Creating Buyer Personas to Find Your Customers

Here’s the truth: If a customer isn’t predisposed to buying your product or service, odds are you won’t be able to convince them. Silver-tongued salesmen who could fulfill the wince-inducingly archaic idiom of “selling ice to Eskimos” are very few and far between.

Customers need to already have the tastes, opinions, or needs that your product appeals to before they’ll click the “buy” button. It’s those pre-existing qualities that allow you to actually sell them on your product.

That’s why Marketing Strategy 101 dictates that you need to answer the customer’s unasked question: “Why should I want this?” The go-to answers involve the usual gimmes of cheap prices, convenience, etc.

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However, these are gimmes for a reason. They’re too general, and too many people simply won’t respond to those pitches—regardless of how delightful your pitch is—simply because people are bombarded by those sorts of appeals every minute of every day. The neurons that light up in response to “50% OFF” signs have long since been burned out. (Television advertisers were starting to recognize this ten years ago.) Blame your competitors.

Now, you actually have to get people to relate to your product. They need to see how your product echoes their personalities, lives, perspectives. Customers, especially young customers, want stories. Creating a story or narrative for your product is the most effective approach. When people see your story mirror theirs in some way, they will become receptive to your pitch. But before you can craft a story for customers, first you have to find those customers.

How do you identify your target audience? THAT is where creating buyer personas comes into play.

What is a buyer persona?

A persona is a character, like a person in a novel. But personas aren’t just made up in your head. They’re carefully created based upon information about your customers.  So in order to develop a persona, you have to do research on the people whose characteristics you’ll distill into that persona.

What customer characteristics should be used to create a persona?

There are a few things that you absolutely need to know about your customers before you get started:

  • Who are your customers? Age, race, socioeconomic status, etc.
  • Where are they from? Do they tend to live in certain states, certain environments (urban vs. rural, apartments vs. homes), etc.
  • What they do? What types of work are they engaged in ? What are their hobbies? What issues and causes do they tend to focus on?
  • What do they want? What motivates them? Think about this in terms of what desires your product or service can satisfy.
  • What are their values and beliefs? This information can help you identify extremely strong motivators for them, as well as hotspot issues to avoid.

Once you have answers to these questions in hand, then you can begin to create believable personas.

This is a good time to figure out how your targeted customers are most likely to cross paths with your product, how they historically react to services and products similar to yours, and how their reactions vary in different contexts.

It’s time to find out how the market is responding to you and your product.

You should have an existing clientele. It’s time to data mine their behavior to get better insight into how they view your product. Some of the things you want to learn include:

  • How they talk about your company and product on social media.
  • What keywords they use to search for related products on the Internet (Google AdWords is a great resource for this).
  • As much information about your competitors as you can dredge up. Sales numbers, outreach campaigns, etc. How have they been approaching potential customers, and how successful have their attempts been?
  • Where the people who have been searching for related products live. Are there geographical hotspots?
  • Add any questions that you think are relevant. Be creative.

Obviously, if your service or product hasn’t been rolled out yet, then you’re flying a bit blind. In that scenario, you’ll have to focus your inquiries on the competing companies and products that are most similar to yours. You’ll just have to do your best to learn from the successes and failures of others.

Now it’s time to take all of this info and create your customer personas.

Now the tricky part: actually doing something with all of this data. But your research should have suggested at least a few different classes of potential customers—but no more than four or five—each of which can be condensed into a persona. A tip: Give each of them over-the-top, easy to remember alliterative names, such as Richie Rich, Protestant Pete, or Driven Diane. This will make it easier to use them as shorthand in conversation.

Now this is where you have to put on your writer’s cap. These need to be living, breathing characters, with personalities.  Are they popular? Simple? Egocentric? Competitive? MIT actually has a handy list of positive, neutral, and negative character traits that you can draw inspiration from.

Give them a history. What is their current life situation? Have they been working a steady job, or are they struggling? Do they own a home, or do they not want to be tied down because they love to travel? Do they love a good book, or are they glued to their phones?

If you can start to get inside the head of your personas, then you know that you’ve got a good grip on the process.

Now that you can mentally interact with your personas, now you can start marketing to them. Create content and ads that will appeal to them. Focus your outreach in places where your personas would be likely to see. If you’ve done a good job in creating personas who mirror the real-life people who would want your product, then following your personas’ collective lead will likely lead you to business leads.

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