Aged 30 to 50, educated, tech-savvy, gross monthly income between 2,000 and 3,000 euros: for a long time, companies have made do with target groups that filter out a fairly general pool of customers.
This traditional form of communication aimed at target groups does not address specifically defined individuals. But that is exactly what modern marketing is aimed at. That is where the buyer persona method comes in: it is not a replacement for traditional target groups, but rather it identifies more precise circles of people within the group.
These personas play an important role in the customer journey, because they can account for individual customer types more precisely; they show how real people – rather than nameless groups – deal with problems, what paths they follow and what role your product can play in their search for solutions.
Definition: buyer persona
The buyer persona is the fictional image of a template customer in a certain target group. Entrepreneur Alan Cooper developed this method. His idea: giving the target group a character with a face in order to create more effective and personal content marketing.
The development of buyer personas is based on comprehensive data analysis and provides authentic and specific findings about the needs, wishes, challenges and behaviour patterns of your customers. This focused data simplifies your communication and makes tailored content possible: because your marketing strategy is aimed at a person rather than a group.
The broad collection of keywords of a target group is not sufficient for the profile of a person. The profiles contain a more detailed background story, as well as individual characteristics and aims in life. The profiles are based on data from genuine customers.
How do you develop your buyer persona?
Buyer personas are based on qualitative and quantitative data. These partly come from the results that you have already collated on your target groups using modern analysis tools like Google Analytics, and partly come from market research: surveys and personal interviews with existing customers, potential customers and people who could be relevant for your target group.
With this method, you are not looking for the exception in your target group, but rather your persona describes the cross-section of your customer group. In order to create an informative and relevant profile, the catalogue of questions should be designed to be as in-depth as possible and as general as necessary in terms of content. The aim of the questioning is to track down similarities within the surveyed group.
To create the most precise and comprehensive profile possible, representatives from the areas of the company with customer contact should develop the questions together. This includes team leaders from sales, marketing and customer management, for example.
Example questions for creation of a persona:
- What is the sociodemographic background of the person?
- What occupational group do they belong to?
- What is their position there?
- What professional and personal aims drive them?
- What private or professional challenges do they face?
- How high is their income?
- What do they buy?
- How much do they buy each month?
- How much do they spend on average?
- Why do they buy the product?
- What purchasing behaviour can be established?
- Do they have preferred brands?
- What sources do they use to find information?
- Are they very active on the Internet?
- What leads to a purchase decision?
The profile of a buyer persona
The ‘profiles’ of buyer personas provide a clear summary of the results of the surveys. They help your employees to identify better with the persona. This alone considerably improves customer communication and content marketing.
The profile of a buyer persona is never static. You can keep your personas up to date with new findings from recent data analyses and market research. Since the target group that is being focused on does not comprise just one typical customer, it is often the case that more than one profile is created, with each persona aimed at a different offer. The more products you offer, the more personas you need in order to always reach the right target with your communication strategy.
The essential elements of the profile include:
- Name and image: how do you imagine the persona?
- Demographics: who is this person?
- Needs and aims: what do they want and need?
- Activities and interests: what characterises them?
- Motivation: why is your product the solution?
Example profile buyer persona
How do you use the buyer persona?
Modern marketing needs to operate in lots of channels. The significance of the Internet in this context is always increasing: social media, search engines, blogs and forums are important points of contact for consumers to find out about products and experiences with them – and to generate touchpoints
Your buyer persona describes the customer group you already reach and those you still want to reach. This requires information about the paths the personas follow in real life and what measures can be used to make them convinced by your product.
An analysis of the customer journey provides information on this. Since with a buyer persona you only need to follow a particular person on their digital trip, the customer journey can be understood a lot more precisely and quickly. This also allows you to identify touchpoints more easily, in order to develop measures that influence the customer journey in your favour.
The results of the data analyses can be clearly presented in a customer journey map. The most relevant touchpoints determine the measures you use to attract attention to your product: depending on the results, that might be with banners, sponsored posts or testimonials, for example.
Through use of the buyer persona method, you not only get to know your customers better, you also find out a lot quicker where they often spend time. That allows you to adjust content and advertising materials precisely to the needs of your customers: orienting the form of address, graphics, headlines, content and, not least, the product itself to the specific personas and their requirements.
What do you need to be particularly aware of?
If you are just getting started with buyer personas, it is better not to develop too many profiles. One to three personas are enough, because initially, your entire communication needs to be reoriented. That takes time and inevitably requires a phase where the old and new communication strategies run in parallel.
Avoid a direct reference to what you offer in the surveys, because a completely unbiased view of the people is needed for the creation of the persona. You should also avoid defining profiles that reflect each other, because personas that are too similar lead to identical findings.
How does the company benefit from buyer personas?
Rather than ‘all potential customers out there’, you are now addressing that specific person over there at the touchpoint: buyer personas allow for targeted communication with a smaller, but much more valuable, group of people.
At the same time, your customers feel understood, because you can address their needs and problems directly with your communication. That encourages a purchase decision in your favour.The very precise customer images created make much more effective content marketing and sales work possible, which then reduces the dispersion coefficient, lowers marketing costs and improves resource planning. The buyer persona is thus a win-win situation for both sides: your company and your target groups.