Marketers understand that to compete in today’s business environment, it’s essential to form bonds and connections with your audience. Some experts estimate that consumers are exposed to as many as 4,000 to 10,000 marketing messages every day. To cut through the noise, brands must appeal to the unique interests and needs of their audiences and connect with them in a way that they appreciate. This is where buyer personas come in.

Over half of modern consumers and more than two-thirds of millennials expect companies to make offers personal to them. Developing buyer personas is the most critical step in achieving personalized and accurate marketing that will satisfy these audiences. When marketers write for a buyer persona (e.g., “Rachel”) rather than a category of people (e.g., 35-year-old women in New York who like pilates), they are better able to speak to consumers genuinely and engagingly. 

If that isn’t enough for you to get excited about this topic, consider that 71% of companies that exceed their revenue and lead goals have documented buyer personas. Are you ready to surpass your annual sales goals? Follow this step-by-step guide to get started.

In this article:
Research
Identify Customer Pain Points
Identify Customer Goals
Understand How Your Brand Can Help
Transform Research into Buyer Personas
Use Buyer Personas to Guide Marketing Efforts
What About New Companies Without Customers?
Continue Updating Your Personas

Research

The goal of buyer personas is to deliver the sales pitch that will be most persuasive to consumers. These personas need to be based on real information to be useful. Marketers should never make assumptions about buyer personas. If they’re wrong, the error could throw campaigns drastically off-target. Instead, invest in thorough audience research about the people who want to buy from your company (not the people who you wish would buy from you).

Begin by gathering information about your current customer base. Some essential data to focus on includes:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Location
  • Spoken languages
  • Income
  • Interest in activities
  • Lifestage (new parent, retired, etc.)
  • Level of education
  • Type of work
  • Role or title at their company

Also, try to gather information about their buying behavior, how they spend their day, who they look up to, challenges at work, career goals, and how they define success in the workplace. What are your audience’s most common objections? How tech-savvy are they, and what social networks do they prefer? Do they have a preferred method of communication (e.g., text, call, email)? 

In the internet age, data is readily available for marketing teams to access and analyze. You can begin gathering quantitative data about your customers from:

For qualitative data, consider:

  • Surveys
  • One-on-one interviews
  • Focus groups

If specific tasks, like focus groups, require an investment of time from your customers, it may be helpful to offer an incentive like a coupon, free sample products, or gift card. When determining which customers to ask, focus on your top ten clients who interact with your products or services more frequently than others. However, don’t forget about the unhappy customers, requested a refund, or canceled an order. These (would-be) customers can give you useful information about why your product didn’t work for them. The results can help to refine buyer personas or to improve your products for these types of consumers.

One critical part of your research should include interviewing your own sales team, customer service representatives, and other relevant employees. People who interact with customers regularly will have better insights about the benefits that they enjoy, the pain points that they struggle with, and common objections. 

Identify Customer Pain Points

To help customers solve their problems, you need to figure out what their pain points are. What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals? If they switched to your company from a competing brand, what caused them to make the change?

Social listening is an excellent tool for finding answers to some of these questions. You can set up search streams to monitor mentions of your brand, products, and competitors to see what people are saying online. Once you understand why people love your products and what aspects of your customer experience don’t work for them, you can better serve your target consumers. 

Identify Customer Goals

In addition to understanding their pain points, you want to take a look at the positive things that customers want to achieve — their goals and aspirations. Your salespeople will have a good idea of what customers think about your products and the motivation behind purchasing them. You can ask your sales staff to collect quotes about customers’ experiences to gain more significant insights from shoppers.

Understand How Your Brand Can Help

Once you have a better understanding of where your customers are coming from and what they’re trying to accomplish, the next and most important question is, “How can we help?” While many marketers tend to focus on product features, the real conversation is about the benefits to your customers. 

For each pain point and goal that you identify, ask the question, “How can we help?” The answers will provide an excellent starting point from which you can craft essential marketing messages. By stepping away from the list of product features and focusing on how you can better assist your customers, you begin to put the conversation in the right framework.

