Building 'Buyer Personas' Can Improve Your Marketing Strategies

kathryn by Kathryn Hawkins on April 15, 2013
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If you’re involved in business-to-business marketing, you’re probably familiar with the term “buyer persona.” Not sure what that is? Then read on, because most small businesses, of any variety, can benefit from learning more about the concept and how it can help them market their offerings to customers.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a detailed character sketch of a specific target buyer for your product or service. The Buyer Persona Institute offers a comprehensive overview of what to include in a persona, but let’s take a look at a quick example.

Let’s say your target market for a clothing line consists of wealthy women in their 50s, you might start it with, “Lynne is a 54-year-old married woman with two teenage children who lives in Lexington, Mass.”

The profile then delves into exploring how Lynne makes purchase decisions (such as by conducting online research or asking friends for advice) and illustrates her top priorities (value, style, convenience, etc.). Taken together, these details give you the insights you need to develop an effective marketing strategy for Lynne and consumers like her.

Understanding the Buying Process

The primary goal of developing a buyer persona is to understand how different types of customers approach decisions.

Does a prospect who’s a teenage girl spend time reading Yelp reviews, or does she post a question on Facebook? Does a 40-year-old male purchase a $1500 watch independently, or does he consult his wife before buying it? And what factors make either customer more likely to buy a certain item vs. another — price, style, positive reviews, or something else?

A buyer persona should dig into the psychological triggers that help guide each type of customer to a successful purchase.

How to Build Personas

You’ll want to develop profiles for each specific category of buyer to you plan to market to. For instance, if you recently opened a restaurant, consider audiences such as (for example) college-aged men, college-aged women, families with kids, and office workers. How is each type of customer likely to respond to your eatery, and what will they like best about it?

To find the answers, ask current customers or, if you don’t have any yet, ask people who fit your target demographics. Create in-depth interview questions to find out the specifics of their backgrounds and what makes them tick as shoppers, using an online survey tool or simply asking them questions in person. Conducting focus groups for different types of buyers (teens, college students, mothers, etc.) may be helpful as well; you can use specific details from different members of each group in your buyer persona.

Making the Most of Personas

Once you’ve developed personas for specific types of buyers, you can work on developing offers that appeal to each one. Your research findings should help you determine the best way to reach each audience, whether it’s through online advertising, in-store events, or other means.

For instance, if you know that “Lynne” has a smartphone and uses it every day to look for deals, you might consider starting a text messaging promotion that sends exclusive discounts to her and other opted-in customers. If you know she values company integrity over product cost, consider developing online content that discusses how you source your materials and how you give back to your community.

Does it work? Medco Health, an online pharmacy, redesigned its website to appeal to a set of buyer personas; the resulting site saw a 33-percent increase in online transactions. Buyer personas help you give a (hypothetical) face to your customers — and the better you understand them, the more success you’ll have in selling to their real-life counterparts.

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