Ready to reach your target customer efficiently and effectively? A buyer persona is the right place to start. Steve Hartman, a CBS reporter, gained fame for his strategy of finding interesting stories. He closed his eyes and tossed a dart at a map to determine his next destination.
Then, he jumped into an RV and traveled to the new city. While he did find a lot of unique tales on his journey, the same strategy is pretty ineffective for a marketer, but more often than not, it is the chosen method. You need to find the right customer for your products or services, but you can’t reach your goals without creating a map and marking the destination. So, instead of driving right to your customer's door and delivering exactly what they need, you are closing your eyes, tossing a dart and praying it lands in the right place.
We want to teach you a new strategy, and it requires taking the time to know your buyers (or destination). The process may seem daunting at first, but the following steps will help you design a buyer persona that tackles projects with ease.
The buyer persona influences everything.
Before you start the process, it is important to know exactly what it is and why you should care about buyer personas. Of course, it is the destination, but it also guides every aspect of content creation including offers, downloadable content, website design, email blasts, chosen social media platforms and blogs.
The buyer persona is the core of inbound marketing. Without it, you are marketing blindly. It is a fictional representation of your ideal customer, but it is based on the facts you find while working through the design process.
Try to avoid the common buyer persona mistakes.
It’s a story, not facts:The buyer persona designing process involves gaining insights about your customers. However, don’t fall into the trap of having a large list of facts. The goal is to write a story about their life, worries, hopes and goals.
Don’t make assumptions:It’s tempting to write a story about your ideal customer, but that isn’t what you need. Instead, talk to the marketing and sales team, analyze revenue and talk to existing and former clients to learn the actual customer (not just the customer you want).
Revisit the persona often:Your customer’s life is ever changing, and so is your buyer persona. Schedule time to re-evaluate the narrative regularly and tweak it as necessary.
Equipped with the knowledge of why your buyer persona is so important and how to avoid the common mistakes, it is time to start the simple five-step process.
Step 1: Start with simple questions to guide the process.
It’s time to get really curious about the life of your customers. A few questions can help you really determine what they care about, and consequently, what you should create for them.
What is the typical day of your customer?
What is their role or title?
What tools do they use regularly?
What is their industry and the size of their company?
What does success mean in their job?
What are their biggest challenges?
What publications do their read regularly?
What are their demographics?
How do they prefer to interact (email, social media or text etc)?
Tailor questions to fit your industry. Avoid broad answers by having more specific questions that will result in an abundance of details.
Step 2: Leverage social media.
You can find the answers you are looking for through a variety of methods including social media, asking customers and talking with your team. The first step might be general research on your social media platforms. The analytics offered on Facebook and Twitter can tell you a lot about who is following your brand, some of the problems they may have and what questions you can answer. The insights tab on your Facebook page gives you a detailed look who is checking out your information including their age range, gender and location.
Document the results and conduct research on the demographics viewing your page. Popular posts may also give insight into your customer's’ problems and type of solutions they are seeking.
Step 3: Start asking your customers.
Ideally, you can have a one-on-one conversation or a focus group with your customers. You can do research, make assumptions and talk to employees all year long, but you will consistently find the most significant insights by speaking with your customers. The meeting needs to feel natural and not scripted. Rather than frantically jotting down information as quickly as possible while your client is talking, use a recorder, and transcribe the audio after the interview.
If it is simply not possible to have a face-to-face conversation, then consider a video conference, or a survey (as a last resort). Send out an email with SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo or Google Forms. After they complete it, consider offering a special promotion thanking them for their efforts. How many customers should you interview? As many as it takes to notice trends in their answers. That may be only four or five customers, but it also might be a mixture of focus groups, surveys and face-to-face conversations with 20 or more customers. Try to keep the interviews less than 25 minutes. If you take too much time, they may be hesitant to offer feedback in the future.
Pro tip: Care about what your customers are saying, showing interest and curiosity. Make them feel comfortable enough to share details about their lives, communicating you're not calling to sell but to learn and conduct research.
Step 4: Get the sales and marketing teams in the same room.
The sales team and marketing team interact with customers regularly. Ask each member about the customers they work with and what they have learned.
This research process can really help you nail down trends that different employees observe daily while working with clients. Something that may seem insignificant might be a new insight that drives the next piece of content or inspires a new product.
Ask about their most memorable customer.
What characteristics do they remember about the last customer they helped?
What problems are regularly mentioned to the sales team or marketing team?
What goals do customers say they have when they are being helped by a team member?
What do they remember about their biggest sale?
What strategies do they use that result in a successful sale?
Their observations, along with customer input, provide the right information needed to create a buyer persona.
Step 5: Compile everything into a narrative.
Remember the end goal is a story not a list of facts. It isn’t a tale about a specific customer, but a detailed story that incorporates broad themes encompassing what you would consider your ideal customer.