The Most Critical Step to Successful Marketing and Sales

At a product marketing conference a couple of weeks ago, several speakers (including myself) asked the audience if their companies had created buyer personas.

Surprisingly, not many people raised their hands — at best 20% of attendees.

As a marketer, it was puzzling because it is challenging to target consumers without in-depth information about who they are, how they make purchase decisions and what’s important to them.

Buyer personas deliver insight about the people that matter. They tell you how consumers do their jobs or live their lives. They tell you how they value benefits, features and price. They tell you where consumers hang out so you know how and where to awareness and get them into the funnel.
Not having buyer personas is like taking a road trip without a GPS.

You may eventually get to your destination but it will be a journey without the insight and guidance to make it as more successful and pleasurable.

More than ever, brands need buyer personas because we live in a fast-paced world where personalization is important. It is not enough to market to consumers; brands need to deliver marketing that is engaging, relevant and aligned with how consumers want to explore and make purchases.

To simply look at consumers as an amorphous mass is a recipe for disaster. Instead, brands need to look at consumers as specific groups of people who have different needs, motivations and aspirations. These consumers may buy the same product but there are variations in how and why they do it.

Note: When startups create buyer personas, it is interesting to see their surprise and delight. Their response has a lot to do with their focus on developing a product as opposed to looking at who is going to buy it. When I developed buyer personas for a startup poised to launch an online marketplace, it was like they had made an amazing discovery.

For brands that haven’t created buyer personas, here’s how to do it:

  1. Even before deciding on the number of brand personas to create (three to five are a good place to start), it is important to identify the leading characteristics: demographics (age, gender), education, roles, and responsibilities.
  2. Identify the different kinds of buyers at a high level. For example, buyers of accounting software could be small business owners, accountants, and bookkeepers. They use the same product but have different interests, needs, and goals.
  3. Divide buyer personas into different groups: decision makers, influencers, evangelists, researchers, etc. Not every buyer persona looks or behaves the same. Some buyer personas make the ultimate buying decision, while others are responsible for grunt work- doing research, reading sales collateral such as eBooks, looking at Webinars, and watching demos.
  4. Create a list of the key questions: What the biggest challenges or problems facing potential customers? What are their biggest needs? How do they research and make buying decisions? How much are they willing to pay? What products are they currently using? Why would they consider an alternative product? What does success look like using your product? What are the leading marketing channels? Who pulls the trigger on a purchase?
  5. Add lots and lots of details for each buyer persona. More information is better because it offers a crystal clear picture of who matters and how to attract, engage and encourage them.
  6. To test, tweak or overhaul your buyer personas, talk to different kinds of customers: potential and existing customers (brand new, short-term and long-time), as well as consumers who decided not to make a purchase (there’s a lot to be learned when someone selects a rival’s product). You might even discover that new buyer personas emerge after getting feedback from potential customers.
  7. Place your buyer personas front and center, rather than hiding them within documentation or reports. Mailchimp, for example, creates posters that hang on the office wall. It is important for marketing, sales, account management and customer service people to always stay cognizant of the customer. Far too often, customers are conceptual as opposed to real. And don’t get me started about companies not spending enough time talking to their customers.
  8. Revisit your buyer personas on a regular basis (quarterly?). This takes into account new products, changes in the competitive landscape and consumer behavior, and economic conditions.

Article by Mark Evans