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How to Build (And Actually Use) Buyer Personas

So what is a buyer persona? A buyer persona is basically a fictional, broad-strokes picture of your ideal customer — the person you most want buying your product. All your content, product development, sales approaches, even down to the design of your website will be designed with this persona in mind.

To some extent, this will be intuitive — picture the average person wandering around Home Depot. Are they the same as the average person wandering around Sephora? Probably not. But the nuances of your buyer persona will be a little trickier.

Why Do Buyer Personas Matter?

Buyer personas allow you to tailor your content — all-important in the world of inbound and content marketing — to the needs and wants of specific groups. It’s all well and good to get your content in front of the right people, but you also have to make sure those people actually like it, click it, engage with it, and become customers.

Depending on the size of your company and its offerings, you might have 10-20 buyer personas. Start small, though. Create personas for your perfect customer before branching out into other prospects.

It might also be worth thinking about negative personas as well. It may sound counter-intuitive, but there are some people you don’t want to sell to. Maybe your product is too advanced for their needs, or they don’t purchase often enough.

Having separate personas allows you to personalize almost every step of your marketing approach — from Facebook ads to social posts to lead nurturing emails to customer support — to make sure that you’re attracting and connecting with the right people.

So How Do I Actually Make One?

Your first resource is your existing customer base, and the more information you have about them, the better. Comb through your user database and sales history and see if you notice anything.

Do your customers tend to find your content via particular channels? Do they tend to be a certain gender or age? Do they work in certain industries? Any generalizations you can make are useful.

Ask your sales team, too. They’re the ones talking to each prospect, trying to convert them to customers. They know what people ask about, their concerns and needs, and what made them finally decide to buy. Find out what your prospects have in common and how to nudge them in the right direction.

Once you start to get an idea of who’s using your product, make sure you get useful info on future prospects as well. For example, if you make B2B software that’s tailored to small businesses but doesn’t scale well to large ones, then the forms on your site should be asking new leads how big their business is.

Ideally, if you can afford the time and resources, interviews are the most detailed and comprehensive way to build a sense of who your customer is.

How To Find Interview Subjects To Build A Buyer Persona

Firstly, when you ask people if they’d be willing to do an interview with you, you should be prepared to offer some kind of incentive, like a gift card. If customers already want to talk with you, this might not be necessary, but if you’d like to interview people who don’t already have a relationship with you, an incentive is a nice way to bridge the gap.

Secondly, make sure the person you’d like to interview knows that this isn’t a sales call. You just want to learn about them and their impressions of your company. If they turn out to be promising leads, you can follow up later, but for now, you’re just soliciting honest opinions

Finally, make it easy for them. Put a landing page on your website where existing customers can sign up to do an interview with your staff. Give them time slot options but let them choose their own, get contact info so you can call them, and send them a reminder to set the time aside.

Whom Do I Interview?

Your first resource, again, is your existing customers. They’ve already purchased from you, so you know at least some of them are going to be a good example of future prospects to go after.

Don’t just seek out your best customers, either. As good as it might feel to let someone gush about your company for an hour, you can get just as much useful information about your company and product from someone who doesn’t like you very much.

Ask someone who made a one-time purchase why they never came back. Ask people who’ve had trouble with their product what they found difficult about it. You might learn that your product is too technical for amateur users, which helps inform who you target going forward.

You can send targeted emails to customers who have left feedback, positive or negative, on your site or social media. Some customers are so eager to make their voice heard — and so grateful that you’re listening — that they don’t even need an incentive.

Your prospects are another good resource to tap. Find out who’s running across your content, what they’re using to make their purchasing decision, and any other data you might have collected to see who fits your personas.

If you don’t have a lot of customers or prospects yet, referrals are a good place to start. Use your social media, existing customers, and professional contacts to find people you’d like to interview. You can even use Facebook and LinkedIn to find people who you think might fit your personas so that you can interview them and dig deeper.

Building a few good buyer personas might take some time and effort, but in the long run, it’s worth it. Knowing who your customer is, what they like, where to find them, and how to talk to them is crucial to maintaining a steady stream of business. Otherwise, you’re just throwing marketing money at the wall to see what sticks.


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