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Things You Need to Know to Create Buyer Personas

Business is not a shot in the dark, relying sorely on luck. Sure, sometimes it works. You throw ideas against a wall and sometimes a few stick. More often than not, this results in a failure that could have easily been prevented if you had a grasp of who your target market is.

But that is easier said than done.

Business people in a marketing meeting

During the planning stages of your business, you might have a rough idea of which segment of consumers you want to cater to. But business evolves, and along with it, your marketing should too. Which demographic you might have planned to target might be drastically different than the demographics that your product actually sells to. Thus, it is imperative that you study your current consumers not only in terms of their demographics but also in terms of their psychographics—interests, attitudes, behaviors, goals, and beliefs.

The Buyer Persona

In 2002, marketing expert Tony Zambito coined a marketing model which would be known as “buyer persona” to help businesses identify who their ideal consumers are. Buyer personas are the idealized representation of your target market. Tony emphasized that buyer personas are not about profiling but rather about buying behavior.

Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.  (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”

The concept provides a deeper understanding of your market’s behavior by incorporating the “hows” and “whys” of their lives. This information is vital in the formulation of your marketing strategy—how you motivate them to choose your products or services and persuade them to nurture a relationship with you. The inclusion of consumer psychology provides a deeper insight into the way your consumer thinks before acting. This understanding could help you identify the pain points that you can turn into business opportunities. Furthermore, the use of buyer personas could give you the right focus, diminishing the shot-in-the-dark approach, and guide your business into an efficient marketing process.

Shoppers walking inside a mall

Tony highlighted the use of buyer personas as research-based. In the same blog post, he said that a buyer persona “cannot be defined unless it is research-based.” The research should identify the patterns of consumer behavior, especially the goals that drive their behavior, and create archetypes to represent your target buyers.

How to Create Your Buyer Persona

Creating a buyer persona requires a significant amount of time and effort but the payoff (and the savings) to your marketing is huge. The best way to gather data is to get it directly from the source. A short questionnaire should be sufficient for your initial data gathering.

Do a personal interview

For digital businesses, these questions can easily be included in your online questionnaire. However, I recommend an actual, face-to-face interview with the members of your target market. Having this type of conversational interview can enable you to be flexible. Some of the most important consumer insights can be found during follow-up questions and further explanations that cannot be found in online surveys. It’s also easier to get answers from personal questions. Of course, you might need to give your interviewees an incentive to accept the interview.

Start with basic demographics

Age, gender, education, occupation, and income are usually the most common and the easiest way to categorize your market. Marital status, family members, and even the type of home ownership can also be used as supporting data. You can use this data to group your consumers into segments which could vary depending on your business.

Get to know their psychographics

The next step should dig deeper into your categories and start incorporating behavioral questions.  Continue your questionnaire by asking about their goals, aspirations, and challenges. Use open-ended questions about what things interests them. Get into the details on what types of pain points or problems, relevant to your industry, they experience everyday. A great approach to this is to mention the problem that your business wants to address and ask if your interview experiences it too. People usually want to talk more about themselves so use that to your advantage. Instead of immediately pitching your product or service as a solution, let them talk about their experiences and how they handle them. Follow-up with clarifying questions if necessary.

Marketers interviewing customers for a buyer persona analysis

Finally, the crux of your interview should be about their buying decisions. Generally, you would want to divide your customers into two groups—those who have purchased your products/services, and those who haven’t but are interested in similar products/services. Your findings on the first group would help to create a strategy to convert the second group from potential leads to purchasing customers. You could ask them to describe  their purchasing process from start to finish. Questions about what influences their decision or where they get information before purchasing are important. You can also ask their expectations on the company as a consumer after making the purchase.

The secret to creating an effective buyer persona is to empathize with your target market. Your consumers are not merely data points but rather living, breathing people that respond both rationally and emotionally. While purchasing something to solve a problem is a rational response, the motivation to solve the problem itself involves an emotional reaction. Pay particular attention to how your consumer feels and relate this to their challenges and motivations. Take note that behavior change over time, and at a rapid pace. Keep up!

Planning on creating a buyer persona? Do you agree with what’s written above? Tell us your thoughts below!

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