Let's start with a few common scenarios:
- Every department has different views on what should take priority. The marketing department may view customer profiling for efficient targeting as critical while the sales or product teams may feel that business development and innovation on product and service features should take centre-stage. What should you do first if you are forced to prioritize with limited resources at your disposal?
“Every department's marketing efforts and investment requests seem valid. What do I do first? Improve my product for better quality or give clarity to marketing so that we can profile our customers better?”
- The sales department, being tasked to drive sales and bring in revenue, feels that the marketing department’s focus is all about getting new leads. The leads they capture however are just part of their key performance indicators for them, and by the time the leads are passed on the sales department, the marketing department will feel that their job is done. What’s even worse, is that the leads may not be sales-ready leads, which will then lead to sales making additional time and effort to confirm the sales-readiness of these leads, causing distrust and conflict between sales and marketing.
“Marketing department always report leads and the cost of acquiring them, but do nothing with them after they are passed on to sales. In the end, the leads are not sales-ready and my time to pursue them is wasted.”
- Over time, the sales and marketing teams have diverging views on what the company should do to improve bottomline, topline, promote itself and build itself for its next phase of development. When these views diverge way off course for either department, it will be very difficult for the management team to bring both teams back on the same aligned path. How can the management help close this gap and divergence?
How do I get the sales and marketing people to talk to each other?
How can sales and marketing teams speak the same language and help each other out?
If you find the above scenarios familiar and relatable, then you’re not alone. What you can do however, is adopt a more strategic approach to how you want to address issues and scenarios like these. Ultimately, you want to first have a better understanding to how you can reach your customers, with a team who shares the same understanding as you do.
The general focus is to identify different groups of customers into personas, called buyer personas. Different products and services will attract different buyer personas, vice versa. The key challenge to anyone, especially when you’re doing a marketing campaign to capture attention, generate interest and encourage engagement is to know who your buyer personas are before even starting your campaigns.
The following guide explains and walks you through the process, from understanding and creating the right buyer personas to making full use of them to get the most from your inbound marketing campaigns.
1. What Are Buyer Personas
2. Using Buyer Personas In Inbound Marketing
3. Buyer Persona Mistakes
4. Build Your Own Buyer Personas
1. What Are Buyer Personas
A buyer persona basically means a general characterization of who your target customer is. If you’re marketing anti-dandruff shampoo and you want to send out messages to attract customers of a certain demographic, you’d make sure your buyer persona doesn’t include someone bald or underaged.
A buyer persona is also your description of one of your customer types after doing research and interviews with several actual customers. Some folks may presume that buyer persona means customers of a certain demographic (age, gender, location). This isn’t true. A buyer persona goes beyond that and includes both the intrinsic and extrinsic values that form the complete character.
The development and your approach are key in determining the success of your inbound marketing initiatives, and it doesn’t matter at what scale or scope.
Now we know that buyer personas are generally fictitious and represent a characterization of your ideal customers. It is similar in concept when you put out a job advertisement, where you would state the job requirements and qualifications, and form a mental image of the qualities, both qualitative and quantitative, that you want in the candidate. Yet, when you eventually meet and interview your job candidates in person, the different people you meet may not exactly fit what you have in mind, as they are, in essence, different and unique individuals. So, buyer persona is an archetype, but characterized with specific needs and wants, traits and behaviors, that would define a spectrum of people - a set of individuals within a specific set of parameters - whom you want to interact and engage with for a specific campaign or in the job advertisement example, a position in your company.
The same principles apply for your inbound marketing campaigns and how they are inherently tied to the accurate portrayals of your buyer personas. By building on your buyer personas, you understand your customers, including the prospects, much better and from them, you can then master-tailor a suit that reaches out to specific requirements.
So how do you build your buyer persona and where do you start?
The best way is naturally to do market research and gather insights from your actual base. These can come from your daily interactions and questionnaires which you’ve sent out and collated over some time. It really depends on the business environment you operate in, and how large your scale of operation is.
It doesn’t help if you have 100 personas and your operation is small. As a rule of thumb, start with perhaps one or two personas and work your way up from there, if there is a need to.
