If you've read about digital marketing or partnered with a digital marketing agency, you've likely come across the concept of buyer personas.
As explained in one of our earlier posts, personas provide a solid foundation for more effective marketing and advertising efforts that attract visitors, convert them into leads, and finally close them into customers.
It's important to note that not all buyer personas are created equal. If your buyer personas are largely based on guesswork and intuition, it is unlikely that they will be of any real use to your enterprise.
"For far too many companies, buyer personas have become an attractive, air-filled object of desire that have little effect on the quality of marketing efforts."
What can you do to ensure that your buyer personas are more than just monuments to your own imagination? There are a number of steps to take to get your buyer personas just right. Let's examine them now.
Step One: Begin with the basics.
Creating effective buyer personas is not mere guesswork. It is not based on a mere whim or passing thought. It requires digging for insights into the motivations and thought processes of your customers.
Forbes' "How to Develop Your Buyer Persona and Reel in Better Customers" suggests starting with the basics, noting:
"The first step in defining your buyer persona is gathering demographic information. This can include their income, occupation, interests, gender, level of education, and where they live. Demographic information doesn't tell you everything about your buyer persona, but it's a good starting point."
Step Two: Build with better research.
Once the preliminaries are out of the way, it is time for a deeper dive. CMI's "How to Build Buyer Personas that Build Sales" lists the following essential areas of research for building effective personas:
- sales interviews
- customer interviews
- external research
Sales Interviews: Conducting in-depth interviews with some of your sales force can yield valuable insights into customer behaviors. Sales people often discern patterns and trends among their customers that can be used to inform your buyer persona building work.
Rather than talk to all your sales people at one time, you might want to consider conducting individual interviews with them. These interviews are often more productive than group discussions, where one sales person may end up talking as a representative of the entire sales team.
Customer Interviews: Customer interviews provide the most insight into real customer perspectives. Schedule 30-minute interviews with multiple customers. As you talk with them individually, you will likely see certain patterns emerge in their responses.
How will you know when you have hit upon the insights you need? Ardath Albee notes in the above-mentioned CMI article: "Once you get to the point where you're hearing the same stuff over and over, you know you've got it."
What types of questions should you ask? The article "Buyer Personas You Want to Use: The 9 Essential Parts" highlights the areas of insight you need from your customers as:
- day in the life
- keywords and phrases
- engagement scenarios
Here are some questions you can use to define these areas with each interview, as suggested by CMI in "How to Build Buyer Personas That Build Sales" (linked above):
- What do you do in your job? (day in the life)
- What happened that made you look for a solution? (problem)
- What was the outcome you wanted to achieve? (objectives)
- What did you need to learn about? (questions)
- What kept you from solving this internally? (day in the life)
- Who else was involved? (persona identification)
- Where did you find the most useful information? (preferences)
- What kind of pushback did you get? (obstacles, questions)
- Do you remember the turning point, the moment when everyone got on board? What happened? (engagement scenarios, sales enablement)
Answers to these questions will tell you much about your customers and help you build your buyer personas based on real life insight.
External Research: In addition to feedback from your sales staff and from customers who purchased your products, you also need insight into those customers who chose to go elsewhere. External market research will help you learn about weak areas in your strategy that must be adjusted.
You can peruse industry-specific blogs and forums, social media profiles, content published by your competitors, and thought-leader posts to gain insight into the marketplace.
Step Three: Bring it all together.
Once you have gathered all this intelligence, you can use it to build buyer personas that are accurate reflections of your target customer base. The 360 view you achieve through painstaking research will pay off in terms of more targeted digital marketing campaigns that generate better leads and higher conversion rates.
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