In today’s inbound marketing environment, buyers are empowered by the information readily available to them and control much of the purchase process. This necessitates marketers to get in front of potential buyers early on and personalize their buying experience. The imperative is to “know your customer.” Marketers sometimes create ‘buyer personas,” an effective technique that allows them to understand, visualize and relate to potential customers and what influences their behavior. This can guide marketing strategies and tactics to focus on a buyer’s needs and effectively accelerate sales.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona represents a common type or category of customer or client; a fictional customer profile is filled out with demographics and psychographics. Enterprises generally have more than one type of buyer they target and so may create multiple buyer personas, identifying traits generally in common with a customer type. An understanding of who its customers are and how they make decisions informs a business as to who comprises its audience of existing customers and potential buyers. Companies often extend the process by creating a fictional profile or narrative for each persona, complete with a name and possibly even a picture and biographical sketch related to different customer base subsets. This may help marketers visualize and relate to potential buyers within that persona type as real people. The results might be anywhere from “Joe Six-Pack” to “Valley Girl.”

Creating personas

Each enterprise will need to determine the specific attributes and appropriate level of detail in creating buyer personas. The goal is to illuminate the specifics of who comprises the buying audience and what motivates them to purchase. A persona would include demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, income, industry, company title or position, and the like at a basic level. At a more advanced level, it would include psychographic information related to interests, attitudes, opinions, and lifestyles.

To be most effective, the personas should be based on research and actual data. Traditional tools used to gather information include such things as focus groups and surveys. An obvious and effective place to start is an existing customer base. Many suggest one-on-one interviews with past and prospective customers, asking such questions as what the buyer is trying to achieve, how the buying decision is made, what the challenges are, what influences the decision, and the primary sources of information.

A buyer persona developed from strong research will give insights into specific motivations, concerns, and attitudes that drive prospective customers’ behavior and decisions – what they are thinking and doing as they weigh options and choices in the buying decision.

Application to marketing strategy

A well-constructed buyer persona can provide a marketer with an informed understanding of who, where, and how to market and align marketing decisions to the potential buyer’s expectations, thereby personalizing the experience, making it more meaningful and relevant to the buyer. Advertising copy and placement, messaging, content, product innovation and development, and customer service can all be tailored to different customer types’ specific needs and behaviors. Marketing efforts that are effectively targeted to buyers create a more efficient process, thereby accelerating sales.

In the words of one author, “… your buyers’ needs will be the focus of your marketing strategies and tactics. You’ll become so attuned to your buyers’ perspective that you will consistently impress them, confidently delivering content that answers their questions and persuades them to choose you.

As the digital information space and e-commerce becomes more and more crowded, with buyers inundated with information, it’s difficult for marketers to get in front of potential buyers and vie for their attention. The purpose of buyer personas is to help marketers understand customers and potential buyers better in order to be able to reach them and communicate more effectively. The technique can allow them to visualize customers as real people, relate to their motivations and concerns, and direct tailored marketing efforts.