The other mistake most companies make is presuming that buyer persona only applies to marketing. While it is one of the more critical components for the marketing department, buyer persona should be the guiding principle across all departments within the firm. This is because they shine a compass on your day-to-day dealings with different customers and help you in determining how you move your resources, word your messages in email or newsletters and get under the skin of your customers to understand what makes them tick.
If there is one thing that should put an answer into the question: Why should other departments beyond marketing care about buyer persona?
Well, here it is: buyer persona is a reminder of why you joined the company and the industry it operates in, in the first place. It’s to learn about why the company exists and how it can better serve the customer. By knowing who you’re reaching out, even if it’s a faceless character with needs and wants, you understand what the customer embodies, and that translates into how you approach and interact with your day-to-day work to fulfil your work objectives.
2. Using Buyer Personas In Inbound Marketing: The Key To You Getting Better Quality Leads
When we talk about inbound marketing, the general perspective is that it’s a marketing strategy to capture leads and convert them to customers - by making use of online content to appeal to customers. There are also many different types of marketing and sale leads depending on the buyers journey as well. We term them as Lead Lifecycle Stages. And there are many different ways to develop content, but more often than not, Why? B'cos different people like to read and engage different content at different stages of their buying cycle. The content can come in different combinations, such as:
- Blogs: These can be on your company website or public blog networks like Wordpress, Medium, Steemit and so on.
- Videos: Most of these are on YouTube and to some extent, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo and so on.
- Podcasts: Not everyone has the time to read or watch, so podcasts are the easier way to learn a thing or two, especially when you’re walking somewhere, exercising at the gym, driving to work or running at the park.
- Research papers: Many scientific studies appeal to customers because they come with charts and findings that are factual and statistically proven.
- E-books: This is one of the easiest approach to having a guide handy. You can load it up quickly, reference a point and share this with your peers via email or social media.
- Newsletters: To reach a large base of customers, newsletters are one of the most common content marketing tools. While social media form the immediate and instant news audience, newsletters bring up the rear by being the backup medium for customers who may have missed your social media post or news update.
- Social media posts: Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat or Telegram, you’d probably know best where your audience congregates. If you don’t, it’s very important that you ask them and put this as part of your personal profiling.
- Online advertising: Last but not least, online advertisements give your customers the constant reminder that you’re there, and you’re committed to funding your programs to prove a point. This exudes confidence in your product and service, and when the time comes, your customer will remember you most.
When it comes to intersecting your inbound content marketing strategy with persona development, you need to first ask some questions:
- The format(s) for the best response or reaction:
- Not everyone responds to a newsletter, but everyone has something to say on social media. Yet the depth and breadth of the information matters and the timing of your dissemination is equally important.
- The media channels with the broadest and best reach to your targeted customers:
- It is easy to say that all of your targeted customers are on social media, but it is not easy to say when they are logged in on social media to notice your message. Sometimes a multi-prong approach is critical to ensure that at some point along their daily journey, they get the message from at least one of your channels.
- The tone you use when writing content or communicating with customers:
- This applies the same way a parent communicates with children of different ages. Information, the context and the way it is conveyed form the basis on how receptive the recipient is in understanding, taking an interest and engaging with your message.
- The types of content most likely to attract the most number of new leads:
- A successful inbound marketing campaign happens when the content you farm out brings in the most produce. In this case, your content hooks are able to draw your customers close to you and towards the end, want to know more about you.
- The calls to action that will generate the best response rate:
- So your customer’s at your door and they’re wondering if they should enter. What do you place there? A welcome door-mat, a doorbell, a knocker, a see-through window, a peep-hole or maybe not have a door at all and let them walk right through? At some point down the funnel, you need to have the right buttons for your customers to press if they want to talk to you, otherwise, that moment is passed and you’ve lost a lead.
3. Buyer Persona Mistakes
Are some businesses more suited to use personas?
Basically any business should consider having buyer personas. As the goal is to grow the business, the only way is to first understand your customers and their needs. What better way than to tunnel everyone’s vision onto who exactly are they all dealing with and how to best satisfy the customer as they go on a journey with your business.
