Buyer Personas: define them and attract the right people

A buyer persona can represent your company’s best or worst customers. Together with content marketing efforts, buyer personas are powerful tools for building your company’s brand image, increasing its profitability, and expanding its footprint in any chosen market niche. Effective buyer personas relentlessly define and sharpen a company’s branding and reputation for meeting customer expectations.

Your Customers Are Your Brand

Ultimately, branding is about the people who buy your products and services… and not your company.

Sounds strange? Maybe, but it’s logical if you think about it. To cite two famous examples: Coca-Cola and Pepsi. These brands live or die on the strength of how consumers perceive them. In past commercials, they made consumers sing like angels, dance like movie stars and erupt into heroic activities to impress members of the opposite sex. The message may be exaggerated, but the branding works. The internal management and operations of those companies are almost irrelevant.

For that matter, the actual soft drinks themselves are arguably unimportant. Are they really so much better than a hundred other soft drinks? Blind tastings have had amusing results. In fact, brand names are routinely bought and sold on the open market. They are essentially commodities, just like sliced bread or power drills. This reality surprises no one who has been around the block as a marketer.

Your company’s brand is your company’s public face. When you think of IBM, you probably think of a big, blue computer services firm. When you think of The Gap or Old Navy, you probably imagine comfortable, trendy clothing that doesn’t seriously dent your bank account. Nordstrom undoubtedly evokes images of the ultimate in customer service for well-off customers, and Starbucks pretty much has become the avatar for hip, socially responsible coffee shops. The vast majority of successful brands are the result of extensive research into the most profitable customers for those brands.

Who Are Your Customers, Anyway?

If brand names are essentially expressions of the consumers who accept them and give them power, then who are they anyway? What do they want? What makes them happy? Why did your company’s current customers choose your products or services over the competition? How can you persuade undecided consumers to favor your company’s brand? What might make existing customers abandon your company’s goods and services for another company’s offerings?

Establishing a stable of thoughtfully defined buyer personas, sometimes called marketing personas, will allow you to tinker endlessly with the stories that attract customers and cement loyalty to your company’s brand.

Preparing a Stampede of Buyer Personas

Your company’s existing and potential customers are real enough, but your buyer personas are composite personalities that encompass the most significant facets of your best or worst customers. Positive buyer personas represent what you want to see in your most profitable customers, and negative buyer personas represent low-profit customers that you’d prefer to discourage. Your best customers gladly purchase high-margin goods and services with few complaints, but your worst customers push hard for every possible discount on low-margin goods and services while complaining about the most trivial problems.

You’ll benefit most from focusing on the following concepts for creating buyer personas:

Common denominators

Search for commonalities between potential customers rather than individual quirks. For example, do you expect the majority of your customers to be younger college students living with their parents, or do you anticipate seeing mostly older adults who own their own homes? Do your likely customers prefer to own high-end SUVs or to rely on public transportation to save the Earth?

Precision is key

Spell out persona objectives in concrete terms. For example, one of your buyer personas might say, “I want my boss to be happy with how I increased profits this year with that new CRM program,” or “I want my friends to be impressed with the solid quality of my stainless-steel BBQ grill.”

WW your BP do?

Anticipate your buyer personas’ most compelling questions. For example, you might have a persona say, “I wonder if this program can calculate the average ROI across multiple calendar years for marketing campaigns that include late-night television spots in Dallas.” Don’t forget to include obvious follow-up questions that naturally cascade from your starting points.

Know what they like

Investigate your personas’ likely content preferences, such as social media, television channels, popular blogs, and other media resources. Does your persona prefer visually oriented resources such as videos, podcasts or purely audio presentations such as radio personality broadcasts? What about a preference for either short, informational snippets or long, thoughtful pieces? Marketing experts adore this sort of information.

…and what they hate

Describe your persona’s major pain points. For example, your buyer persona might say, “Ugh — keeping track of the ROI on individual marketing campaigns is so difficult with this old, clunky program. There must be a better way.”

A common language

Use first-person voices to create narratives that sound like real people describing a day in their lives. For example, your buyer persona might say, “Wow, the steaks came out great in that new BBQ grill. The family picnic was a success!”

Money matters

Go into detail about your persona’s income profile and professional prospects. For example, an especially lucrative buyer profile might describe an experienced corporate manager who has steadily risen to the top of a career path and now wants to accumulate luxury goods such as a small personal yacht or a heated outdoor swimming pool.

Play The Sims (Sort of!)

Create sketches that show your persona going through the motions of interacting successfully with your products or services or possibly failing to achieve success with them. You’ll probably want to ask for team input on such scenarios to ensure the widest possible range of happy outcomes or horrible failures.

Stages of Entrepreneurial Maturity

The maturity of your business bears heavily on the wisdom of creating a buyer persona. If you’re not clear about the exact nature of your products or services, how can you define who will like them? Still, it’s never too soon to start building your stable of personas. If nothing else, playing around with imaginary profiles of your future customers may give you and your product-development team ideas. Think of it as fuel to refine your offerings to please the most lucrative real-world customers. For example, you might discover that many middle-income customers prefer stainless-steel construction for their BBQ grills instead of galvanized steel even if it means paying another $120 for the grill. You can undoubtedly imagine a host of similar scenarios.

Discovering Unexpected Opportunities

Effective buyer personas do more than just help with daily marketing efforts; buyer personas can lead to new markets that might have gone unnoticed had you only focused on your primary niche. For example, you might discover that people who buy your company’s stuffed pandas also buy premium padded dog beds. Your company’s reach could be turned to that unrealized market niche, perhaps selling the dog beds through the same retail stores that sell the stuffed pandas. The possibilities are endless.