The Whiteboard: Buyer personas can help you understand customer perceptions
Creating buyer personas can be an important part of the marketing and branding process.
They help a company imagine their customer in a more fully dimensional way by going well beyond demographics into psychographic territory. For instance, knowing that many of your customers are clustered in a group of women, ages 24-45, is a basic demographic snapshot. But knowing that within that group are customer personas who see themselves as mentors to younger members of their work team, or are twice as likely to volunteer for community service, can provide valuable insight into how to market to them.
There are different formulas for creating buyer personas, but most contain elements such as basic demographics (age, income, marital status, rent/own), background (professions, responsibilities, interests), goals (work or personal) and challenges (to achieving the goals). The content for these elements is highly relevant to your brand and what your products or services are, of course. Other components to a persona can include real quotes that reflect typical attitudes, common objections to buying your product or service, and how your company and your brand can serve them well and make them loyal customers.
So, for example, let’s say you own a short-run printing and graphics business. Much of what you print is considered marketing materials, but many of your customers are actually administrators with smaller companies and perform many tasks during the day. We’ll call this persona “The Cat with Many Hats.” You determine that this persona is more likely to be female, feels stressed all day long and juggles many projects at once. She is price-sensitive and trying to get a lot done between 9 and 5 each day.
Because “printing” sounds limiting, you may see your brand as providing marketing solutions to a wide range of companies and organizations. This persona is not likely to initially respond well to a “marketing expertise” message. What she wants is efficient printing service that’s on time and on budget. But if you feel that a key part of your brand as a printer is the service aspect, you can easily adapt to winning this persona’s trust by getting her fast estimates and providing mistake-free work. Later, as you earn her trust, you can begin introducing how you can help her make her projects better and improve her marketing.
A key part of developing reliable personas is to be sure to use actual market research to back it up. Don’t wing it, or base it on a few good customers. Conduct surveys, find out how your customers spend their days and listen to how they make requests to get insight into their thinking patterns.
A good tip from buyerpersona.com: don’t reverse engineer your product to fit a persona. For example, if your selling proposition is “we sell affordable turnkey website solutions,” don’t simply say that buyer persona A is looking for turnkey website solutions. Far more likely, and again research will help verify this, is this buyer wants a better website, but fears a drawn-out development process like the last one she experienced.
Buyer personas can reflect your current customer base or they can be aspirational. But it’s important to know the difference. A printing business may want to reach more marketing professionals with its services because of the high potential volume of printing and graphics purchases. However, the persona analysis should also recognize that this is a tough audience to reach, and one that may more readily consider the business a “printer” than a “marketer,” meaning new strategies for persuading this type of prospect may have to be developed.
Creating a few buyer personas can really help a marketing team focus the brand and develop appealing messages that resonate with their customer base. It’s a subjective exercise, but one that can bring great clarity.
David Taylor is president of Lancaster-based Taylor Brand Group, which specializes in brand development and marketing technology. Contact him via www.taylorbrandgroup.com.