While this is a general view, specifically, different industries, and businesses, should adopt very different approaches on how they do their inbound marketing campaigns based on the buyer personas they’ve developed.
Misconceptions about buyer personas - what they are not
One misconception is that a persona must be established for just about every single role or responsibility in the purchasing process. For example, from someone who isn’t interested in your product, to someone who is already using your product, a persona must be tailor-made for each of them.
Another misconception is that a persona should be tied to a person’s job title, description or status within the company. Well, a buyer persona should not be pigeon-holed into titles, roles, market segment or even the process the buyer goes through from attention to action, more commonly termed as the buyer’s journey.
What a buyer persona truly is helps provide a worldview on the characters you’re dealing with. They humanize the very attributes you’re putting your campaigns out to so that when you frame your campaigns, you know who you’re dealing with.
In the process, you also gain a better understanding of the various actions and reactions your buyers may exhibit as they are exposed and interact with your campaigns.
Developing the Persona: Moving Beyond Demographics
Usually, when it comes to profiling a buyer, the immediate tendency is to hit out at the key profile, like race, gender, age, marital status and so on.
Here’s an example:
- Age 38-55
- Married with 2 children, aged 10 and 8
- Devout Catholic
- Dual Household Income: $180,000
- Lives in a private house
While they are beneficial, there has to be a deeper connection between you and the buyer when developing the persona. If you were to sit down with an actual customer who fits the above profile, you will come off knowing so much more. For example, you might learn that she drives a car to send her children to school and then to work (her husband takes the train) – this would clearly portray her as a very independent mother and wife, someone who takes charge. You might also learn that she hardly shops at boutiques but goes to the street stalls and bargain basement shops, which clearly means she has disposable income but is very careful with what she buys.
A bigger aspect is she might have a big screen smartphone and while she works on her laptop in the office, almost never uses one at home. Instead, she relies on her smartphone for that. This roughly translates to a persona that is constantly monitoring her work and social life through her phone, even at home, so your weekend campaigns may require very specific mobile-friendly approaches.
In summary, profile information like demographics is useful, but depth and layers of personality help in crafting out the real characteristics of that profile. In refining the sales and marketing process, the buyer’s persona should define not just who they are, but why they are.
Developing the Persona: Moving beyond Job Titles
Another big mistake in developing buyer persona is to rely on the general job titles or department the person is working in. For example, one immediate tendency is to say marketing director, or part of the marketing department. While this is still a what information, it doesn’t really tell you a lot about the why.
For example, at some point, you need to establish if the persona will make a decision on your product or service, or is he or she more of an influencer who gives feedback, or is part of an informal committee who will vote on the decision in the end. Not all decisions are made by the CEO or CFO, and not all CEOs or CFOs make decisions just based on their own feels and likes. There is a huge underlying layer of decision-making processes that go on underneath all of that and the personas you deal with and reach out to, will make a rippling impact by the time the decision making comes.
For example, several sales executives who don’t make the decisions may play tennis or netball weekly with the bosses because it’s a team sport and they are invited regularly as part of team camaraderie. During these sessions, the executives would share inputs and thoughts on work and things that can help in internal processes and business. If you assume the executive buyer persona is just someone who meet customers and bring in sales for the company, then you’re clearly mistaken.
4. Build Your Own Buyer Personas: The Game-plan
When you’re chatting with someone you’ve just met, what exactly goes on in your head? Based on the conversation and the reactions you’re getting from the person, you’re probably forming a mental persona of the person—a characterization of this stranger based on various cues and responses.
Similarly, when building a buyer persona, you need to have a framework. Here are generally a few ways.
A. Internal Discussions
Crafting a buyer persona shouldn’t be a one-person job, neither should it be a departmental job. As the customer is the ultimate goal of the business ever making a sale, everyone from all departments should be involved.
Start with internal discussions with various teams from various departments to get a rough frame of mind from everyone. Whether they’re from sales, administration, marketing, development or customer support, they will have a viewpoint on who they think they’re dealing with on a daily basis.
