Mackenzie | September 10, 2019 | Content Marketing
Buyer personas are a major component of any effective inbound marketing strategy. The truth is, you have to know who you're marketing and selling to before you can make a sale. Today's consumers only pay attention to marketing messages that are personalized, and highly relevant to their unique experiences. Buyer personas are a key way to address that consumer need, while streamlining your marketing and sales process so you're only spending time on the leads most likely to convert.
We can say the word "buyer persona" as many times as we want, but they're not going to do much for you if you don't know how to create or define one. That's why we've put together this Step-by-Step Guide to Defining your Buyer Persona. Here, you'll learn what exactly a buyer persona is, and how to define your own buyer personas in a clear, manageable (we hope) step-by-step way. Let's get started.
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The first part of any great guide to defining your buyer persona should be a definition of what a buyer persona actually is. Buyer personas are an integral part of any quality marketing or sales plan. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal client or target audience. With a clear picture of who you're marketing to, it's much easier to develop effective, targeted content that speaks to your ideal buyer's goals and challenges.
Think of your buyer personas as a personal narrative. You're developing a story for and context around the people who are most interested in your product or service. You want to know as much about them as possible, so you can provide personalized service, relevant content, and helpful sales information. Your buyer personas are the best place to organize all of that information into a story that will resonate with you, and with the rest of your team.
Defining your buyer personas might seem like a big, unwieldy task. But, if we break the process down into manageable steps, you can move through them one-by-one to develop thorough, thoughtful buyer personas that will genuinely improve the way you market and sell. And don't feel like you have to create all of your buyer personas at once — taking it step-by-step is a great way to make sure you've got all of your bases covered, without feeling too overwhelmed. This guide to defining your buyer persona is set up so you can leave and come back whenever is most convenient for you. With that in mind, let's get into Step 1.
All great personas start with a little bit of research. Even if you feel like you already have a pretty good grasp on who most of your clients are, it's worth it to take a hard look, not just at who you're already working with, but who you'd like to work with in the future.
It's always easiest to start with what you know. Begin your research by taking a look at your existing clients. Here are a few questions to get you started:
These questions will get you started, but there are a few other tactics you might consider when doing buyer persona research:
Your account managers are going to have the best insight into the lives of your clients, since they're the ones in direct contact with them. Talk to the customer-facing employees at your own company to get a better sense of the people your company is already working with.
If it's feasible, it's also a great idea to talk to some of your existing clients. Consider sending out a short survey to your main points of contact, asking them a little about themselves. You might have to send along a small incentive to get them to fill it out, but their answers will be worth their weight in gold. After all, the people who have already invested in your product or service are your ideal audience.
Once you've pulled together as much information as possible on your existing clients, think about who you'd like to sell to in the future.
Is there an ideal prospect that your marketing and sales team just can't get to convert? Maybe your competition has had a lot of success in a certain segment of the market that you'd like to break into, too.
To narrow down who you'd like to buy from you, we suggest starting by taking a look at your competition.
Are your competitors seeing a lot of success in a certain segment of the market you'd like to break into? Check out their website!
They're probably developing content and sales offers that speak directly to that market. You can learn a lot about those ideal buyer personas you're not quite hitting yet by seeing how your competition is successful.
Another great way to identify buyer personas for clients you haven't quite snagged yet is to think hard about where you want your company to grow.
For example, we often work with home builders, many of whom are working to break into higher markets. Even if they don't yet have clients in that higher market, we still work to do as much research on those buyers as possible. We look at our clients' competition to see what they're doing to draw that market in, and we look at those buyers specifically to see what they're most interested in, and what their greatest pain points are.
You can do the same thing for your company. Look at the clients you'd like to get in the future, and do the same research to see what they're interested in, what their lives are like, and what challenges they face that your company can solve.
Our third and final suggestion for the research phase of defining your buyer personas is to look at your analytics. You'll find no better, more concrete data on your ideal buyers than through the analytics on your own website, social media ads, and pay-per-click advertising campaigns.
Take a look at the reports from each, and pay specific attention to the demographics of the people clicking your ads. When you're looking at your website analytics, see what pages your visitors view the most, and the longest.
Are there content offers that are downloaded more often than others? Who is downloading those offers? Answers to all of these questions provide you with useful information and data you need to compile relevant, effective buyer personas.
I'll be honest, the research step is the most time-consuming. Once you have that out of the way, feel free to step back and take a break. Leave that research alone, and let it marinate for a while. When you come back, you'll have everything you need to actually start writing your buyer personas.
Alright, now that you're back refreshed and ready to continue work on those buyer personas, it's time to organize all of the research you collected. You probably learned a lot about a variety of your clients. Start looking for similarities in the goals and challenges you've uncovered in your research. These similarities — in what clients and prospects are looking for from your company or your product — will help you group all of the many potential clients into distinct sets of buyer personas.
Now that you've reviewed and organized your research, you can start to determine how many buyer personas you'll actually define. It's good to remember that you don't have to cover everyone right now.
If you're just starting the inbound marketing process and are new to buyer personas as a whole, it might make the most sense to create buyer personas just for the market segments you sell to the most. You can always add or change buyer personas as you learn more about your marketing strategy, and as you gather more data on your leads and prospects.
