2012 was a bad year for SpellBrand. A combination of various factors threatened to destroy the company that was around since 1998. We were great at what we did and created award winning design solutions. But we did not pay attention to 3 critical elements of any business: buyer personas, brand positioning strategy and pricing strategy.
In this article I discuss the importance of understanding who your target market is and creating “buyer personas” which will radically change the way you market your business and the tremendous positive results that you will see as a consequence.
So what are buyer personas?
Tony Zambito, who is considered as the the founder of the buyer persona concept defines it as follows:
“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy and why they make buying decisions. (Source)”
Most business owners have a pretty good idea of who their target market is and this is quite adequate to a certain extent. A generic idea of a target audience, however, does not allow you to benefit from the laser like focus that segmentation offers. Today we will not only explore how to get this laser like focus but also how that focus can then be directed at the right kind of marketing that increases conversion, buyers and ultimately revenue.
Understanding and creating buyer profiles enables you to clearly see how they would think and behave during the “buyer’s journey”. A buyer’s journey is the process in which a stranger come in contact with your brand/service/product and then convert into a lead who then eventually becomes your customer. I will write a separate article about the buyer’s journey at a later date.
Why do you need to define your buyer personas?
Understanding the needs and wants of your ideal customers can be invaluable not only in developing targeted marketing but also in crafting the right kind of services/offers/products. Since you are so close to your brand and business, you may have a blind spot when it comes to deciding if the offers you have are really effective.
Sales and customer count can be an indicator but is it really accurate? If you have 40 customers per month, does it mean 40 is the cap? Why shouldn’t you have 60 or 100 customers per month? You see where I am going with this?
By understanding your customer’s pain points and real life thought processes, you can better align your service/product offerings to fit their world view.
Do you know where you can find your customers? Perhaps you do. But if you have a detailed profile of your customer, you will start seeing opening and opportunities in terms of where you can reach out to them. Perhaps your old method of print adverts or mailers is not the right way to target your customers. Perhaps your ideal buyer persona likes to get marketed through other channels.
Your offers could be improved too. Perhaps your offer of a $XX off coupon is not really a valuable enough to your ideal customer. Perhaps they are motivated by some thing else. How would you know unless you profile your customers?
So how do you create a buyer profile?
First thing to remember is that you may have more than one buyer persona. Most business usually do. This process applies to all types of personas.
You need to know your buyers as individuals and not just an abstract “customer”. To get to know your customers as individuals, you would need to give each persona a name. Do not use one of your customer’s name. Just come up with a catchy name that also hints at who this persona is. For example, a buyer persona that I came up with for this article is called Startup Steve. In the rest of this article I will use Startup Steve as an example to discover how you can go about building your personas.
One word of caution though: you should not make up or guess at the answers you give to each of the questions I discuss below. You have to research and find out the facts.
Some methods of gathering data
- This can be done by emailing or calling some of your current customers. Have a short list of questions you want to ask them and let them know that you are trying to profile your best customers.
- Also let them know that these answers will be completely anonymous and will not be published anywhere or revealed to any one. This will ensure you get honest answers.
- If you are a new business and just starting out, you may not have any customers to interview. In this situation you will be forced to assume some of the answers but remember that buyer personas are organic profiles and they need to tweaked to reflect the facts as you move along.
- Or perhaps you sell products on your online store which means your buyers may not want to get on a call with you. In that case, you can craft an offer in exchange for taking a survey. Believe me, what ever you invest in securing these answers will pay for themselves and more in no time.
- If you are already in business and have a sales team, you can also talk to your sales agents to glean insights into your customers. Another way would be to talk to your suppliers or vendors who may have access to the same or similar target audience.
What questions should we ask?
To really get to the core who the buyer is, it all starts with the collecting their demographic information. This includes things such as where does this person (Startup Steve) live? Is he married? Does he have children? What are his hobbies? How does he like to spend his time?
We discovered that Steve lives in upstate New York, is married with 2 young kids and loves photography and travel. He often combines the two and often travels to take photos.
Education and Job Profile
After that it is time to dwell into details of education and job of Startup Steve. The importance of these details actually depend on the kind of service or product that your brand sells. For some this may not be that important and for others it can be crucial. In our case, since we are a branding and digital media company, the education levels and the current job are important.
Startup Steve has completed University (Business Finance Management) and is currently looking to start his own consultancy helping small to medium businesses apply financial models to better regulate their investments and get better ROI.
Next we want to understand what this person does on any given typical day. This will give us an insight into the mindset of the buyer. We want to find out what they are passionate about. What do they spend most time on? Where do they shop for clothes? What about their groceries? What kind of car do they drive? What kind of TV shows or movies do they enjoy?
Starup Steve is serious about fitness and goes to the gym each morning and hits the treadmill. After that he drives his Ford Mustang back home to get ready for the day. After University Steve worked for a couple of years at a local Financial Management firm and had recently decided to start his own firm. So his days are now spent putting together the final pieces of the puzzle. In the evenings he likes to spend his time with his family or entertaining with friends. He enjoys French wine and dinner conversations are often about the latest great discovery Steve made at the local wine outlet. Before going to bed Steve likes to spend an hour or two on social media and he is quite active on Twitter and Google+.
Next we want to find out about the challenges that Startup Steve faces in his pursuit of his goals – especially pertaining to the services that we provide. What are his pain points? What kind of solutions is he looking for? This will tie back to where he would look for information that would help him solve his challenges or obstacles.
Startup Steve realises that he is about to enter a highly competitive and tough market segment. With huge players dominating the market, it would be quite difficult for a new entrant to secure any kind of market share. He wants answers to how he would be able to penetrate the market and gain the trust of customers.
Building the buyer persona story
Utilizing the information gathered from research, interviews, surveys and other methods, it is not time to write the buyer persona story. Creating a powerful and effective buyer persona story involves the persona itself, the goals of the persona, the information topics that the buyer needs/requires, the personas personal preferences and biases and finally the value the buyer attaches to the requirement or the need.
It is quite helpful if it is written in the first person from the buyer’s perspective. In case of Startup Steve, it could be something like this:
As an entrepreneur (the persona), I need to be able to launch my startup with an impact (the goal). The information I need as well as search for is related to making an impact, creating trust and attracting highly qualified leads (the topic). I would like to get this information from some one who actually knows what they are talking about and possibly have written or created videos about these topics (preference). Launching my company with out a proper strategy could lead to a premature death for my business idea (the value)!
Hopefully by now it is clear how important buyer personas are to increasing your sales and ultimately revenue. Going for a scatter-shot approach in terms of your marketing would simply mean money down the drain on ineffective marketing campaigns. Understanding the buyer will help you put your marketing dollars to better use and also allow you to mould your service or product offering to fit your customers like a glove.
If you have any questions about this topic, why now schedule a free 15 minute call with me?