Another reason why you should involve various departments in the creation of the buyer persona is because the goal alignments of departments are almost always never the same, if not, conflicting. For example, the sales department may always be in conflict with the marketing department, due to one being driven by dollars and cents, while the other is driven by audience engagement and likes. In fact, in talking to your various departments, you may also find similar findings from your customers as the DNA of running a corporate environment almost always face the same set of pitfalls.
Another misalignment is budgeting. There will always be that department where everyone thinks gets the most budget allocated but never the same for theirs. This misalignment can be restored and recalibrated when the key focus falls back to what the customer wants and how the persona helps create that compass for them.
Common challenges you’ll always hear include limited resources, product improvement versus marketing spend, what are the cost of leads to sales if the leads are cold and aren’t ready for closing? The process to understand the customer through development of a buyer persona will rally these misaligned challenges together and help put some perspective into each department.
Once you’ve framed together all the points, indicators, objectives and general likes and dislikes, you can then use them as the building blocks to create your buyer persona. One way to do this is to prepare a list of questions which you can ask different departments. Based on their responses, you can then follow-up with interviews or talk to them at their desk to better understand their inputs.
Talk to Your Sales Team
The lifeblood of a company is normally the sales team. Their objective is to meet customers, close deals and bring in revenue through contracts and invoices. In other words, your sales team meet customers on a daily basis and have the best inputs on what customers really want. They normally have to answer questions thrown at them by customers, and equally have to manage rejections, doors slamming on their faces and praises when a customer is happy with their support. Some customers even become friends with the sales person.
However, as you don’t directly interact with the customer, you need to have a clear framework in compiling the responses from various salespeople to ensure that the inputs follow a common baseline.
Here is a list of useful questions you can kickstart with the sales team:
- Can you share the different types of customers whom you meet daily?
- Are they owners of the company, do they volunteer beyond just work, do they have children, etc.?
- Can you give me some idea on what type of customers would normally buy something from us?
- Preference, budget, top-down decision, etc.
- Any reasons why they would choose us rather than our competitors?
- These are critical as it gives you a deep-seated perspective into how different customers view us compared to what else is out there. Sometimes the best way is to find this information through your sales team.
- If a customer rejects us, what is usually his or her reasons?
- Salespeople are usually at the frontlines of winning deals or losing deals. When they lose a deal, they will know the reasons for it and are best to share it with you. Sometimes the customer may have a misconception of the company that was never addressed and thus the deal was lost. He or she would have shared this with the salesperson and it is best that this misconception gets addressed in your campaigns.
The process helps in also identifying issues your sales team may be facing too and how they view customer contact and networking. For instance, you may discover that some members of your sales team are resistant to innovation, so the idea of building a buyer persona may not appeal to their old-school way of thinking. To these veterans, they may rely on the same set of contacts day in and day out to bring in their numbers, unable to tap on new leads and opportunities. Unless these same contacts hold thousands or millions of budgeting funds every year, they will soon realize that relying on these few contacts isn’t going to last.
Talk to Your Marketing Team
While your sales team is at the front-lines facing customers daily, your marketing team is at the back analyzing indirect interactions. As inbound marketing relies heavily on online interactions, your marketing team will have access to some, if not all, of the biggest sources of data you’ll ever need to make informed decisions about your campaigns.
For instance, your marketing team would have access to social media analytics, such as the time of day and week when users interact with your forums, newsletters, website and social media platforms. They will know which previous campaigns worked and which ones did not. They will have demographics that, on the surface, may seem like basic information, but when cross-reference with different variables, such as a particular holiday or campaign month, provide valuable insight that you wouldn’t have otherwise known.
Here are some questions you can add onto the list when talking to your marketing team:
- What sort of information do you have on our website, newsletter and social media platform visitors?
- Analytical data from previous campaigns helps in framing your next move. You can use information from the pages they visit most, posts they liked most, carts they abandoned at which stage and so on to get a sense of their behavior and ultimately, persona.
