Buyer Personas: 9 Essentials to Point You in the Right Direction

Back when buyer persona became a buzzword in the content marketing world and everyone (myself included!) figured they needed to create one, a lot of angst was also generated:

What’s a buyer persona anyway? It sounds important, I need one now! But if a buyer persona is so important, it must be difficult to build.

The answer to the first question – what’s a buyer persona anyway – often became more complicated than it needed to be. Here’s the simple truth:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of who you are trying to reach with your content and marketing messages. It’s your ideal customer. Once you know who you are aiming at, you can create your content with them – and their needs, desires and pain points – in mind.

That’s it. Not rocket science. Don’t make it into rocket science!

So we arrive at the second statement – if it’s important, I need one now.

That’s true. Do you have your buyer persona set up? Depending on how many product/service lines you have, you may need more than one buyer persona. Don’t delay building out your buyer persona, as it will enlighten and guide marketing and sales efforts well beyond the content you create and distribute.

Finally, do you worry that if a buyer persona is so important, it must be difficult to create? That’s not true! The only mistake you can make when thinking about building a buyer persona is to think too hard and let hesitation and over-analysis become paralysis.

So how do you get there? How do you build a buyer persona?

There are many good ways to research your buyer persona:

  • Check customer records in your CRM (example: Salesforce) and find consistencies across your best buyers.
  • Interview sales staff and sales leaders to find out which types of prospects rise to the top.
  • Talk to Operations and Customer Service and figure out who they think are the most satisfied users of your products or service.

Here’s the beauty of it all: Your buyer persona is a living, breathing profile. It doesn’t have to be perfect now, and it can change later. In fact, my guess is you already have a pretty good idea of who your ideal customer is. Start documenting and getting that information and those ideas down. Update and improve as you go: Buyer personas should adjust and evolve over time and with the times.

9 Elements Defined

So we agree that a buyer persona isn’t a big scary boogeyman in the closet that is going to cause endless hours of work to create. Just get going!

But what’s included in that persona anyway? Use the following 9 elements to build your persona now. I bet you could do most of it off the cuff right now, and then improve and evolve the details from there.

For most of these elements you will want to create up to three (ideal) to five (at most) bullet point statements describing the details for each element. In a future blog I will provide a real-life example of a buyer persona, with all 9 elements provided.

1 – Title / Role

If you are B2B, you need to identify the title of your ideal prospect and customer. It is likely there will be several titles that make sense and represent the kind of position/person that buys your product or services most regularly. Think things like IT Director, Operations Manager, HR Manager or Sales Director.

If you are B2C, that ideal prospect or customer also has a label, but in this case it’s not a formal job title but a role in the family or community. Think things like mother, father, grocery buyer or financial decision maker.

2 – Company / Lifestyle

For B2B, you’re dealing with a company. Consider details such as size (in sales and number of employees), industry, and niche/focus within it.

For B2B, detail out points about how this person lives his or her life. Perhaps they are urban, frugal, concerned about the environment.

3 – Demographics

 Whether you are B2B or B2C, it is essential to identify a few key demographics of your best buyers. Age, gender and income all make the top of the list as key data points, and perhaps education level, as well as geography if that matters for your business.

That’s all we’re looking at here. It’s the next few elements that start diving into this person’s thoughts, needs, concerns and motivations … which are the places you can really tailor your both your understanding of who you’re trying to reach, and of your messaging’s effectiveness.

4 – Identifiers

What are the buzzwords, manners and behaviors that define this person? Who are they and how do they act? Think of it this way: How would you describe a friend in just a few phrases? Consider this alternative: How do they identify / describe themselves?

5 – Pain Points / Goals

This is one of the most important persona elements of all. It involves really digging into the customer’s motivations and mindset, and identifying the root problem or core issue that causes him or her some kind of pain … and that your product or service solves.

6 – Challenges

What is holding your persona back from easing (or better yet conquering) their paint points on their own and then reaching their goals? Pain points keep your persona up at night, while challenges are the roadblocks preventing them from solving those problems.

7 – How You Can Help / Solution

For just this one element of the persona, you get to focus in on what you can do for them. How does your product or service ease their pain, overcome their challenges and help them reach their goal? You need to be able to identify this concept in a few bullet points or less. It forms the basis of your content creation and later your marketing messages. 

8 – Objections

Talk to your sales people, and listen to sales calls, and deeply understand the objections to your product or service. Boil these excuses down to their essence in three phrases or less. You will never sell a thing if you don’t anticipate the reasons prospects conjure up for not buying. Overcoming these objections becomes key to creating effective marketing messaging … and closing sales.

9 – Real Quotes

As you interview a few customers, or get reports back from sales or customer service, remember: It’s good to keep track of some of the actual things that good customers – people who fit your persona – are saying about their pain points and challenges, as well as the solutions you provide to beat these roadblocks.

Final Thought: Just Get Going and Do It

It can’t be emphasized enough: There are no right or wrong answers or entries within your buyer persona. The only real mistakes you can make are to put off building that persona and, once you have a persona complete, to say “good enough” and let it sit.

Start somewhere, start today: Use these 9 elements to form your buyer persona. Then leverage that persona in all your content, marketing and sales strategies to help attract more visitors to your website and your content, provide what those prospects want for content, talk to them more effectively, then convert more of those prospects into sales.

Postscript: It’s both fun and effective to give your Buyer Persona a name. That personalizes the profile even more and makes it seem more like a real person … which is who you are trying to create content for, and market to, in the first place.

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