If you’ve read about market segmentation, you’ll know that trying to connect with everyone you want to reach with one marketing effort is an unlikely goal. Instead, it helps to narrow your focus by dividing your audience into smaller groups—called segments—that share common motivations or characteristics.
The next step is to zoom in even closer on the people you want to reach by getting a deeper understanding of one person through your buyer persona. Your persona—also referred to as a customer profile, avatar, or ideal customer—isn’t a real person. He or she is a fictional character who’s an amalgamation of common traits within each market segment.
“Since 80 percent of your business will probably come from 20 percent of your customers, one of your first priorities is to figure out (or find out) everything you should know about that 20 percent—your true target market.”
from “Market Research Made Easy”
Don Doman, Dell Dennison, Margaret Doman
Why take the time to create a persona when you already have so much to do? Personas are useful because they can help bring clarity to your marketing and decision making, saving you time and frustration down the road.
When considering the different segments within your customer base, you need to balance every decision against thousands of different people. A well-researched persona, however, lets you focus on one “person”—your “true target market”—when considering the impact of your decisions, whether you’re looking at design, messaging, or product changes.
CREATING A BUYER PERSONA
As marketing expert Tony Zambito explains, a persona gives a human face to general concepts. “Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.” Many businesses even give names, faces, and distinct personalities to their personas.
For example, your persona might include:
- Which marketing segment(s) they are included in.
- Background information, which could include hobbies, education, professional interests and qualifications, as well as job responsibilities and other relevant behaviors.
- Demographic information, like gender, age, whether they work in the office or telecommute, whether they own their home, and where their business or employer is based.
- Identifying information, like communication preferences, social media use, whether they’re seen as a leader or influencer, and learning style.
- Their primary and secondary goals, specifically for their position or for their career as a whole—and specifically, the criteria used to measure their results.
- Any challenges they have within their role, which could be specifically about what they do or how they manage their work, and benefits that might draw them to one solution over another.
- How your solution fits into their life, including specific features or benefits that will have the most value.
- A quote that this person might say.
- Common objections you might run into when speaking to this individual.
Author and business coach Pamela Slim splits this marketing research into three parts:
- The avatar, which describes who your ideal customer is.
- The ecosystem, which includes not just potential competitors, but partners and other brands that also serve your ideal customer.
- Watering holes, which is a breakdown of where your ideal customers like to congregate (in person or online).
Hubspot created MakeMyPersona, a tool that walks you through a number of key questions and prompts to help you get your persona to a starting point.
Discussing where buyer personas often go wrong, Adele Revella wrote that businesses often rely on the obvious details without taking time to uncover the most meaningful: “…useful buyer personas require direct interviews with recent evaluators of a similar solution, or [they] feature verbatim quotes to tell you, in the buyers’ own words, what triggers their decision to initiate this type of purchase, which outcomes they anticipate, their barriers to purchase, and the criteria they use to weigh their options.”
This effort to understand the people you want to reach boosts your marketing efforts by focusing on the people you can truly serve—and filtering out the people you can’t. They’re a helpful part of your marketing toolkit and can help you focus on:
- Relevant keywords
- Effective tactics
- Well-targeted content
- Style, tone, language, and imagery
- Effective and appropriate incentives
You can also use personas to drive product development, or incorporate them into website analytics to test whether users respond the way you anticipate they will.