- One of the biggest tools from this is the location of your customers. As customers interact with you online on a daily basis, knowing where they are in an aggregated manner is just as important as knowing who they are.
- What is the current marketing strategy we have?
- Knowing what the marketing team has planned as part of their roadmap is crucial as you want to ensure that the tactics used work, and if they don’t, how the team plans on revising or re-strategizing them.
- Meanwhile, you may already have existing buyer persona that form the basis of your existing campaigns. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine if they are being reached or more can be done.
- Which marketing campaigns have been the most successful?
- Data can’t lie, or at least, most don’t. This also means that you can infer some trends from the campaigns which were successful and the ones which weren’t.
- While each campaign would have a primary measure of success and secondary ones, it is also important to look at other variables, such as the season when the campaign was launched, the downloads, clicks generated and impressions.
- What do our customers ask us the most?
- Sometimes, the marketing team gets asked questions from the Contact Us form that may not sound like a typical query.
- For example, customers may ask questions like where are we located, where is our product manufactured, what is the delivery cycle like?
- While these questions may sound curious, they may actually be a way for customers to form comparisons with your competitors who may be based in another country or how fast you can deliver on a promise.
If you ask your marketing team on the kinds of data they compile each day and whether they are able to make use of all of these data to gain better insights into your customers, you will most likely get a response that swings between the “we’ve got too much data we don’t really know what to do with them anymore” to the “we’ve got too much data but we can’t really make sense of them quickly enough at all.”
The reason for this is simple. Your customers are always on the move, creating data points across your platforms and outside of them. If the data you collect about them are not deciphered, compiled and previewed early on enough to make informed decisions in near real-time, that data would become a second-tier or historical data point as your customer makes new data points across the spectrum.
The moment could be lost as at that exact data point, your customer may be on the verge of buying a new house, but because no one flagged it, your customer moved on and decided to rent one instead. This changes his persona dramatically and your internal profiling as well.
As everyone in the company focuses on their daily to-do tasks, not everyone will have the time to analyze huge chunks of data streams and decide if they can help in building and updating your buyer personas. This is inherently known as mission creep, where everybody’s just too busy and nobody’s looking at the data in the end.
Talk to the Customer Support Team
The Customer Support team deals with customers who naturally have experienced the product or know about the business and wants guidance on what to do or where they can go next. The Customer Support Team is also often the front-line team who has to hear a barrage of complaints from customers through the helpdesk or customer support email. They would know emotions quite well when dealing with irate customers.
- What do our customers normally ask when they visit us at the counter, via email or helpline?
- The after-sales queries that follow will provide valuable insight into how customers view the support level of the business, and how critical it is to them.
- Most customers may get unhappy if the customer support team delays them or gives them general statements. It is often better if customers are managed from a persona level, so that you can contextualize their queries more appropriately without giving rote answers.
- Do we have current customers calling us? What sort of questions do they normally ask?
- From the product doesn’t seem to respond well or not work, to where can I get the next add-on or send in my warranty card, it is always good to get an idea on what current customers’ pet peeves are.
- The buyer persona, while aimed at customers along a particular campaign, will adjust and form-fit previous customers’ queries because you do not want these new customers returning to you asking the same pet peeve queries.
- Do our customers read the manual beforehand? Do they know how to operate our product or services?
- If you’re in the technology industry, you would most likely know how well versed your customer is. It gives you additional insight into building a particular persona of a certain competency.
- If your campaign requires the customer to act in a way that requires some technical know-how (like take a screenshot, use their GPS, etc.), then you should bear that in mind when building your inbound marketing campaign.
If you talk to your Customer Support team further, you may discover that they interact with customers of different competency levels every day. There will be customers who are inundated with a buffet of tools that can do this, do that, to the point where they feel offended and end up complaining to your customer support team about it.
For example. if you’re in the cybersecurity business, you’d probably have a solution for every single vector of attack possible in your suite – anti-virus, anti-malware, firewall, distributed denial of service (DDoS) mitigation solutions, anti-spam, corporate espionage, spyware, cloud-based IP filtering, edge network securities and so on. If you do not have the right persona in place, and your campaign pushes all these solutions to that same customer, you’d probably lose him already, and may potentially get banned by him for life.
