20 Sep Creating and Utilizing Effective Buyer Personas
Meet Connie. Connie is a Purchaser at a successful online accessories shop. She’s 35 years old, has two children, and enjoys reading about the latest fashion trends. As a busy professional, she tends to use email as her primary means of communication. She is also… fictional.
Connie is a buyer persona, a fictional representation of what a business would consider their ideal customer, whether for marketing purposes, improvement of products or services, or simply having a firm grasp of their audience.
Generally, every business unit of your organization can benefit from gaining deeper knowledge of your buyers. Your marketing team can tailor content towards specific groups if they know who they are talking to. Your product development team can safely scrap those inventions that don’t contribute to the success of the business, saving time and resources. As for your sales team – well, they are your front people, facing businesses and customers on a daily basis.
First things first,
What Exactly is a Buyer Persona?
Let’s say you are the owner of an accessories business. You are running an online shop as well as working with partners across the globe that distribute your products to local stores. Do you know the kind of people that enter your e-shop? For the sake of simplicity, let’s divide the visitors into three major groups:
- Those interested in buying accessories for themselves, usually fashion lovers and the same people who shop for clothes online
- Others who are looking to buy items for a special occasion, for example as a gift
- Group of people who aren’t looking to buy your products. This category includes, for example, people who randomly landed on your page
Ideally, you want to attract all three groups; specifically, the existing customers from the first category to return and buy more, increase the number of purchases from the “rare” buyers of the second group, and turn those random people into customers. What do you do?
Every e-commerce business today uses some kind of analytics program to track the number of page visitors, record the number of newsletter clicks, locate the area from which people access the page and many other functions.
But: what you don’t see is what motivates your customers to buy your products in the first place. Data is good for statistics, but it doesn’t tell you the customer’s story. This is what buyer personas are for.
A persona is a model created to represent your ideal customer, based on market research analysis from your existing and future customers and other non-customers. It includes information like demographics, buying behavior, hobbies, motivations and fears. It can be very detailed or more general depending on the way you structure your research.
„Buyer personas are examples of real buyers who influence decisions about the products, services or solutions you market. They are a tool that builds confidence to persuade buyers to choose you rather than a competitor“
Buyer Persona Institute
7 Reasons Why You Need Buyer Personas
- Learn to know your audience better
- Where your customers hang out online
- What topics they research
- What they strive to achieve and what they fear
- Which go-to media channels your buyers use to get inspiration, exchange opinions and learn about current trends
- Why they choose your product or service
- Identify who you don’t need to target
How to Create a Buyer Persona
1. Creating Profiles
Start creating a profile of your ideal customer by researching and gathering information about existing customers. One method of doing this is mining deep into your database. Since every movement of your buyer and his/her interactions with your business is documented here, it’s an easy way to find out:
- number of items purchased (sum up the average number of purchases made in the last year and in customer life cycle)
- money spent on products
- contact details
- personal preferences
- customer input/criticism
- overall experience with your company
Now you need to compile these first insights into a document. For this purpose choose the organizational tool of your preference: Microsoft Excel, Evernote, Devonthink has proven to be useful for collecting and sorting data, but you can go ahead and use another program.
Remember to sort raw data as you evaluate information and get rid of anything that doesn’t contribute to the nature of your business. While your customer’s general location might be invaluable point for creating a persona, ask yourself if you really need to know ZIP code and street name (or even the city). Details are important, however, too many can easily mislead you. The golden rule is: As much as necessary, as little as possible.
2. Collecting Data
No matter how small your business is there is at least one person who is dealing with customers on a daily basis. It could be your sales consultant/team, customer service that is handling returns and complaints, account managers or other person involved. They are a useful resource for collecting data for buyer profiles since they interact face-to-face with clients. Learn from them:
- who buys your products and who doesn’t
- their occupation and status within their organization
- common buying behavior patterns
- product and service questions customers have when purchasin
You can even create a spreadsheet and ask the teams to divide buyers into broad groups depending on factors like demographics, personal preferences and previous experience they have had with your company. Otherwise, you can create the groups yourself once you have gotten feedback from your sales team.