The way you segment your buyer personas is totally up to you and to your company. You know best who you're in contact with most. But, if you're not quite sure where to start, here are two very common ways to segment your buyer personas:
Some companies work with clients in a variety of industries. In a situation where you sell a variety of products, each corresponding to a different industry, it might make sense to dedicate one buyer persona to each industry you serve. It's good to remember that this is only worthwhile if clients in each industry have different goals or pain points. For example, let's say you manufacture a product that's useful for both the automotive and marine manufacturing industries.
If your clients in the marine industry have different goals than the clients in the automotive industry, it makes sense to have two buyer personas.
But, if your product helps both marine and automotive manufacturers in the same way — by helping them streamline processes, manufacture more efficiently, and develop a better product, then it probably won't make as much sense to segment your buyer personas by industry. In that case, let's look at the second way we often see clients segmenting their buyer personas.
For many companies, their sales process remains the same regardless of the industry they're working with. Here at Evenbound, we work primarily with manufacturers, home builders, and construction professionals. Even though clients in each of those industries are fundamentally different, they approach finding a marketing partner in the same way. So, we've segmented our buyer personas to align with the job titles our sales process touches.
This often works similarly for manufacturers. Let's say you manufacture a product that is useful in a variety of industries, but that is most often used by a lead engineer at any company, regardless of industry. In this situation, it doesn't make sense to have a buyer persona for each engineer in each industry, because they have the same goals and pain points. Instead, you can write one buyer persona, and then use that buyer persona as a guide when you write content that's specific to each industry later on.
You've completed your research, and you've decided which buyer personas to start with. Pick one, and let's get writing. Everyone writes differently, so do what works for you. I always find it's easiest to paint a full picture of your buyer persona and then pull out the most important segments for the final persona you share with the rest of your team. Here's what that process might look like:
Start by giving your buyer persona a name. The point of defining buyer personas at all is to help you market and sell more personally. Giving your buyer personas names makes it personal. Once you've got a name in mind, start writing down everything you discovered in your research.
Answers to all of these questions, and any more that you can think of, help provide context for your buyer persona's goals and motivations. The better you understand what they want, and why they want it, the better you'll be able to interact with them in the future.
When it comes to buyer personas, more information is always better. Challenge yourself to a free-write. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes, and write down everything you know about this buyer persona. And don't be afraid to get a little creative!
People connect with stories — the more real your buyer personas feel to your sales and marketing teams, the better they'll be able to tailor their efforts to support your clients in real-life.
So, get to writing, and see what you can do to make it fun. You can always take content out, but it's good to let yourself get creative, and paint a full picture of this buyer persona. The more content you have at this step, the easier the next step will be.
Take a break for a second. You've just written a full, creative narrative about one of your company's ideal buyers. Pat yourself on the back and grab a coffee — you've earned it.
Back from that coffee break? Awesome. We're going to take a close look at the narrative you've just created, and pull out the most relevant parts for your sales and marketing teams going forwards. That info falls into three categories: roles, goals, and challenges.
You have a full written picture of who your buyer persona is, what they do, and what they want. Take a look at that narrative, and pull out the information that's related to their "roles". This is going to be content that's relevant to their job title and their role at work, certainly, but it can also speak to their role at home our outside of work.
Are they regular volunteers? A parent? Do they manage people at work? All of this information gives you context about what they're really great at.
What's more, it tells your marketing and sales teams what they do. When you know what a person does, and what roles they play in their life, you can create content that speaks to those specific roles.
Understanding what your buyer personas want is the key to offering them the marketing content and sales service that will genuinely help them.
Maybe your buyer persona is looking for ways to improve their business's profitability. Maybe they have a goal to move up in the company and are looking to spearhead initiatives that exemplify their leadership qualities. Conversely, maybe your buyer persona is nearing retirement and wants to do their job well without making any waves until they can retire safely.
Pull out all of the goals you identified in your buyer persona free-write, and organize them into a goals section. Understanding a buyer persona's goals is key to offering them personalized, helpful service.
When your team understands what a persona is trying to achieve, even if it's not directly related to what your company offers, they'll be able to better tailor their methods and strategies in a way that resonates with that persona.
The challenges section of a buyer persona is the most important. This is where you identify the pain points of each buyer persona. And when you understand your buyer's pain points, you can work to solve them.
Take a look at that long narrative you wrote for your buyer persona. What is keeping them from reaching their goals? What parts of their job are difficult? Do they have trouble selling initiatives up to their boss? Are they worried about making big investments? Are they so busy that they don't have a chance to even consider how their business could improve?
Whatever their challenges, this is the place to call them out.
Take the time to get specific, too. The more challenges you can identify for each persona, the more opportunities you have to deliver solutions. And the more solutions you deliver, the more attractive and helpful your company is to those qualified leads.
When you know who your buyer personas are, and are familiar with their roles, goals, and challenges, you can develop sales and marketing strategies tailored to just those people who you know are excellent fits for your company.
You've gone to all the trouble to make these buyer personas, now is the time to use them!
Buyer personas help give you inside knowledge into the ways your most qualified prospects function. From their favorite social media platforms to the way they talk to their career goals, you know a lot about these personas, and you can use that information to your benefit, and to theirs.
Work to create content that those personas want to read, and develop sales and marketing strategies that put your buyer personas' goals and challenges at front and center.
When you're writing, marketing, and selling with real people — your most qualified leads — in mind, you're going to start to see some serious growth.
At Evenbound, we're all about helping our clients grow. We use inbound and outbound marketing strategies to deliver you the qualified traffic and leads you need for serious growth. And we have a lot of fun doing it.
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