B. External Discussions
Now that you’ve interviewed your internal customers, it’s time to deep dive into your external customers. Your internal customers – your sales, marketing and customer support teams (and any other departments crucial to the building of the persona) – provide a good springboard, but that’s just one side of the board.
To really get a complete picture, you will need to speak with your customers directly. This also helps you in verifying if what you’ve gotten from your internal customers are true, realistic and not hypothetical, one-sided or presumptive.
Sometimes, in interacting directly with your customers, you glean additional insights that may help form the persona that your internal teams may have missed out but are real and important.
Some would say that developing a persona requires a rational, logical and scientific approach. Others may say that doing so needs an emotional, sensitive and sentimental approach. Neither is wrong, as there is a little bit of both when it comes to that.
The next step is to decide which of your dozens, hundreds or millions of customers to ask. The key thing is never ask only one customer as that would skew your perception to just that one customer. The other thing is never ask too many customers, as then you’ll end up with too many personas.
The best method is to select customers from different backgrounds, purchasing scenarios and markets. You may want to ask your sales team for a few respondents – people they may have been interacting with regularly and have something to say about your business or product. The idea is to cast a net wide enough to capture the full spectrum.
As a guideline, you should interview:
- Customers who have decided to buy your service or product
- Customers who have declined buying your service or product
- Customers who decided to buy from your competitors
The insights they provide will determine their attitudes, good and bad, towards you and your competitors. The interview will also give you an idea on their ‘journey’, especially the processes and steps they take to come to a decision.
Questions to Ask Your Customers
The key thing to bear in mind is that the industry you’re in may not necessarily be the industry your customer is in. This is because your customer comes from different ecosystems and interact with different suppliers, partners, agencies and departments.
While that is the case, there is an overarching set of characteristics and behaviors that can be set as a baseline when developing a persona. To do this, you start with basic questions, and then move on to deeper ones.
Some basic and slightly more advanced questions can include profile-related, career-related and daily activity-related questions:
- Marital status
- There are probably general marketing terms for singles, couples who aren’t married, married couples, married couples with one kid, married couples with two kids, married couples with many kids, married couples with a dog and no kid, and so on and so forth.
- Each of these groups has different facets of challenges in their lives, their social circles, their ambitions, financial status and so on.
- In building your persona and asking the right questions, you should consider finding out who is more dominant in the household, who calls the shots when something bad happens and who decides if they should open a shared account or have separate bank accounts.
- Income Level
- Disposable income is an important information in building your persona. Different types have different income ranges and different groups may have different comfort levels in divulging such information.
- It is also important to know if disposable income is at the household level (ie. includes the significant other) or individual level. They do make a big difference, as household purchases normally include a decision-making process involving a couple, while individual purchases may only include one or both.
- There used to be this YouTube video where the key to achieving business success in selling a product or opening a restaurant is location, location, location.
- That’s still true today. So in interviewing your customer and building a persona, you’d probably want to know how your customer travels to work and home, how he or she commutes daily to participate in different activities after work or during weekends.
- Customers who live far out in the suburbs where transportation facility is found wanting, will have a different level of needs and wants compared to customers who live within a few blocks of amenities, hubs and malls.
- You may also come across customers in your interviews who own homes or have higher purchasing power and hold a few assets. But they may also hold many mortgages and debt. While another set of customers may be renting, but has higher disposable income to spend rather than spending it on loan repayments.
- Age and Gender
- There is nothing wrong with profiling your customers based on age and gender, but they should not be the be-all and end-all. Male and female customers have different needs and wants out of the same product and service, while customers in different stages of their livelihood will have different priorities as well.
- Children, Pets and Parents
- Other critical aspects would be whether your customers have children, how many and how old. This also means their weekend lifestyles are dramatically different for customers with no children and customers with children who are old enough to attend university. There are also customers who may have pets and treat their pets like children, bringing them to groomers and pet hotels. Of course, there are also customers who live with their parents, or their parents live with them. The dynamics are different, especially if you’re selling travel packages or intense sporting activities targeted at these households.
