90% of companies who use buyer personas claim they have a clearer understanding of their customers. Here’s how to make smarter marketing decisions by learning more about your customer.
What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal client based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating audience personas make sure you’re including customer demographics, behavior patterns, and paint points. Buyer personas are also called customer avatars or audience personas.
Why do audience personas have a bad reputation?
Audience personas sometimes get a bad rap. Some may say they aren’t accurate — that they’re a nicer way to say audience stereotypes. Although this could be true sometimes, marketers who take care to produce insightful, useful personas don’t fall under this umbrella. In fact, well-researched audience personas can be the key to understanding your customer. And it helps you drive successful marketing campaigns.
You can develop good buyer personas, and when you do, your business will thank you. According to a study by Cintell, audience personas can lead to proven ROI. 71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas. The other 37%simply meet goals. And then there’s the 26% who miss them. According to ITSMA, 90% of companies using buyer personas have actually reaped benefits. They’ve been able to create a clearer understanding of who their buyers are.
Considering client avatars have measurable benefits, why don’t companies create them?
The most common reasons for shying away from creating personalized content for buyers are a lack of technology, bandwidth, and resources. Following that, 28% believe it’s too difficult. Yet another 14% don’t understand the benefits.
Mary Garrick, vice president of brand & creative at Upward Brand Interactions, explained how building an audience persona had a positive impact for one of her clients. After doing audience research, she learned their potential customers were design engineers who preferred long-form videos. So, she took action. She changed their marketing videos to include text and visuals that were specific to design engineers, instead of sticking with broad generalizations. Through LinkedIn A/B testing, she learned that their personalized content gained 649% more clicks and 1362.5% more social engagements.
It worked for Garrick. And it can work for your business too. Here’s how to create audience personas that work for you.
When to use Buyer Personas
Adele Revella, author of Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business and founder/CEO of Buyer Persona Institute, says that in some professional establishments, such as doctors’ offices and law firms, conversations often begin with one question: “So what brings you in here to see me?”
“Depending on your business, you may not have the opportunity to ask this exact question,” Revella says. “But everyone needs to know what happens to trigger their prospective customer’s engagement with them.”
Even though some may not be able to ask directly, no business is exempt from the need to understand why their customer is coming to them. “Because the status quo is a powerful competitor for every business, it’s incredibly important to gain as much insight as possible into the circumstances or perceptions that cause customers to decide that now is the time to act,” Revella says.
Audience personas can be helpful tools to understanding customers’ reasoning, but they aren’t always the right solution. Revella says that buyer personas are less important for decisions that happen quickly and without much consequence, such as purchasing chewing gum, but they are important for “high-consideration” decisions, such as buying a car.
“Many companies describe themselves as B2B or B2C, but we wanted to help them understand that this distinction is not as important as knowing how much ‘consideration’ customers give to their decision to do business with you or your competitors,” Revella says. “An example of a low consideration decision is the one we all make in a grocery store. At most, we might read the label, but since a bad choice is relatively low risk, we give it little consideration.”
She says that high consideration decisions are infrequent and high-risk. Customers making these decisions may take days, weeks, months, or even years to make the best choice. In these kinds of decisions, a high-level understanding of your customer is a necessity.
So, if you’re offering an expensive, rare, or high-touch product, it’s even more important for you to understand your ideal customer avatar.
What an Audience Persona Looks Like
Garrick says that your ideal buyer persona(s) have several components. These include:
- objectives (what they want)
- problems (why they don’t have it)
- obstacles (what’s stopping them from getting it)
In addition, marketers should also look at their customers’ orientation — how long they’re in their role, how far they are into their career, their personality traits, political influence at their company, political leanings, religion, and values. Not all of these will be relevant in every case. “Orientation may mean different things to different businesses,” Garrick says.
Preferences are another aspect to an audience persona—where they like to hang out, what books they like to read, and how they consume their information. Garrick says this is the category that sometimes raises objections. She recommends keeping preferences to what is relevant to your brand. “Less is more in this category,’ Garrick says. “I would advise really limit it to what truly matters to your team and what your content developers consistently are going to want to know.”
The final step to completing an ideal persona is writing “a day in the life” of your customer. “This one is a nice exercise to go through to make sure that what you are building in your persona is actually leading somewhere to help someone understand this person’s life and where your brand could show up for them,” Garrick says. Writing this section of the persona is a way to summarize everything you’ve learned about your customer. And it’s a tool that can be used when potentially presenting to the C-Suite.
Use Good Old-Fashioned Interviewing to Understand your Customers
A clothing dryer’s marketing scenario give us a perfect example of the importance of conducting in-depth customer interviews.
Before launching their product in China, a Turkish domestic appliance brand called Beko figured out that their potential customers like to dry their clothes in the sun. Those customers believe there’s a spiritual component to the practice. So, they launched their dryer in China with a setting that only dried the clothes halfway, allowing their customers to finish the process in the sun. Without the interviews that helped them gain understanding of their potential customers values, they would’ve had a flop.
It’s true that there’s a lot of data and technology out there that we can use to learn about our customers. But this is no replacement to talking with your ideal customers and learning about their needs. “We can learn a lot about what people are doing through data, but interviews are the only way to understand why customers take those actions,” Revella says.
Looking at data on a screen takes you part of the way, but actually talking to people increases understanding and insight. “This is one of the reasons marketers are overwhelmed by data. It tells us everything about the customer’s behavior without revealing anything about what we can do to influence that behavior,” Revella says.
Try Other Useful Tools for Creating Buyer Personas
While big data can’t replace actual conversations, you don’t want to write off technology altogether. Many tools can guide or enhance the insights gained from audience interviews. You can learn about what motivated your customer to become, say, a doctor by doing a search on Quora. Plug in the occupation of your target audience. It may yield interesting results.
Other tools that Garrick recommends are Google Consumer Surveys, email data intelligence, and Facebook Audience Insights for geolocation. Another idea is the use of exit surveys, which can help you learn more about your customer’s motivations, problems, and pain points.
Once you have your persona, have someone on your team create a Facebook advertisement for your target person. If you have several audience personas you’re working with, go through and design an ad for each persona. You might learn a lot about your customers and gain insights about your marketing tactics.
The final tip to creating audience personas? Trust your instincts. They do have buyer persona building tools on the web, but Garrick recommends using your judgement when looking at any one tool. Any of these tools can help you come to new realizations, but ultimately you are the expert. You know the most about your ideal customer avatar. Take the tools for what they are, and trust your gut.