Audience, Personas

How Buyer Personas Help Drive Better Marketing

Buyer Persona and Audience Insights

Want more effective marketing? Take a close look at your audience.

Do you ever spend lots of time and effort creating a piece of marketing – or even a whole campaign, only to be disappointed by the lack of action taken by your prospects?

You’d be surprised how often the problem in any given campaign – across channels and tactics can be solved by taking a close look at your audience.

How much do you understand your prospects and customers? Their motivations? Their challenges? Their potential objections?

What if I told you there was a way to make sure your marketing always addressed what matters most to your audience, and helped sell your products or services?

How to reach buyers with a message that makes them take action.

If you want marketing that inspires action, you have to know your audience. Buyer personas help ensure that you’ve got the right message in market, that you are using the right channels, addressing the needs of specific buying decision stake-holders, speak the language of your customer, and much more.

A persona is a research-based representation of your ideal customer or prospect. It can include demographic information, buying considerations and concerns, shopping/buying preferences, media habits, information format preferences (web, video, direct mail, etc.) and so forth.

Buyer personas are necessary for understanding a customer or prospects mindset and needs as they encounter marketing messages, consider products and services – and make buying decisions.

Reaching and engaging potential buyers is essential to high ROI marketing

To do this effectively you need to understand your audience. Buyer personas allow you to develop and deploy marketing that speaks specifically to your target audience about the issues that matter to them the most.

The problem is, buyer personas are like peas and carrots – people know they SHOULD eat them, they just avoid getting around to it…

…companies know they should have personas, they just keep getting pushed off to next quarter, next year, etc.

What’s even worse: many so-called personas are ineffective – containing irrelevant information that doesn’t really help with the development of compelling messages or user experiences.

The result? Most business owners have no idea about the most important aspect of their marketing activities…

…I know because I used to interview business owners day in and day out about their business and marketing.

What companies know about their audience

When I would interview marketers or company owners about their audiences, they all got stuck on one specific topic…

Me: “So, tell me about your ideal prospect.”

Silence.

Me: “Is there a gender or age skew? Are they primarily male or female? What job titles do they have?”

More silence.

Me: “What are the typical problems they are looking to solve when they look for a product (or service) like yours?”

Uncomfortable silence.

Me: “What is the end result they REALLY WANT from your product?”

REALLY uncomfortable silence.

Most companies have almost no understanding of their audience – a real understanding, beyond some vague concepts that may include location, age, job title, and sex.

Maybe they have a media preference report that lets them know that their prospect reads magazines, looks for information on the internet, listens to the radio and is a movie goer.

I’ll bet that describes the media habits of most people you know. Yet I’ve seen exactly that type of information served up as meaningful audience media insights. Totally useless.

Most companies develop their marketing backward

Most companies don’t market with their audience in mind. They start with the product or service they want to sell.

Then they discuss all the things that people inside the company think are amazing. Or maybe a list of the latest developments and features.

Because this is important inside the organization, they assume it must be important to their target audience as well.

Let’s say Zen Flatware just spent 5 months creating the ultimate flatware. It’s perfectly balanced, and dishwasher safe.

A typical flatware ad or listing might read:

  • AISI 430-type stainless steel with bright tumble finish
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Durable and economical
  • Designed for commercial use

But what the audience really cares about is:

  • Enjoy every meal without the frustration of poorly weighted flatware falling off your plate.
  • Spend less time washing dishes and more time enjoying friends and family.
  • Perfectly designed for both casual and formal dining.
  • Reasonably priced, so you can always have matching settings for everyone– even for that huge get-together you’ve been planning.

So how do you ensure you’re marketing about topics, benefits, features, etc. that your audience actually cares about?

More than just a data dump

Well-constructed buyer personas help you gain valuable insights into customer’s expectations, needs, media habits, and frustrations – all of which can help you tailor your marketing, products, services and sales process accordingly.

Your buyer persona isn’t just a bunch of numbers.

Your buyer persona is developed from comments, insights, observations, and discussion, not just pulling numbers from spreadsheets and reports.

Most importantly, the persona is not just a high-level description of your potential customer. It goes well beyond demographics like age and income level.

A well-developed buyer persona is a detailed map that lets you know:

  • What caused the prospect to look for your solution in the first place
  • How they look for a solution and what details they need as they gather information
  • Who else is involved in the process – and when are they involved
  • What are the most important things they are looking for, or expect from a solution

These are just a few actionable insights that help uncover specific actionable insights.

The best way to build a buyer persona

So how do you start building a persona?

You can start with your already existing customer database. Go through your records to find out how most of your customers find your business. Do customers of a certain demographic or coming from a specific source tend to purchase your product more than the others?

Talk to your sales team to learn key details about common questions, challenges, a typical sales cycle, and so forth.

However, nothing is more effective than interviewing your existing and prospective clients. Offering them incentives like gift cards can increase their willingness to open up about their buying habits, what benefits matter the most to them, who else is involved in a purchase decision, how they consume information (downloads, videos, etc).

But even if an ethical bribe (like a gift card) gets them to agree to talk, you still have a problem…

The secret to getting people to tell you what they REALLY think

Creating a well-developed buyer persona means you must ask some pretty sensitive questions of your existing clients, new customers, and even people who decided not to do business with your company.

The problem is, well, people lie.

It’s not malicious. And they aren’t trying to mislead you.

But, well – people are less likely to tell you uncomfortable truths if the person interviewing them is too close to the sales process, or maybe someone they work with on a regular basis.

It’s much easier to tell someone what you don’t like about a product, what didn’t work in a sales pitch, etc. if they aren’t one of the people directly connected to what you are criticizing.

We’ve found that when we develop personas on behalf of our clients, prospects are more willing to speak candidly when they know that their comments and quotes will be shared and used without us specifically identifying the person who made the comments. This guarantee of anonymity, plus the comfort of not speaking with someone directly involved with the sales process allows the interviewee to speak their mind.

This guarantee of anonymity, plus the comfort of not speaking with someone directly involved with the sales process allows the interviewee to speak their mind and provide powerful insights that can drive changes in marketing, sales process, products, and services.

Putting buyer personas into action

Buyer personas help you really focus in on who you’re targeting. This allows you to better create marketing messages, make media placement decisions, and ultimately deliver a higher ROI on your efforts.

If you are looking for ways to take advantage of buyer personas for your business, we can help you with that. Feel free to email or call us at 330-929-7700 and get in touch with our business-experts that are eager to help you propel your business to new heights.

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