A buyer persona is a fictional customer who closely resembles your ideal customer. Constructing a believable, ‘human’ persona makes it much easier to understand and empathize with your customers, so building personas should be your first step –they should be ready at the planning stage of content marketing or social media campaigns.
Rather than cite a lot of dry statistical data, you can use that data to build a buyer persona, then internalize the customer you’re trying to attract, and relate to them as human beings.
How is a persona different from a definition of an ideal customer?
Suppose you take some of the facts about your best-performing customers – they’re usually between 30 and 45, they normally reside in South London and they’re mostly men. If these facts describe your best-performing customers then they also describe the people your marketing should be optimized for. These are the people you want as Twitter followers and Facebook friends, and who you hope will have a naturally positive response to emails and other marketing – but it’s hard to picture them while creating content if all you have to go on are dry statistics.
Now meet Greg. Greg’s a 39-year-old man from South London who’s interested in your product. Even that basic description makes it easier to put a face to a name—and that’s all a buyer persona is: a fictional character who epitomizes your ideal customer. Now, instead of asking, “Will this perform well with x demographic?” you can ask yourself, “Will Greg like this?”
How many customer personas do you need?
Having just one customer persona is probably too limiting. Many experts recommend making between three and five customer personas, a number that’s big enough to represent the variety inherent in a fairly large audience, but small enough to retain the value of specificity.
How do you go about constructing a persona?
Begin with a business card
One way to make a customer persona is to begin with a business card template and fill in the blanks for your ideal customer. You’ll want to determine:
- Job title
Add a resume
After that, add a resume with:
Hopes, fears and values
Next, try to imagine your customer’s hopes, fears and values. It’s even better if you can go beyond your imagination. A great way to gain this kind of data is to use quizzes and polls on Facebook and on your site. People love these and they consistently generate engagement – plus they give you the details necessary to create true-to-life buyer personas.
The elevator pitch
Finally, add an ‘elevator pitch’ – one tailored specifically to this customer. Take some time on this: you’ll probably never use it “as is,” but it will give you a clear idea of what you want to say to this customer, and that clarity will come through in other messages.
Bringing personas to life
You’ll probably find that as you develop your personas, other questions need answering to really bring them to life. Some of these might include:
Computer literacy. Are your ideal customers “digital natives,” or are they wary of new technology? How precise can you get with this? It will help immensely when you design your marketing tools.
Hobbies. What does your customer do for fun? This is an important way to humanize the personas you’re creating, but it’s also an effective means of building a more complete picture and getting both depth of background and useful detail. Again, this is information that your social contacts will often be happy to divulge via polls or other interactions.
News sources. Does Greg (remember Greg?) read The Economist, The Guardian or Men’s Health? Does he wait for his news sources to land on the porch or is he an RSS subscriber – or does he visit the same news websites every day?
This is an ‘indicator’ behavior. It tells you what news Greg cares about and how he gets it, but it also gives you broader clues about what kind of person he is, both from his preferred news sources (Fox News tends to cater to the politically conservative, while Huffington Post readers are usually more liberal) and formats.
Real quotes from actual customers, drawn from interviews, polls, comments online or other sources, are a goldmine of useful information. Nothing will humanize your persona more than some actual human input.
Where should you get the information you need to create personas?
Here are three good places to look:
Check your site’s existing traffic analytics. Site analytics will show you where your customers come from, the keywords they use to find you, how long they spend on the site once they arrive, what they look at and for how long, how much they spend and what they spend it on, and more. This set of data shows you who your audience is, what they want and how they go about getting it.
Research your social media. Use social media listening skills to build an image of your customers via their Facebook and Twitter interactions with your brand. For retail-specific insights, especially ones that relate to your customers’ likes, dislikes, tastes and ideas, Pinterest is of increasing value.
Ask your audience questions. Your customers know themselves. They know what they want and what they like – and if you give them a chance, they’ll often be very happy to tell you. Use surveys, interviews and polls to gather data that will allow you to create effective marketing personas. A persona is a fiction, but to be useful it has to be rooted in truth. Real data will reveal that truth and the more of it that comes from from customers, the better.
When you’re making decisions about how to orient your marketing efforts, you should almost feel like your customer persona is in the room with you. In the same way you know if your best friend is going to like something, you should know if your customer persona will like, hate, or love everything about it. And don’t forget to name your personas!
Kunle Campbell is a specialist eCommerce marketing consultant who works with mid-tier online retailers. He helps drive business growth and profitability through customer acquisition (driving traffic), conversion optimization and customer retention. All of his strategies are data and metric driven. You can read some more of Kunle’s articles on the company’s blog at 2x Media. Also follow him on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.