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Buyer Personas: The Business Marketing Secret Weapon

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My first foray into the world of business was scary and challenging — and a failure. Let me explain why.

When starting that business, I did what any entrepreneurial college student would do: I designed a logo, made a website, setup social media, and started marketing my services to the world. My first mistake? I didn’t define any buyer personas. As a result, my message was terribly generic and it didn’t resonate with anyone. Sure I got some business, but that was it.

When I neglected to define exactly who I was selling to, I ended up marketing my services to an overly general and massively broad audience called “everyone.”

Some small business owners might think, “Yes! If I market to everyone, I’ll increase my chances of selling more.” This is a common misconception that can lead to a lot of wasted effort and resources.

You are not just some “small business owner” though. I know this because you’re here, reading this article about how to effectively target your marketing to get the most return on each dollar spent. Let’s dig in.

What are buyer personas?

According to HubSpot, “buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers.”

Buyer personas should also be data-driven. If you have a website with analytics installed and a business Facebook page, then you have all the data you need right at your fingertips.

Personas benefit all departments, from marketing to sales and product development. Having a clear understanding of your buyer personas will help your team relate to customers as real humans. It is also critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

In other words, buyer personas specifically identify your ideal customers — a distinction that gives you the clarity to craft marketing messages that strike a chord with folks who are most likely to buy.

Details, details, details!

When I decided to refine my message by creating a buyer persona, it looked something like this:

“My avatar is 25–35 years of age, operates a local small business, is married with two children and is frustrated because they are unable to find easily accessible information regarding X.”

This was my second mistake. I didn’t take time to truly understand my customers, so even though my message was slightly more targeted, it still didn’t resonate.

The more in-depth you get when defining buyer personas, the more specific you can be with your messaging. John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur Of Fire gives this great example of a clearly defined buyer persona:

“My avatar is 32. Her name is Melissa, and she is a writer. She’s been wanting to start a blog for months now, but she doesn’t know where to start. She’s a good writer, but she could really use some help on how to structure and format a blog post — plus, she’s not really sure what exactly she wants to write about most of the time.

She is working part-time and earning her graduate degree online, so she’s usually studying up on how she can start her blog on the weekends. Melissa lives with her boyfriend and they both want to travel more, hate their jobs, and don’t make enough money.”

Notice how much clarity this description gives you. Not only does it cover Melissa’s general demographic information, but it also talks about her dreams and aspirations. It gives you a glimpse into a day in her life.

This is where buyer personas are worth their weight in gold. When you clearly identify someone’s desires, dreams, motivations, struggles, and fears, your message suddenly becomes much more relevant to that individual. Some things to consider are:

  • Full name
  • Headshot (this is a real person, so give them a face!)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Describe an average day in their life
  • Where they work
  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Level of education
  • Family
  • Goals and challenges
  • Values
  • Fears
  • Common objections to the sale
  • Hobbies
  • Information sources

Where to start

So how do you begin to gather this information and put it to use for your business?

Ask your team. Your team deals daily with the people who already buy your products. By asking the right questions, you’ll gain some fantastic insight into why people are buying from you (or why they aren’t).

Check your website analytics. Google Analytics is a goldmine. It will tell you where visitors came from, what search terms brought them to your site, what content they viewed, and how long they spent on your site. This data is key because it will help you discern what desires and pain points brought visitors to you.

Do research on social media. If you haven’t started following your customers on social media, now is a good time to start. Put them in a Google+ circle called Customers, follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter, and become friends on Facebook. Connecting on social media will give you some outstanding insight into the pain points and desires of your customers. This will help you keep a finger on the pulse of your market and more specifically target your message.

Have you used buyer personas in your marketing before? What successes and struggles did you experience? Let’s chat in the comments!

Ian Plumlee is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Mopro. He has over seven years of experience helping businesses use the power of the Internet to achieve business goals and drive favorable (and profitable!) customer action.

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