One of the most important elements of any successful marketing strategy is understanding your audience. As a business leader, you should already have some idea of who your ideal customers are. But do you know their common interests, characteristics or beliefs? Having this sort of information on hand can take your marketing campaigns to a whole new level.
One particular technique that we often use to step into the minds of our target audience is creating a series of ‘buyer personas’. By definition, these are “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
It’s something that we’ve highlighted in previous blogs, and also something that has been an integral step in Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing methodology for years. Rightfully so, too. Depending on how much detail you go into, these personas can offer unique insights that you simply can’t get anywhere else. At very minimum, they will give you some sort of direction in terms of understanding who you’re crafting your campaigns for.
In this blog we’ll be discussing how you can go about developing your own buyer personas, as well as how to use them to perfect your marketing strategy.
How to make a buyer persona
One of the first steps in developing your buyer personas is to carry out in-depth research. There’s various ways that you can go about this; the first technique being to use online insight tools such as Google Analytics. These platforms provide a range of different metrics on your current audience, with some platforms offering more in-depth insights than others. Some of the more advanced analytics platforms include Facebook Audience Insights, Sprout Social & CMS platforms like Hubspot. Don’t forget to record your findings, as you’ll need to make use of this data when putting your personas into a format.
Another useful technique in the research stage is carrying out competitor analysis. Take a look at the customer base of some of your closest competitors and see if it’s worth crafting some buyer personas around their audience. There are tons of online platforms, such as SimilarWeb or Kompyte, that offer competitor analysis tools. Remember – a buyer persona is simply “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer”. This doesn’t just need to be a representation of your current audience, but also any other areas that you may want to expand into in the future.
On top of this, you could also ask some of the different members of your team about what their idea of an ideal customer is. People in different departments are likely to have different touchpoints with your customers, so it could be wise to ask a range of employees for their opinions in order to give an accurate representation of your ideal customer.
One other research technique that you may find useful is interviewing some of your current customers, in particular the ones you see as ideal clients. Bear in mind that your clients may be busy, so a small incentive could help persuade them to participate. If you have a large client base you could also send a survey to your client mailing list with similar questions, using a site such as SurveyMonkey. It’s important to note that with an online survey you’re less likely to receive as many in-depth, genuine responses as you would with personal interviews.
Some of the questions you could ask are:
- What is your job role?
- What skills do you need for your job?
- What does a typical day look like?
- How many employees does your company have?
- Do you drive to work?
- What does success look like in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges?
- What are your interests outside of work?
- What publications or blogs do you read?
- How old are you?
- Are you married?
- Do you prefer to shop online or in-store?
- How did you find out about our company?
A lot of these questions could leave you open to a basic response; something that’s not going to provide much value when putting together your personas. With your email survey there’s not too much you can do to change this. But if you really want to understand the thought patterns of the people that you’re interviewing, then you should try following up each of these questions with “Why?”. This way you’ll be able to dig much deeper into the behaviours of your ideal customers and come out with far more personal, relevant information.
Make informed assumptions
By this point you should have a fairly strong idea of the main characteristics of your key buyer personas. This next step can be used before, during and after the research stage.
A lot of the information you discover will be fairly similar across each persona. For example, you’ll find that the income of most of the Marketing Managers you interview will be relatively consistent. But it’s likely that you’ll also come across a lot of irrelevant or inconsistent data during your research. It’s your job to make informed assumptions on what data gives an accurate representation of each specific buyer persona and which data to ignore. As a business owner, you should naturally have some idea of the different characteristics of your audience. Use this knowledge alongside the data you discovered during the research stage and you won’t go wrong.
Now that you’ve done the tricky part it’s time to put your findings into some sort of format. Chances are, you’ll have more than one different target persona, so it could be wise to group your research by job title, or another key insight. From here you should give each persona a name, for example ‘Marketing Manager Mike’. This should make it a lot easier to remember your personas and some of their key characteristics and behaviours.
There’s no strict layout to how you should put together your target personas; it can be in whatever format makes the most sense to you. Saying that, it could be useful to start by listing some of the basic data such as:
- Name (Marketing Manager Mike)
- Age (34)
- Job Title (Marketing Manager)
- Business Size (50-100)
- Income (£35,000)
- Key Skills (Digital, Management, Social Media)
From here, you can analyse some of the more in-depth data you’ve found that looks at your personas’ behaviours and thought patterns. This could vary a lot between each persona, but some of the key areas to cover can be:
- Goals (Wants to improve marketing ROI in order to get a bigger marketing budget from CEO)
- Challenges (Struggles to find time to monitor all marketing channels)
- Common Objections (Doesn’t like working with digital marketing agencies)
- Key Social Media Channels (Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat)
- A Day In The Life Of Your Persona
Once you’ve done this, you’ve pretty much finished developing your buyer personas! If you really want to help visualise your personas, you could even include a photo of them in your document. The next step from here is to put your personas into action…
How to use a buyer persona
Keep them in mind throughout all marketing
The great thing about buyer personas is that once you’ve finished developing them, you can use them across all of your different marketing channels. Of course, your physical buyer persona document doesn’t need to be right by your side for everything you do, but keeping your personas in the back of your mind at all times can have a huge impact on campaign results.
One of the most straightforward ways we’ve seen buyer personas explained is this; “it’s like if you were going shopping for a birthday present for your mum; you know what kind of things she likes and the shops she visits most often”. This is, in essence, what you’ll be doing with your buyer personas. Whether you’re developing a paid search campaign, putting together an offline billboard advert, or simply crafting social media content for Twitter, you should have your buyer personas and their interests, characteristics and behaviours in the back of your mind. What formats will they be most responsive to? What key messages should you include in the creative? Is there a certain time of day that your ideal customer is more likely to be online?
Craft campaigns to target each persona
On top of this, you can also craft marketing campaigns that specifically target each persona. For example, you may have discovered that Marketing Manager Mike usually drives to work at 7.30am. With this in mind, you could make an informed assumption that radio would be the most relevant marketing channel to target this persona at this time of day. Likewise, you may have discovered that Digital Executive Dave takes the bus to work at 8.15am. With this in mind, you could make an informed assumption that this persona will be checking their social media profiles on their way to work. From here, you could put together some organic social content targeting this persona, scheduling it for between 8am-9am on a weekday.
Use for Facebook Ads audience
Buyer personas can also be really useful for any social advertising campaigns that you may be running. It will save you a whole load of time in the process too. If you’ve ever used Facebook Ads then you’ll be aware of it’s audience customisation features. It’s likely that a lot of these variables will overlap with the demographics you looked into during the research stage. Therefore, instead of having to either do all of this research again or play a guessing game, you already have a whole load of data to help drive your audience segments. Win-win…
In summary, buyer personas can be an incremental tool in improving the relevance of your marketing campaigns. It’s important to consider that your personas will probably change over time as you learn more information about your ideal customers too, so don’t be scared to update and optimise different elements of each persona.
To find out more about how you can use buyer personas to take your marketing strategy to the next level why not get in touch with a member of our team?