The term ‘buyer persona’ may be everyday nomenclature for marketers and sales professionals, but in some organizations, those on the post-sales side of the business may not realize that understanding and developing buyer personas is not just for marketing and selling, but can also make a dent in your goal of improving customer experience.
Although buyer personas can be used to accomplish sometimes disparate goals across multiple departments, they can and should be universally used as a technique to understand and connect with your target audience on a deeper level, creating a seamless customer experience.
Why is connecting with your target audience in this way so important?
Well, when you truly understand your audience (this could apply to customers, partners, or prospects), you’re able to interact with them in a way that adds value and builds trust, and therefore loyalty, to their relationship with your company. Regardless of the industries you serve, this concept can be invaluable in building the strong, long-lasting relationships that are critical to your success.
What are buyer personas, and why are they important?
So, what is a buyer persona? A persona can be defined in various ways depending on the person you ask, but from a general perspective, a persona can simply be classified as:
A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers’ motivational factors: demographics, behavioral patterns, fears, desires, pains, purchasing habits, internal/external influences, challenges, and personal beliefs.
Although we state ‘customer’ in the definition, a persona can be applicable to partners, prospects, or any other target audience you are trying to communicate with – even employees or colleagues. Maybe each of your customer segments has its own persona. Each audience will have their own persona based on their individual motivational factors.
The key is to accumulate as much information as possible that can be used to develop a well-rounded persona for each of your target audiences (keep reading for tips on how to go about this). The more data you can curate, the more comprehensive your persona will be – which will be instrumental to understanding your persona’s motivational factors.
When you understand your buyer persona’s motivational factors, you have a window into what causes them to act; and, when you know what causes them to act, you can create communication that resonates with them on a personal level.
Segmentation and the customer experience
Creating buyer personas is a critical first step, but this concept can be taken one step further: you must also acknowledge that a buyer persona is not a fixed model, it is a lifecycle. Your personas will continuously be flowing through the various stages in their experiential journey with your company, from the prospect funnel, to the customer lifecycle, and sometimes to the partner landscape. Their current stage will determine their present persona.
Though many of your personas will begin at the same opening stages of this lifecycle – and will share common fears, goals, and desires – as their relationship with you grows and evolves, so too will their motivational factors. As they move from one lifecycle stage to another, having well-developed buyer personas will enable you to keep the customer experience consistent, despite their evolving wants and needs. Consider this scenario:
A first-time skier visiting Colorado will interact with the plethora of ski resorts in the Rockies much differently than an experienced skier would. The first timer wants to know which mountains will cater to their skill-level, if there are lessons available, what brand and style of skis to buy or rent, and everything else they don’t yet know that they don’t know about the sport. They will be looking for communication that educates them on this new hobby.
Imagine the same skier three years down the road. They are now an experienced skier and will have picked their favorite mountains, learned the best shortcuts, and they regularly visit the slopes that provide them with the ultimate experience. They will still be looking for new ideas, but instead of craving information catered to beginners, they will now be looking for new ideas to take their newly developed skill set even further.
The same company could be communicating with this skier over the course of those three years, but how they communicate will shift over time, looking vastly different on day one than it does on day 1,095.
Understanding your audience in this way will allow you to continually engage and craft messaging that feels like you are speaking directly to them. And by investing the time and effort to develop your personas properly, it will become natural to speak to them in a language that they understand.
So how do you build a buyer persona?
We could easily nerd out on all the nitty gritty details and devote pages and pages just on the topic of creating a buyer persona. But we’ll save you all that reading for now, and cut to a few immediate, actionable steps you can take to begin this process. Start by imagining yourself in your audience’s shoes and answer the following questions:
- What common pain points or challenges are they facing in their professional or personal lives?
- What are their goals? This could be in life, profession, or leisure – think about what success means to them: career advancement, personal well-being, financial stability, etc.
- How do they obtain or search for new information? Do they subscribe to newsletters surrounding a specific topic? Do they follow industry experts online? Are they avid readers and prefer a hard-copy book in their hands?
- What are their demographics? Fill in the typical suspects here – age range, gender, etc.
- How is their job measured? Do they have a financial target to hit? Or other KPIs that they’re measured (and potentially compensated) against?
- What skills are required for their job and what does a typical day look like? Try to understand how they behave on a regular basis.
- What knowledge and tools do they need to succeed? What could help them be even better at the day-to-day work that you uncovered above?
Answering these questions will serve as the foundation for each of your buyer personas. Be as thorough as possible and revisit them often to add additional information as you learn more about your audiences.
Bonus tip: to further develop your personas, try these tactics:
- Create a survey: incorporate a survey in your outgoing communication. Use open-ended questions to better understand your audience’s personal experiences. Be sure you’re on the same page with other departments that regularly send out communication if you haven’t already established who owns your customer communication.
- Pick up the phone: request a phone call to interview your customers, partners, or prospects. Again, check in with the individual or team that owns that relationship before dialing so you don’t step on any toes here or create an unpleasant or inconsistent customer experience.
- Online research: research community forums and social platforms to identify how your audiences communicate with one another and what questions they frequently ask. Start this one yesterday. No stakeholder sign-off is required, and this can easily be done in whatever chunks of free time pop up on your schedule.
Why should you personalize communication?
So, you’ve taken the time to create your buyer personas. Well done! How does that help again? Here are a few benefits of creating buyer personas:
- Build deeper relationships with your audience.
- Improve your partners’, prospects’, and customers’ experience with your brand.
- Create content that resonates with your audience and provides value at each stage of their journey.
- Increase brand loyalty and retention.
- Higher conversion rates – this applies regardless of how you define a conversion.
- Drive revenue and create more opportunities.
Ultimately, having well-developed buyer personas will help you create the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship with your customers, prospects, partners, co-workers, employees, and anyone else you wish to collaborate with.
Ask yourself, are you currently crafting messaging that communicates based on your audience’s motivational factors? If not, you might want to take a step back and invest the time to generate buyer personas. Even if you start with just one, it will lay the foundation for communication that matters to your audience, and in turn, benefits your business.
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Bonus: How are personas used in the real world?
Product recommendations are one of the most widely adopted scenarios that utilize buyer personas – and for good reason. By analyzing your audience’s buyer history, you can then predict the most likely next step in their customer journey.
Imagine a situation where sporting goods manufacturer Salomon is targeting an existing customer of two years. If they notice this customer purchasing a new pair of skis, Salomon knows that the same customer could potentially be in the market for a pair of ski boots as well – creating a prime cross-sell opportunity. Following their buyer persona for this customer, Salomon can generate recommendations for a new pair of ski boots, specific to their motivational factors – increasing the likelihood of capturing their attention and closing the sale.
Conversely, if Salomon follows with an offer for a pair of snowboard boots that can’t be used with the customer’s new skis, they open themselves to the possibility of losing the customer’s attention and the cross-sell opportunity in front of them. Something as seemingly simple as this ill-fitting moment in a customer’s experience with your brand could be the difference between maintaining a lifelong customer or losing the same customer to a competitor.
Think of the companies that do this well: Amazon, Spotify, Netflix, etc. They understand the importance of building personas, customizing their strategy, and catering to the unique needs of each of their buyer audiences, creating that seamless customer experience.
As you go about the rest of your day, take some time to reflect on your audience. Do you have personas you can reference, and does your strategy reflect the motivational factors of each? Regardless of your answer, keep in mind that this is an ongoing process. Start with one persona and build from there.