Transform Research into Buyer Personas

As you analyze the research, look for common characteristics that can be grouped to form unique customer personas. When determining how much information you should include in personas, think about what you would expect to see on a dating site or what you might learn from a short conversation on the subway.

For example, one segment of your audience could be thirty-something women who live in major cities, own large dogs, and enjoy pilates. Begin by giving your persona a name, job title, home, and any other defining characteristics that you find helpful. Make sure that they seem like a real person and be careful not to exclude any characteristics that would fit within the group just for the sake of creating a more specific personal story. Becoming overly specific could push important consumers out of your brand persona, which would misdirect your marketing efforts.

Here’s what this example brand persona could look like:

  • Name: Sara in the City
  • Age: 35 years old
  • Location: New York City
  • Occupation: Fashion PR
  • Dog: Two-year-old American Bulldog named “Piggles”
  • Hobby: Pilates group classes in SoHo
  • Marital status: single

Pain Points: Sara is in a rut between work and play. She has a reasonable budget for clothes, but can’t afford to buy multiple outfits for every activity she performs. Sara has a hard time finding a wardrobe that transitions from the office to pilates, the dog park, and drinks with friends. She’s also single and looking to find a relationship, so dating is part of her routine. With a busy personal and professional life, and as a mom to a very spoiled Piggles, she doesn’t have much time for shopping or making returns. When she buys something, she needs it to work the first time.

Aspirations: Sarah aspires to earn a promotion at work and eventually open her PR firm where Piggles can be the mascot. She wants to get married and have a kid or two before she turns 40. Ultimately, she sees herself as a healthy, successful professional woman with a well-balanced lifestyle.

Use Buyer Personas to Guide Marketing Efforts

For each buyer persona, create one marketing message that demonstrates how you can help that customer. Center your marketing communications around this message and remember to speak directly to “Sara” and your other personas. Avoid corporate-speak or buzzwords and always address Sara’s priorities instead of your own by focusing on how your products or services can benefit her. The buyer persona should guide each decision that you make from the social networks that you choose to participate in, to the way that you write your ad copy, and the design choices that you make on your landing pages.

What About New Companies Without Customers?

If you have a new company, it’s okay to make some educated guesses. Think about your ideal customer, and use empathy and logical conclusions to speculate about what may motivate them to make purchases. Ask the following questions:

  • Who are your customers? 
  • What types of people could benefit from your products or services?
  • How does your product improve your customers’ work or home lives?
  • How does your product satisfy the needs of your customers better than your competitors?
  • Where are your customers located, and where will they likely purchase your product?
  • What life stage are your customers in?
  • What does the buyer’s journey look like for your customers?
  • What other brands have similar values and which personas they are targeting?

With this information, you can begin to create your groupings of customers and develop brand personas. As your company grows and you start to acquire new customers, you can use real data to create new brand personas or to better inform the ones that you already created.

Continue Updating Your Personas

Remember that none of this information is permanent. The analytics on your customers are constantly updating and changing, so it’s crucial to check in with your customers and analytics tools periodically. Over time, your customers’ needs may change. You may need to add new buyer personas as you introduce products and services, or as consumer interests shift.

Buyer personas are the key to gaining a better understanding of your customers and creating a personal connection with your audience. Though it may seem like an expensive and time-consuming marketing practice, you’ll find that the power of the buyer persona is immense and can result in significant benefits to your company. 

In a NetProspex case study, the addition of buyer personas to the company’s marketing practice resulted in a 171% increase in marketing-generated revenue, 900% increase in the length the website visits, 111% increase in email open rates, and 100% increase in the number of pages visited. Think about your buyer personas every time you decide your business and your marketing strategy. If you aim to do right by your personas, you will build a bond with the real customers that they represent. This connection will help to boost your company’s sales and create brand loyalty and trust that lasts.

Laura Smous
Author

Laura Smous is the Senior Director of Product Marketing at AdRoll.