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Buyer Persona Development Guide

     

Focus your work + create more meaningful marketing campaigns.

What is a buyer persona anyway?

Great question, so happy you asked. A buyer persona can mean different things to different people, which can be confusing. This can also result in personas that are inconsistent and ineffective. Before going any further, let's define a buyer persona and avoid any miscommunication moving forward...

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. They include detailed information on customer demographics, lifestyles, buyer patterns, and much more.

Personas aren't new, but may have been taken for granted and overlooked, even by the best marketing teams. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know all there is to know about your customers, or assuming you know how they think, shop, and feel, based on your own preferences, or experiences with a family member or friend. 

A well-crafted, research-based buyer persona removes any bias, internalization, and assumptions and replaces them with facts, data, and insight. Even if you've been paying close attention to your customers and responding with your marketing, if you haven't formalized that information, and shared it with your team, you're missing out.

Why should I care?

Still with me? Good. Personas keep your marketing efforts focused and purposeful. They provide valuable awareness of your consumers and create a shared understanding for your team. When used correctly, a buyer persona can help you create a cohesive voice, guide your marketing campaign development, and allow for alignment across all parties involved with the brand, both internal and external.

You may be thinking, "That's great and all, but I've been marketing and selling my products without personas. Why should I set aside the time to create them now?" 

The truth is, you can market and sell your products without buyer personas. But, you can market more effectively and sell more products with a better defined target audience at the core of your work. How many more products could you be selling if you were speaking directly to your target market? In language they understand? With message points you know they care about? What if you were anticipating their hesitation, and addressing it from the start?

Sound like something that could be beneficial? I thought so. 

How long is this going to take?

According to research, 91 of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Add heading

That's the $100 question, isn't it? Your time is valuable, and if you're anything like most of our clients, you're overbooked and probably understaffed. Resources are being stretched as-is.

Here's the thing about personas: they are time intensive. They take a lot of work, a lot of research, and can often take you down a rabbit hole of fact-finding and story writing. Don't even get me started on how long it can take to find the perfect head shot for a persona! But all that effort will save you time in the long run. 

Set aside 3 hours for developing your personas.  You may only get through 1-2 in that time, you may be a savant and get through more.  The more you create, the faster the process will go. Book the time to really focus, and then plan ahead to finish the project once you get a feel for how long each persona will take you.  

What will my persona include?

If you've ever searched for a "persona template" online, chances are you've seen 100,000 examples of what a persona should look like, right? Here's the thing: there is no perfect persona template for everyone. You need to craft the persona fields that are right for your brand and products. Does that mean you have to reinvent the wheel?  Of course not. It just means you have to keep an open mind and think through the format first. I'm going to walk you through a consumer-focused persona template from here on out...

3
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Job Title
  • Annual Household Income
  • Family/Relationship Status
  • Home Ownership Status
  • Work-life details
  • Home-life details
  • Likes
  • Dislikes
  • Influencers
  • Favorite brands
  • Favorite websites
  • Shopping triggers, preferences + motivation
  • Research methods
  • Hesitations + objections

Overwhelmed yet? I don't blame you. Crafting really useful buyer personas is not for the weak. You've come this far though. Nice work!

Ready to get started? Let's go!

Demographics

We'll start with the "easy" stuff, right? How do you assign demographic data to your personas? Head straight for the data.

Google Analytics - Your Audience Demographic reports are a gold mine! Who's already on your website? What ages, genders, and locations are already engaging with your website? Take that a step further. If you're selling on your site, dig in to see who's actually buying. If you're not an ecommerce brand, think critically about how audiences are using your website. The demographics on your "Find a Retailer" pages probably illustrate the demographics of your audiences that are farther down in the sales cycle than those on your home page.

Don't stop there! Dig into the Interests reports to start getting a better understanding of where else your audience is spending time online.

Social Analytics  - Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest offer valuable audience demographics data for you to review, too.

  • On Facebook, open your Insights tab and navigate to the People report. If you're using Facebook's Business Manager, you can access even more audience insights through the Business Manager Analytics reports!

  • On Twitter, account analytics were first available only to advertisers and verified accounts, but have been available for all since 2014. Access yours for key insights on your Twitter followers, and check out the comparison audience functionality for even more data!

  • If you've upgraded your Pinterest channel to a business account, you have access to Pinterest Analytics, which is not nearly as robust as Facebook and Twitter Analytics, but useful none the less. You can see basic demographic information.

Once you've compiled your data, take a step back. Are there major age groups, genders, or locations you expected to see and didn't? If you were expecting to see a largely millennial audience, and instead found a mass of boomers, you're personas are going to be even more important! Just because you're not currently reaching the audiences you want to doesn't mean all is lost. It just means you may need to create a persona or two extra to be sure you're addressing the different wants and needs of each group, so that you can tailor your messaging and marketing to both.

After your demographics digging, you should end up with the age/gender/location of your personas. 

Life at work

Based on the demographics you've compiled, you have the (very) rough beginnings of a persona! Now the fun begins...

You have the age, gender, and location for your personas, now what? Let's start by building out their professional life. Here, things will really start to come together for you.

Job: Research the city you've chosen. What are the most popular jobs there? Real estate blogs are great for giving you a snapshot of what it's like to live in a particular city or metro area, and often cover most popular jobs. A straight up Google search for the phrase "most popular jobs in San Antonio" delivers 39,900,000 results. Don't overlook the obvious research methods here! 

Think through the job title of your persona. A coffee-focused brand is probably going to want a persona of someone working long hours, or really needing to be alert and focused. A healthcare professional or event manager is probably a great fit in that case. A pet supplies company is probably not targeting someone who travels extensively, as that person is probably less likely to be a pet owner.