- Working Industry
- Knowing what your customer does in terms of work is one aspect of understanding their career background, but when you speak to different customers, you may come across crisscrossing backgrounds. For example, you may interview a drinks manufacturer and a logistics operator who runs the drinks supply chain, yet they have different purchasing needs when it comes to your product and services. A car buyer and a car rental owner may be thinking of getting their hands on the same car, but they have different views on how to go about doing so.
- Job Status & Aspirations
- You may come across customers who are blue-collar workers versus white-collar. These have differing views, be it political, religious, cultural, financial and many more. If you’re reaching out to both types of personas, then you need to be clear on a different approach for each. Their roles in the company also play a part, especially if they are a family-owned and family-run business and they are not related to the family, or if the customer is a junior staff but has a close relationship with senior management because he’s done really well in his previous internships and always mingle with them at company after-parties.
- The years or months of service are information that give you an idea on whether the customer is persistent, loyal and patient. Sometimes, if the information isn’t readily divulged, you can reference the customer’s LinkedIn profile to see if he or she has been promoted in a short span of time, which also reflects that he or she is either well respected and well liked in the company, or has the means to be noticed, influence and make really sound decisions enough to be recognized for a promotion.
- The level of happiness of your customers is also critical as it reflects on whether they love what they do and derive passion from their working lives. It would also be interesting to know if they are taking part-time courses with plans to advance their career, be it in the same industry or different industry. This would set you on a path to planning a persona that involves progression, advancement and being recognized.
- Education & General Knowledge
- Not everyone who holds a senior position has a degree, and not everyone who holds a junior position doesn’t. Different customers choose to be where they are career-wise at different times for reasons you cannot immediately notice.
- A customer may be scientifically knowledgeable with statistics and facts, but may flounder when faced with emotionally charged situations because his or her training hasn’t prepared him or her for them.
- A customer whose entire life revolves around shortcuts in getting things done, may prefer watching videos rather than reading a long document with the same content type.
- Daily Activities
- The concept of small talk applies when you interview your customers, because it steers the conversation outside of established boundaries and gives your customers the flexibility to discuss other stuff.
- These “other stuff” may cover mundane everyday activities, the weather, their frustrations with general stuff (eg. traffic, kids at home, elderly parents, their insurance, filing taxes, etc.) that provide an insight into their character challenges.
- Sometimes, your customers may offer some off-the-cuff remarks related to their frustrations, angst, challenges and doubt. Most of these frustrations usually revolve around time, money and responsibilities, so you can get a sense of the persona when these are shared with you.
- Other times, they may indulge you with information about happy moments, such as a movie they’ve recently watched, a book they’ve read, a recent major sporting event they just saw. When you know how they use their free time, how and where they spend it, this information will help you frame the persona even better.
C. Putting Your Buyer Persona Together - Data Digestion, Regurgitation and Development
So great, you’ve done your interviews, you’ve collected all your data and now it’s time to create your buyer personas. You’d probably want to distil the information into chunks that are digestible.
There are two sets mainly: qualitative, meaning data that cannot be measured in definable metric; and quantitative, data that can be measured using metrics.
The tools available online today are too many to list but one popular tool is of course, Google Analytics, where you can wrap your website metrics (gender, location, behaviors, etc.) with filters to sift out general aggregated data to form a persona.
Google Analytics helps track the type of traffic your website is getting, which social media platforms your traffic has previously visited and the level of engagement your traffic is at, based on how long they stay on your site, where they stay the longest and where they leave your site (if it’s at the unpurchased shopping cart or unsubscribe section, you’ll need to know why).
The data you’ve digested will then go through a regurgitation process. In simpler terms, it’s an interpretation process to make sense of your data and interview information so that you can see a pattern or sets of patterns. It’s like you visit a town but you cannot form an opinion of the country just yet. You need visit a few towns in the same country before you can readily form an opinion of the country.
