With every new campaign we start, we always start with buyer personas. But what is a buyer persona?!
Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us and our clients fully understand why we go through the efforts we do. In marketing, sales, product and services, understanding your ideal customer and being relatable to them is very important in optimizing your marketing efforts. Having this deep understanding of your persona(s) is critical to steer your content creation, product messaging, sales process and really anything that helps support your product and how it relates to your customer.
At this point you are thinking, “Ok this sounds great, but how do we come up with these fictional customers?”
Every new client asks this. But don’t worry, it is quite simple actually. You just need to ask the right questions to the right people and present that information in a helpful way so the people in your business can get to know your persona(s) better than the backs of their hands.
The strongest personas are produced by market research and interviewing / surveying your existing client base. We always recommend businesses form at least 2 personas when we start a campaign, however some of our clients end up with 10 or 15 by the time they get used to the process. But like anything, start small. Trying to nail down 15 personas before starting a campaign only delays the efforts. You can always add, modify or expand personas as needed.
Should we build a “negative” persona?
In the beginning, no. Remember, start small. Build your two positive personas and over time add in a negative one. The negative persona should be your non-ideal client. I know… I know…. We want every client we can get right? Answer is no. As your business grows, avoiding these negative personas will help your business grow by turning their business away.
But, keep in mind a negative persona is not always a grumpy high maintenance account. These can be companies that do not see you as a partner or are just not a good fit for your business style. Don’t feel like you only have poor client types in this bucket.
So how do we start the process?
As mentioned, buyer personas can be created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects and those outside your contacts database who might align with your target audience.
Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas:
- Look through your existing client database to uncover trends about certain markets or verticals that fit who you have been targeting.
- When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms.
- Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
- Interview customers and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service. This my friends is the most important step. We cannot stress this enough.
You’ve done the research, now what?
Once you have gone through the research, interviews and analysis, you should have some good “meat” to work with. Looking over this data, start to recognize trends. Do you see consistent business sizes? Certain types of businesses? These are the trends we want to leverage in our fictional clients.
Using the worksheet, begin to take this data and fill in each of the areas of the Persona Worksheet. Fill in the: Who? What? Why? How? sections as you see fit based off the data you collected. Keep in mind there is no wrong answer. These are best guesses off the data you collected.
Once you have all areas filled in, pass this worksheet around to team members, upper level management and your sales team. Get their feedback and see if it aligns with the views they see as well.
Finally the fun part. Give your persona a fun name. You have done the work and you should feel like you know this person like a brother or sister. So give them a nickname like “Finance Timmy” or “ Doctor Sherry”. This will help segment the leads as you start to see them come in and will give your team something to track against.
In closing, the persona process, although it can be daunting and time consuming, is one of the vital parts of optimizing your campaigns. Putting the time in at the start of the process is well worth the amount of time it will save in the long run. Be sure to grab a copy of the worksheet and give it a try.