Maybe you're more focused on the household income of your personas. Sites like glassdoor.com and salary.com provide a lot of insight into salary by job title and location, so you can build out your persona with actual data.

Details: Once you've assigned your persona a job, you can start crafting their story. How does their work impact the rest of their life? Are they spending long hours at the office with a long commute and little time at home during the week? Are they working remotely, spending all day, every day at home? Are they in a high-stress job and looking to unplug completely when they get home?

Life at home

Your persona's work-life is important, but as a housewares brand, you're probably just as (if not more) interested in how they spend their time at home, right?  How will your products fit into their everyday life? How can your brand make their lives and homes better?

Look at what you've compiled so far, and start thinking through what their personal life looks like. Are they married? Do they have kids? You know their geographic location, but where are they living? Do they rent? Own a home? When they're at home, what's important to them? Are they passionate about the environment? Do they prefer smart home products, or unplugging when they're home? All of these details impact how they shop, and what they're looking for with each purchase. 

Depending on your products, you may want to focus these details more specifically. If you sell kitchen products, you may want to dive deeper into whether they entertain, how often they cook vs. eating out, if there are any food allergies or diet restrictions, etc. Home decor brands may want to outline design preferences or needs. 

Who do your personas trust?1

Now that you've got a day in the life of your persona outlined, we can start digging into how they make purchase decisions based on those details. Start researching who they trust, and how they invest their time.

Influencers:  Who and what is influencing your consumers? Who's social feeds do they watch for recipes and product recommendations? When they're curious about something, who do they ask for help? When they're deciding between two products, who do they turn to for help? From social influencers, to family members and friends, to the press and news, there are countless sources for inspiration. Who does your target audience turn to and trust, and how do to they go about finding that information?

Favorites: Who are you competing with for your target audiences' time, attention, and budget? Think beyond your direct competitors and outline all of the content they are consuming, and items competing for their disposable income. As a housewares brand, you'll never really compete against their favorite clothing store or social media channel, but understanding their preferences across the board, how they are spending their time online, and which brands really resonate with them, will let you target and engage with them more effectively. 

For example, you can research which brands are popular among the demographics you've outlined for each persona. Pull the demographics of each social channel to decide which accounts your persona is probably using most frequently. With a better understanding of how they spend their time when they're not engaging with your brand, you'll be able to tailor your marketing campaigns to fit more seamlessly into their life.

How do they shop?

You've built a solid backstory for your persona at this point, and have a good understanding of who they are and why they are a good fit for your brand. Those details will help you create more powerful marketing campaigns for each persona. Now you need to outline how you can reach them. How do they research purchases? How do they shop? Where do they buy? Consumers have never had more options when it comes to shopping, so understanding your personas' path to purchase is a must. 

Shopping Triggers: What happens in your persona's life that causes them to buy a product? What problems, events, or needs arise?  Who are they following, or what are they seeing, that makes them think "I need that!"?

Shopping triggers are events that happen in a consumer's world, that cause the buyer to have a clear and immediate need. They create a sense of purpose when shopping and often result in relatively quick purchases. Outlining these triggers gives you the opportunity to present your brand and products as the solution in a focused, proactive way through your marketing.

Research + Shopping Preferences: Once a shopper is inspired, how to do they start their shopping journey? Do they research online first? Head to the store to see what's available locally? Google dominates the search engine market share for both mobile and non-mobile searches, but shopping sites like Amazon and video platforms like YouTube also get a good percentage of product research-related searches. There is so much data available to help  you plot the path to purchase for each of your personas, don't cut corners here! Some of our favorite resources for this step are:

Product Selections + Hesitations: Alright, we're almost there...  You know how your personas are inspired and how they want to shop, now it's time to follow through and make your personas incredibly effective. Now we're going to look at how they actually decide on what to buy.

Brand Connection: What do they need from a brand to be a loyal, invested customer? What will it take for them to become emotionally connected to a brand? What values are they looking for? What efforts do they need to see?

Product Selection: What's the tipping point for each persona? If that consumer was staring at a wall full of your products and your competitions' products, what motivates them to make a final decision? What would stop them from buying a product? Price? Efficiency? Brand name? Reviews? Outline your persona's purchase hesitations so you can overcome each and every one with your marketing, so it's not even an issue when they're selecting what to buy.

You made it! Or did you...

Exhausted yet? I don't blame you! I've crafted countless personas over the years, and the process gets easier over time, but they are still time-intensive, demanding projects. And the  best part, they will evolve over time. You'll probably never really be done fine-tuning your personas. I like to check in quarterly on a persona, but will made adjustments as I get more information. Working with your sales team and customer service reps can also give you updated, first-hand insight as to how consumers are interacting with your brand. Those insights can be really helpful as you refine each persona!  The more you know about your audience and the better you can articulate how your brand impacts their life, the more refined (and useful) your personas will be.

That doesn't mean you should drag your feet in calling them "done" though! Think of them as a living project. Work through the process to the best of your ability, then put them into use. Update and refine them as you can, then adjust your marketing plans as needed to attract, engage, and sell better than ever before!

Next steps...

Once your personas are compiled, your marketing strategy can be tailored to each audience in new and more effective ways. Your content will be written for specific audiences. Your ad targeting will be based on your audiences' preferences. Your website will be structured to serve your ideal customers.

Share your personas with your team and get everyone on board. Let your personas be your guide, and create a stronger, more cohesive brand!

How'd you do?

Crafting a persona is no easy task. We totally get that! If you have questions along the way, let us know! We'd love to be a resource for your team! Once you're done, set up a time to review your work and we'll give you our feedback and insight on how you did and how we think you should be moving forward!

Let's schedule a time to talk!

 

Questions? Comments? Feedback?

We'd love to hear from you!

 

 

 

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Adrian Bredeson

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