Buyer personas are a core component of virtually every marketer’s plan. They’re a fictionalized, generalized representation of your ideal customer, designed to give you a template for all your marketing materials — but you already know that.
Buyer personas are so common these days that lots of people think they’re unnecessary. If you know who your product is for, do you really need to build out the interests and personality of a fake person to build marketing campaigns for?
Well, the short answer is yes. And here’s why.
1. Knowing Who to Market To
Sure, you know what your product or service is designed to do, the problems it’s supposed to solve, and the people that might be using it. But in how much detail? Do you know what social media channels those people use and which ones they avoid? Do you know what time of day they check their email? Do they drive to work or take the subway?
A buyer persona isn’t just about describing your ideal customer — it’s about getting into the details of how they think and what makes them tick. Taking the time to spell out everything you need to know about the people that keep your lights on is worth your while.
2. Knowing Who Not to Market To
People tend to forget the other side of the buyer persona picture — the customers you don’t want. It’s every marketer’s worst nightmare when a client says that their target market is “everyone.” No business is good for everyone, and you need to know which people simply aren’t worth pursuing.
There might be professionals that need something more advanced than your product is able to provide, for example. Apple’s built-in photo-editing software is great for the average shutterbug, but not nearly up to snuff for professional photographers. Your product might also be too advanced for some customers — a college student probably doesn’t need a subscription to Harvard Business Review.
Finally, there will be customers who are just too much work. If you’re working with a small team, there’s only so much attention you can dedicate to each client. If they need more than that, they’re better off with a big enterprise-level company. Take the time to think about the clients you don’t want — it’ll help you find the ones you do.
3. Bringing in Better Leads
Your marketing channels are going to bring in leads from all over the web, usually without a lot of information attached to them. Let’s imagine two leads.
- Your first lead gave you their name, email address, and phone number, but no zip code. You checked their details against social media and found that they’re a VP of sales at a big corporation.
- Your second lead found you through Facebook, where they’ve interacted with 20 of your last 100 posts. They’re a mid-level sales manager at a smaller local company. They signed up for your email newsletter and have already downloaded a trial version of your software.
Which of these leads is more worth pursuing? Lead 1 has more clout, but might be too far removed from the people that actually use your product to care what you’re selling. Lead 2 is a smaller fish but seems much more enthusiastic.
Buy setting up buyer personas, you’ll give yourself something to compare to. You can check the information you have against your personas, letting you make an impartial decision about who’s the better lead. Better yet, make two personas! The way you go after a VP might be very different from the way you go after a sales manager — by dividing your personas up, you can make a decision about your approach much more quickly.
4. Guiding Your Content
Without buyer personas, your content creation strategy is basically just educated guesswork. You’ll write blogs and social posts about your product, the industry you’re in, and a few other related topics, but you’ll be directionless.
A buyer persona allows you to imagine an audience. If you’re trying to land more people like Sales Manager Sam, you can dig into what Sam likes. What are the biggest problems that Sam faces in his daily work? Which social channels does he use? How does he make a purchasing decision? How many people work under him? By creating an audience, you’ll naturally create a wellspring of inspiration for your content going forward.
5. Getting Everyone on the Same Page
It’s all well and good if one blogger knows the audience he’s writing to, but what about everyone else at the company? Your customers probably won’t make a decision based on just one blog — they’ll need half a dozen touchpoints with your brand across several different channels to make a decision. That means that every touchpoint has to share a voice, a message, and a goal.
Buyer personas can help you get there. If you have a clearly spelled-out description of the person at the receiving end of a campaign, you can distribute that description to everyone who’s working on the campaign and be confident that they’re all creating cohesive, unified messaging.
Always be Adjusting
Remember, buyer personas will evolve over time. New social channels will arise and old ones will fade, new methods and techniques will change the way you market, and new technology will change the way that people do business. No one used to check their email at 8:00 a.m., but then smartphones came along and people could check email on the bus. Times change, and so will your personas — you need to be ready to change with them.