Your future customers are definitely a part of that set—but so are millions of others who won’t respond well to your ads. Targeting too broad an audience means wasted marketing dollars.
What this means for today’s businesses is that the biggest challenge isn’t to broaden reach to include more people, but rather to limit scope to their target audiences.
In order to reliably trim your targeted audience down to the set of most important people, one powerful method worth knowing is the creation of buyer personas. This article will walk you through the concept of a buyer persona and arm you with the steps you need to leverage them.
Hubspot does a good job of describing a buyer persona: “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
Creating personas is a useful exercise towards planning more targeted and impactful marketing activity. When you’ve narrowed down who your customers are and how they think, you can design ads and messages that appeal to them directly—instead of the generic fluff that tends to get overlooked.
Taking what you know about existing customers, you can make an educated generalisation about who they are, what they prefer, and what they respond to.
For many industries, it’s important to gain a clear sense of your target market’s demographic features. These include factors such as:
This is important to know because many digital marketing platforms allow users to target users based on demography. Likewise, they matter when crafting your messaging: if you know your most frequent customers are single moms in their mid-40’s, for example, then you’d know better than to rely on heavy metal background music for your video content.
Your customers’ behavioural trends also play a part in designing personas. You’ll have to keep an eye out for things like:
Surface-level data can often lead to hasty conclusions. Going back to our earlier example, it’s entirely possible that single moms in their mid-40’s are into heavy metal—but you’ll only know for sure if you dive into their habits and preferences.
It doesn’t take a seasoned veteran to create a buyer persona, though your level of experience will set the limit for how detailed those personas are. In this section, we outline three steps for creating a simple persona.
The whole point of creating a buyer persona is to eliminate guesswork. As such, the first and most crucial step is to gather trustworthy data about the people who spend on your products and services.
There are many possible ways to locate this data, and you’ll likely have access to one or more of the following sources:
When you’ve found a promising source, be diligent and take measures to confirm the integrity of your data. You’d ideally have safeguards in place to make sure that the data you gather is accurate, but for instances outside of your control (ex. misspelled addresses or wrongly formatted phone numbers), the best course of action is to do a manual check to make sure everything is on the up-and-up.
Sort everything out in a spreadsheet, and keep it organised—you’ll want a clean sheet for the following step!
Once you have your data, the next step is to check for patterns among your customers.
There are many different statistical tests you can run to spot patterns in your data, ranging from the simple to the complex. For the purposes of creating a beginner-level persona, you might want to consider the following:
Step 1: Convert each unit of data to common analytical terms.
For example: you can assign each customer in a dataset to a category from 1 to 5, where each category corresponds to a range for their average income.
Step 2: Sort your data by each column and track how many people fall into what categories.
Step 3: Study the patterns that emerge, and see if they align with your suspicions about your business.
Customers in category 3 make up the largest proportion of sales. Categories 2 and 4 are also significant. This makes sense, since our product is aimed at people in and around the middle income bracket
Step 4: If the pattern is both sound and significant, see if it lines up with other patterns in your data.
A sizeable number of customers belong to the middle income bracket and have displayed a preference for online shopping versus visiting physical stores. Majority of these people are women between the ages of 21 and 30
Now, it bears mentioning that this kind of analysis only scratches the surface of what a business can do with their customer data when it comes to creating buyer personas. There are more complex and more rewarding methods out there for those with a background in statistics.
Taking what you’ve discovered from your data, the next step is to build an imaginary character around the patterns and commonalities.
Here, your buyer personas begin to take shape. Each marketer has their own preferences for what could go into a persona, but we recommend making sure you have the following:
Name: This can be plain (ex. Persona 1) or descriptive (ex. Industrious Yvette).
Summary: “Industrious Yvette is a career-driven 25 year-old woman. She makes $88,000.00 a year and prefers to shop online due to her busy schedule. She spends much of her downtime enjoying a vibrant nightlife with her friends.”
Problem: “Yvette’s lifestyle leaves her with little time for household cleaning, and she is wary of hiring cleaners to work on her living space.”
Opportunity: “Yvette has displayed an interest in robotic vacuum cleaners. She is a fan of the convenience that an automated cleaning bot offers, and responds positively to proof that they can do a thorough job.”
Since it’s likely that your customer base is composed of many different kinds of people, you can create personas for each major segment you discover.
Example: “Cool Dad Carl is a 40 year old husband and father who prioritises his family’s health and well-being. He’s shown a major interest in tech and gadgets, often upgrading his phone with every new release.”
“Carl dreams of running a smart home, with just about every facet of living assisted by the latest technology. To this end, he’s deeply interested in devices that automate basic chores.”
When every dollar counts, it pays to filter your digital audiences to the most promising leads. As such, personas are powerful tools that help businesses create better strategies for their marketing.
We won’t lie to you and say that creating optimised personas is an easy job. It takes a lot of knowledge and work to create profiles that are based on fact rather than instinct.