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How to Define Data-Driven Buyer Personas that Produce Results


Advanced Strategies / June 19, 2018

What is a Buyer Persona?

Humans are predictable. Our behaviour, our likes and dislikes can be easily grouped into classifiable buckets. Where we shop, what we enjoy, where we live… all are driven by our interests, pain points and demographics. While we may think we are unique, the reality is most of us also fit easily into clearly defined market segments.

If you sell things online, you probably already know a lot about the people who are buying from you. It’s also possible that you want to reach an ideal customer who is not currently coming to your website. Either way, it’s important to understand the types of people who you currently, or want to, sell to.

Buyer personas are simply profiles of your current and target customers. They help you get up close and personal with your market, enabling you to align your marketing strategy to better engage and convert your ideal customers.

Most buyer personas consist of a little story about a person, couple or family. It introduces the target customer, gives the person a name and locates them geographically. Then it drills down into their needs, interests and values. What does your target persona do for a living? What do they do for fun? And most importantly, what do they buy and how do they engage with your market segment?

Here’s an example of a persona for a travel company that targets baby boomers:

Alex is a 60-year-old entrepreneur living in Arizona. He’s a CTO of a technology company he built himself over a couple decades. He’s a pragmatic technologist. Alex is not wealthy, but he is successful. He and his wife Karen own a house in the suburbs. They don’t have kids, but they do have two terriers they’re very attached to. Alex and Karen lead a quiet life. They enjoy food and wine, like hiking and kayaking, and have a handful of close friends in their age group.

Alex is not retired, but he is working less with the goal of taking more vacations with Karen. They’ve booked a trip to Italy in the fall, and are busy researching accommodation. They’re not luxury travellers, but they want to travel in comfort… their backpacking days are over. Karen and Alex are looking into renting a villa in Tuscany. They want a place that lets them easily take day excursions to neighbouring towns. Alex is not sure about Airbnb. He doesn’t feel comfortable staying in someone else’s home. He knows what he wants — a private, rentable holiday villa — but is not sure how to find it.

Why have a buyer persona? 

Buyer personas are the most effective way to truly understand what motivates your ideal customers. The process of researching, writing and explaining who your customers are helps you empathize and get inside their world.

Multiple personas make it easy for teams to segment and target content marketing or a marketing strategy. Personas create an easy frame of reference for understanding how much information a specific persona needs, what kinds of images and copy resonate with them, and which products they’re most likely to respond to.

Over time, you get to know your personas better and better. Many brands and agencies affectionately refer to their personas as if they were part of the team. These personas quickly become part of the internal language around a particular brand; they help everyone align. For example, an agency may write a creative brief for its team that only references “The Marthas” as the target market. Everyone on the team already knows who The Marthas are, what they need, and how to speak to them.

How to define buyer personas

Data is your friend when it comes to drafting buyer personas. You want to use your historical Google Analytics data to learn who your current customers are. And you want to use third-party demographic research to learn about your desired, or aspirational, customers.

Using Analytics and other customer data to know your current customers

Google Analytics is a goldmine of customer insights. If you haven’t already, make sure you have enabled Demographics and Interests reports in Google Analytics. This will allow you to see additional information about the people who visit your site.

Once these reports are set up, you’ll want to give Analytics a few weeks to gather relevant data. Demographics will allow you to see the age and gender of your visitors. Click on Interests > Affinity categories to learn more about your visitors’ lifestyles. And click on In-Market segments to get information on the types of products and services your visitors are searching for.

Customer feedback from surveys and social media  

Surveys are also a very useful tool for gathering information about your customers. Tools such as SurveyMonkey allow you to develop surveys on the fly to find answers to specific questions about who your personas are and what they are looking for when they visit your site.

Similarly, social media networks provide a wealth of information about the people who engage with your brand. Use Facebook Insights to gather data on the gender, age and location of people who visit your page and react to your posts. Take note that your Facebook visitors are not necessarily your customers! They may represent a segment of your customer base but it’s possible that some demographics visit and buy from your site but do not engage with you on Facebook. And similarly, some demographics may engage with your social media posts, but not buy from you. Take time to compare the types of people who engage on social media versus those who are actually shopping on your website.

Creating a well-rounded buyer persona

A solid buyer persona is comprised of demographic information, which describes your buyer’s age, location, family status, household income, etc.; and psychographic information, which describes what motivates your persona — the emotional needs they are meeting when they visit and shop on your site.

Once you identify who your current or desired customers are, there is a ton of free and readily available market research online that you can use to complete the psychographic profile of your personas. When trying to understand your buyer personas, we find it useful to think of someone you know well who matches each of your buyer personas. By imagining that your persona is a friend or family member you can fill in a lot of information about them — what do you know about this person? What do they worry about? What makes them happy? What are their goals, values and motivations?

Develop your buyer insights

After each persona is defined, you’ll be able to dig into how different personas interact with your products, services and offers. Are they deal hunters? What are their pain points? Are they looking for quality over quantity? Do they shop for fun, or for utility? What was the tipping point that drove them to search for your product or service? Are there specific features or offers that they are actively looking for?

During this process, try to view your website and offer through the eyes of your various personas. What’s missing? What are they looking for that you are not offering them? What are your competitors doing to attract and convert these personas that you’re not?

How to use buyer personas

Once developed, buyer personas become your anchor. They ground and orient all your online and offline marketing communications. Whenever you plan and brief for new content or a new campaign, begin by identifying your target personas. Who are you talking to? Why do they need this offer, information, product or service? How do you get their attention?

Ways to use your personas:

  • Share your personas with your customer service and sales teams. This will help them communicate more effectively with current and potential customers.
  • Use your personas to align your content marketing efforts. What kinds of content, campaigns or information will best engage, inform and support each of your personas?
  • Develop specific email, search, advertising and market campaigns for each demographic. Drive these campaigns to dedicated landing pages that speak to personas’ needs and interests.
  • Create lead generation campaigns around your personas’ unique pain points. What can you offer them as a unique solution that will inspire them to sign up or share their email addresses?

Take time to develop and revisit your personas

Yes, developing buyer personas is an extra step that will take time, resources and effort. But once created, they’ll align, orient and simplify your other marketing efforts. Over time your business, your market and your personas will evolve. We recommend revisiting your personas whenever your offering changes, or once a year, to make sure they’re still relevant and to take into consideration emerging demographics and new markets.

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Jay Arsenault

SEO Analyst @ Bloom


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