TIP: Collecting data from your teams is a long (and exhausting at times) process that needs persistence and patience. Make your life easier by organizing your thoughts first. Create a template with questions/descriptions before sending it out. Clear overview will save you frustration and your colleagues will appreciate the effort you put into structuring the document. Also, you can set reasonable deadlines for hearing back. This way people might pay more attention.
3. Qualitative and Quantitative Approach
While you can decide to use only one analysis, we advise you to put time and effort into conducting both, qualitative and quantitative research. While the first one leads to in-depth understanding of the way people think, feel and act and therefore answers the question why, the latter rounds up the picture of your ideal customer with statistics, and answers the question how many.
One great way for qualitative research is interviewing existing clients. This can happen in a variety of ways, through group discussions, one-on-one interviews or phone calls. Choose one method that you think will lead to best results. You can also use GoToMeeting, Join.me, Zoom or any other conferencing tool.
4. Interview Existing Customers
Remember, you want to identify the motor that drives your customers to choose your brand, the reasons behind their decision to choose your company instead of your competitors, not them specifically.
We suggest you create at least 10 specific questions for your customers. I will repeat it again try to be as precise as possible. One great way to start is to organize questions into categories. Possible categories could be:
- Demographics or personal background
- Education and/or previous experience
- Working life
- Current career
- Type of business or industry
- Shopping preferences
Now, you can add questions to each of these categories:
Demographics or Personal Background
Here you can include questions about their age, gender, marital status and family situation
TIP: Value your customer’s time and prepare accordingly in advance. What is unnecessary to ask? Short and precise questions and descriptions are always better than five pages attached document. When interviewing in person set yourself a specific time frame and stick to it.
Education and/or Personal Background
Get your customers to talk about their level of education and the type of school they attended. Was it a public or private school? Were they part of any social group, community, club? What did they study? Why did they study it? Brainstorm your ideas, then narrow down the list.
What was their first job? Why have they decided to work for the business they are currently in? What are the key responsibilities in their current job? Which tasks are especially fulfilling? Careful when asking about your customer’s income. If completely necessary ask them to choose from a form with prepared answers.
You can either decide to merge the categories Working Life and Current Career or keep them separated for more differentiated overview. Here you could ask about their status within the company, their role and daily business.
Type of Business or Industry
Which industry are they in? How many employees currently work in their company, in their department, team? What are the company’s values? Are those also your customer’s personal beliefs?
How does your customer define success? How important does he/she views his/her job to be fulfilling?
Depending on the position of your buyer within the company this category should address specific points. If your interviewee is an account manager, you should be focusing on things like customer relationship management, lead generation and similar points. Online research can help you to come up with good questions.
Which products did your customers purchased in the last two weeks? Why did they choose these items? How long do they spend on average before purchasing? Which online websites and social media platforms do they use to find inspiration and read the reviews?
5. Surveying your Customers
SurveyMonkey is a free online survey software that allows you to create online survey within minutes. Another great tool and alternative to SurveyMonkey is LimeSurvey. It enables you to create surveys in 80 different languages.
Identify the end goal first and then start working backwards. Why are you conducting this survey? In how far will it help you create buyer personas? Decide on the structure, number of questions and the order in which you are going to put them. The language is another aspect you should think about. Is it going to be general and sober or friendly and personal?
So, now you know the methods by which you can gather information about your customers. It isn’t necessary to use all of the methods we mentioned above, choose the ones that sound good to you. We suggest you use our template for creating a buyer persona (link). It gives you the categories and all you have to do is to enter your key points. You could also include your own categories if necessary.
If, however, you’ve decided to create your own persona from scratch, you could easily do it using Word or Excel. Create a mind map, and add a picture of your customer.
There are many different approaches to creating an amazing Buyer Persona and while it means putting in a lot of effort resources, this time is well spend because the outcome can and will a great deal to you, your brand and, inevitably, your business.