The words “Buyer Persona” make me cringe a little. It sounds like something you’d call a life-sized cardboard cutout of a person, and that’s exactly the opposite of what marketers hope to achieve with buyer personas.
Personas are meant to bring your target customer to life — exemplify the pains, successes and scenarios your prospects are experiencing, so you can make your marketing and your product or service relevant, helpful and needed.
Yet many personas are flat and lifeless (and not just because you’re using stock photos!)
Here are six suggestions to improving your buyer personas, which should also improve your marketing and revenue!
Tip #1: Don’t Assume
You know what they say about assumptions.
You’ve been in business a long time, and you know your customers well. Or at least you think you do.
Way too many many marketers settle for a myopic, second-hand view of customers culled from outdated knowledge, sales rep input and demographic data. It’s all useful information, but it’s only part of the picture.
To add depth and clarity, spend some time following up with customers who bought from you – and leads that didn’t pan out. Ask what led them to research your product and what influenced their decision to buy from you, from a competitor, or not at all.
Really get to understand who they are, what challenges they are facing, their drivers, their budgets and how to help them.
Tip #2: Forget the script
Never forget that buyers are people (even if you are a SaaS tool that sees more credit cards than actual people).
While you should have an idea of what you’re going to ask, don’t rely on a Q & A script.
Make a call and let the conversation flow naturally. Customers are all too happy to tell you what factors influenced their buying decisions, but scripted questions and stock responses are just annoying. Get chatty.
A side benefit will be building your trust relationship.
Tip #3: Focus on the important elements
Once upon a time, I was given a buyer persona to help me create content for a new website. The persona was impressive. There was a photo, a name, a profession, a salary, hobbies, interests, education level, age… even what magazines he subscribed to.
Obviously, a lot of work had gone into this picture of who the average buyer was.
But, it was totally useless. Why?
Here’s what was missing:
- What are the buyer’s primary objectives? Why does he visit the website?
- What are the buyer’s pain points? What problems does he have that our product/service can address?
- What would he consider a successful outcome? (company growth? Streamlined process? Personal success?)
- What are the barriers to a sale? Trust issues stemming from past experiences or social media buzz? Competing interests? Lower prices elsewhere? Political ideology (yep, politics are starting to factor in)?
- What made him decide to buy/not to buy from us?
As a content writer, I need to know what factors drive the buying decision. My job is to build trust and authority. To give consumers the answers they need to make a decision.
Of course, it was nice to know that he rides mountain bikes in his spare time and has a neatly trimmed ‘stache. Sounded like a very nice guy – just had no idea why he wanted to buy our product.
Tip #4: Listen in
On the creepy/not creepy scale, listening to what customers talk about among themselves falls right on the line and could go either way. However, in this digital era, conversations are often taking place in the open. For example, social media gives you a direct window into the customer’s opinions, with comments posted for all to see.
The key is to focus on information related to your company or product. What topics come up frequently? Is your company included in these conversations? Who are the influencers your customers and prospects are listening to on social? What are they saying about your competition. Can’t hurt to address what your competitors are doing that ticks people off, right?
Gathering information about your prospective buyers, as well as current customers, helps you form a more realistic buyer persona and ensures your marketing messages will resonate with your audience.
Tip #5: Look for patterns
With a ton of random data at your fingertips, some things will just naturally jump out. People will complain or praise the same things; will buy following an event, TV show or commercial; or react to advertising. Patterns of behavior will help you nail down the triggers to inspire purchases.
Did beach ball sales go up the day after Katie Perry sang at the Super Bowl? (unlikely, since most of the country was buried under 8 feet of snow). Did people hate the Nationwide “because I died” ad so much that sales dropped? Just spitballing, here, but you get the point.
When you get the important stuff nailed down, you’ll be thinking about a living, breathing person. You’ll know what to talk to them about and how to address their needs. And that will lead to a higher conversion rate.
Tip #6: Evolve as personas change
In spite of the belief that people don’t change, they do, and your personas should evolve, too. So, revisit your buying personas often. Customers change, needs change, the market changes, your product changes.
Keep your personas up to date as your audience grows… and grows older. Fifty-something millennials will most likely be a completely different prospect than today’s 50ish children of the 60’s and 70’s.