So here’s how your buyer persona might look eventually:
- Persona Name: Think of this as a generic nickname that encapsulates the persona. These nicknames should roll off easy on the tongue and provide a trail to remember the campaign efforts by. For example, in a meeting to discuss your inbound marketing campaign, you may ask “Hmm, think Marketing Boss Mary would want to receive an e-newsletter with pink polka dot designs?”
- Description & Demographics: This covers areas like profile data and behavioral data, most of which we’ve listed as questions in the sections above. The idea is to distil only the critical points from all that data you’ve gotten into a few bite-sized ones that define the persona through and through.
- Image: It is not always advisable to have an accompanying image for your persona, as visuals can stick with a person for a long time and the perception of the persona may skew from one person to the next due to the accompanying visual image. Yet, in presenting your findings and pushing your points across in terms of a particular persona you want to reach out, a visual image of the persona helps galvanize the team towards a common target, and if they have an imagery of a person in mind, it humanizes the persona even more. So find the right balance.
- Identifiers: Traits help give you greater leverage in your approach as you now know the nature and demeanor of the persona. Nature is what the persona would think and behave in his own mind when he or she faces a situation, while demeanor is the outward appearance and reaction the persona would most likely project when faced with the situation. An example would be when there is a fire in the office: a persona may have the ‘nature’ of fleeing without assisting his colleagues due to fear or selfishness, but a ‘demeanor’ to stay back and fend off the flames to give his colleagues time to escape, due to a sense of being brave and courageous in front of their eyes (and not necessarily due to selflessness).
- Goals: Another set of information you can add to your buyer persona is to define what is an end-point or sets of end-points the buyer persona would want in terms of achievements or aspirations. By knowing the goals or achievement objectives of a buyer persona, you can frame your campaigns to be in alignment with the persona’s goals, and in turn, your customers’ goals. For example, you may have a persona whose goal is to leave work on time every day so that he or she can spend time with his family. It may sound like an Identifier, but it is also definitely a goal because it tells you that this persona values family above all else and if there is ever a day or a series of days that the persona misses this goal (eg. staying late in the office due to deadlines or boss’s instructions), the persona is not going to be in any mood to engage with you over this period of time.
- Challenges: The barriers to achieving those goals is of course challenges. Sometimes, you want to match the persona’s set of goals with an equivalent set of challenges. For example, taking the same goal we’ve described above, where the persona wants to leave work on time everyday without fail to spend time with his or her family. The challenge would be the amount of work he or she has, or the strict and unreasonable expectations his or her boss has set for her, or the office culture and environment where everyone is expected to work late or finish their work before they can leave the office, or a combination of these three. By learning what challenges irk your personas from achieving their goals daily, monthly or annually, you can form campaigns around these challenges as a method to reach out to your customers even during these angsty times. For example, you may want to set the theme of your campaign to center around why some staff can leave on time and others aren’t able to (maybe it’s more of an efficiency issue or an attitude towards distractions during the day), or finding inner peace when faced with diversity from a very demanding superior.
Understanding your customers as part of your inbound marketing campaign isn’t rocket science, nor is it a walk-in-the-park. The fine line between getting your buyer persona right and wrong, can easily determine if your customer will end up giving you the deal or rejecting you at the end of the cycle.
It may sound like buyer persona is a gamble or a roll of the dice, hoping that out of 2 to 3 personas you’ve developed, at least 1 persona would make it through as the cash cow you’ve envisioned. However, the effort it would take requires more than just throwing stones at scarecrows, hoping one of them goes boo.
Marketers know that every campaign costs time, resources and money. So the onus to commit to a campaign and maximize its return on investment (ROI) is extremely high. Yet the marketer shouldn’t be the one carrying the campaign alone, as the company, especially internal customers who deal with the company’s external customers on a daily basis, should also roll up its sleeves and dig deep.
Buyer personas will help refine your inbound marketing campaigns because they help narrow the margin of error between your arrow-head and the target. In fact, they also close the distance. With a good buyer persona development, teams can then reach their intended customers, tailor their messaging to different personas, draw the right customers and improve conversion rates.