Each customer who walks into your store (or clicks to your website) has a different name, a different face, and a different credit card signature. One of the most rewarding parts of owning a business is getting to know these customers better and then providing them with more personalized service.
As different as your customers are, though, you'll find that many of them have common characteristics and face a similar set of challenges that your business, in some way or another, addresses and solves.
Understanding these connections and motivations allows you to create buyer personas—that is, archetypal representations of your current and target customers that detail who they are, what they are trying to accomplish, and how, when, and where they buy. Buyer personas help you visualize your customers, understand their important characteristics and motivations, and produce stronger and more cost effective marketing.
Personas often resemble fictional profiles complete with biographic and industry-relevant details. If you were putting together a persona for a swimming pool cleaning company, for instance, it might look something like this:
Currently works as a manager at an independent coffee shop
- Uses her small swimming pool with her husband and two grade school-age children
- Cleans it once a year in the spring
- $67,000 household income
- Shops at local farmers' market nearly every weekend
- Buys organic home cleaning products from Whole Foods
Wants to keep her pool clean and safe for her children
- She and her husband don't have time to clean the pool themselves, but they're worried that most cleaning services will just dowse everything in chemicals that could make their children sick.
Swimming pool companies probably comes across a lot of Composting Kellys—each one a little different, of course, but all within the same broad demographic category and all wanting their pools to be cleaned without the use of chemicals that they perceive as potentially unhealthy. Buyer personas help them narrowly target this type of customer with special mailings and digital ads which highlight their use of all-natural, environmentally friendly products.
Here are some other key benefits to buyer personas:
Collect data on your audience
Buyer personas are developed through market research, not just guess work. You can collect plenty of data about your audience from secondary sources (including the Census Bureau and Small Business Administration), but the strongest buyer personas come from social media deep dives and surveys or interviews with real, breathing customers. This research will produce insights beyond just the personas that should help guide your business growth strategy.
Empower your sales team
Personas allow your sales team to tailor their pitches before even connecting with leads for the first time. The personas will tell them what aspects of your product or service are especially attractive to the lead, help them prepare for follow-up questions, and provide a better sense of what factors will let them close the sale.
Improve your branding
One common criticism of buyer personas is that by creating a narrowly defined "customer" to market to, you end up using messaging that doesn't appeal to a broader audience. Is this really true, though? Gatorade markets itself to athletes who need to replenish their bodies after strenuous physical exertion, but plenty of non-athletes drink it while sitting at a desk (or on a couch). The "persona" is not only a customer, it's also an important bit of branding that reflects values and signifiers that your customers wish to be associated with.
Simply put, personas transform your customers into actual people with specific interests, wants, and needs—all of which help you sharpen and personalize your marketing language and promotional efforts.
Interested in learning about the kind of research and data you'll need to create buyer personas? Try our SBN 101: Guide to Market Research, which walks you through the basics of market research and includes links to relevant data collection and analysis resources.