like Paul, with a target audience of budget-seeking buyers, it would be a waste of valuable marketing resources to target those with Cadillac preferences. Your buyer personas, developed with these details, will ensure you avoid doing just that. And in our next marketing conversation, we’ll go into all the critical mistakes to avoid when developing your personas.
As always, if you’re ready to explore beyond the buyer personas and engineer a robust marketing plan, schedule your FREE consultation with Awareness Branding & Consulting today!