When marketing, one of the first things business owners are taught is to know their audience when marketing and advertising. It’s a tried-and-true marketing expectation and it’s easy to see why….it works!
However, while the general idea of ‘knowing one’s audience’ is intuitive, the process of getting to know that audience can be difficult! You probably know that the best way of knowing your marketing audience is to break your customer base into clearly defined segments. These are typically known as ‘buyer personas’ in the marketing industry.
That general idea is helpful but comes with its own challenges. How do you make buyer personas? Should you target multiple buyer personas? Do buyer personas overlap? What are some common buyer persona mistakes?
We’re going to answer these questions and more with some of JSL Marketing & Web Design’s best practices for creating buyer personas!
What is a Buyer Persona?
As mentioned before, a buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal client. The buyer persona works as a useful representation of everything your ideal clients have in common and helps you tailor your marketing tactics, messaging, and products to this imaginary person.
Knowing your audience helps keep your marketing on message and tailored to your customers, and buyer personas help streamline this process.
It’s important to remember that buyer personas are sometimes overly simplified and that’s ok! Sometimes, small business owners get too caught up in the process of defining their buyer personas that they overcomplicate the process. Your customers are varied and unique, so any grouping you make will be imperfect – that’s ok!
What’s important is that the grouping is true in some averages. Don’t get in the weeds and create a buyer persona for every possible demographic and in-market combination. That’s an impossible task!
Instead, create 3 to 5 buyer persona identities that are relevant to your most common and/or profitable services and products. (The larger your company, the more diverse the products and services will be, so don’t feel bound to a max of 5 personas if you’re a larger brand.)
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How Do I Create Buyer Personas?
To begin creating buyer personas, we recommend the following process. It will look different from client to client and industry to industry, but this checklist will give you the overarching process of creating stellar buyer personas.
Brainstorm Possible Marketing Audiences
We recommend creating a list of all the possible benefits and advantages your product and service can offer and what pain points those advantages solve. Once you have that list, begin thinking through who might need those pain points solved. From there, walk through the potential characteristics and behavior of those hypothetical personas. After that, it’s time to test your assumptions!
Test Your Persona Assumptions
The brainstorming you did in the first step is a useful exercise, but now it’s time to put your ideas to the test.
Many business owners have a lot of assumptions about who their customer base is and then are shocked to find out that those assumptions are wrong! It’s so important to have data behind your assumptions from step 1!
Reach out to JSL Marketing & Web Design for help with market research & testing your buyer personas!
Narrow Down Your Personas
Now that you have some data and have verified the accuracy, split the personas out a bit further. When possible, make sure there is little crossover between personas. This will be a bit difficult, but really try to be detailed to the point where the personas are entirely distinct from each other.
Try to think through the following questions while doing so.
- What is the buyer’s gender and age?
- What is the buyer’s household income?
- Does the buyer live in an urban, suburban or rural environment?
- What are the buyer’s most common objections?
- How can your product or service help solve the buyer’s challenges?
Don’t hesitate to add industry or region-specific questions as needed! It also can be useful to assign ‘real’ pictures and names to your personas, just to reiterate that these are real people, not disembodied abstracts!
The main goal of personas is to help you tailor your messages and value propositions to your audience! A good rule of thumb would be to ask yourself if your message will resonate with your imaginary customer!
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Common Market Research Mistakes
We’ve been around the marketing block a few (hundred…thousand…million?) times and have learned a lot in the process! Here are some of the more common errors we see businesses make when creating target audiences on their own.
- Your Target Audience is Too Large: Advertising to adults 18-65 is fairly simple, but doing it well is almost impossible. If your buyer persona includes groups as disparate as college students and retirees, then your messaging will likely fail to resonate with anyone. Focus in on a more narrowly defined demographic.
- Your Target Audience is Too Small: Inversely, focusing all of your marketing efforts into a niche demographic like “Vegan Moms with 3 +Kids, Household Incomes>$100,000 who work in the Legal Industry” isn’t helpful either. You might produce great content and messaging that moves your target demographic to action but you’re probably missing ‘the forest’ of possible clients for ‘the tree’ of this perfect buyer persona and will be doing a lot of research for little traction. This strategy could work if your product or service is a high-end, expensive offering where only a handful of sales could be profitable. However, this isn’t the right approach for most businesses. Instead, broaden your perfect persona out to something like “Working Moms, Household Incomes> $60,000.” You’ll still be creating targeted messaging and content but will be attracting a wider swath of customers.
- You Only Created One Buyer Persona: Imagine a craft brewery, based in Dallas, with different lines of beer that are widely available in grocery stores in the state of Texas. Their mainstay “White Collar Men 45-65” buyer persona might be the correct target audience for most of their grocery-store craft beers, but that’s not necessarily the persona for every product! Let’s say this brewery is able to do some more research and discovers that their new hard seltzer is very popular with Men and Women 21-30. These different offerings need different corresponding buyer personas, as the ad message that resonates with a 55-year-old male banker will likely not impress a female college student. Maybe they also discover that the patrons of their restaurant and bar are mostly “Men and Women 30-45” and are more interested in fun in-house events than they are in specific drinks or meals. These are three very different buyer personas and they all require unique messaging.
- You Didn’t Create a Negative Persona: Creating a negative persona is sometimes a valuable process as well! Let’s say our fictitious brewery decides that they want to create a persona of who typically doesn’t purchase their beer. Through market research, this brewery decides that they should avoid targeting “Men 21-30” when promoting their craft beers, as this demographic typically isn’t willing to pay higher prices for our brewery’s beverages. By identifying the negative personas, our brewery can keep on message to their target demographics!
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Now that you’ve thought through your personas, what’s the best way of organizing the information? As a rule of thumb, make sure that you have the following information finalized when filling out a buyer persona.
Let’s imagine a company that sells high-end hiking equipment, mostly boots, tents, canteens, and the like. Their buyer persona worksheet could look something like this.
- Persona Name: Dan the “Office Hobbyist”
- Demographics: White males 22-35, white collar, HHI between $50,000 and $70,000.
- Overview: Mostly urban and suburban, these “office hobbyists” don’t hit the trails enough to justify paying top dollar but have enough disposable income and vacation time for mid-level hiking equipment. They’re not climbing Mount Everest, but they are moderately experienced.
- Challenges or Pain Points: As this is a mostly urban and suburban demographic, putting money for upper-level gear can seem like a waste vs mid-level gear. The high-quality nature of our products at a mid-level price point is often a differentiator in the market, as this demographic is advanced enough to undertake more difficult outdoor adventures. Past ad campaigns around relatively challenging hikes in U.S. national parks resonated well with this persona.
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Putting together amazing buyer personas is a profitable endeavor, but it is not easy! The days of business owners are filled with plenty of other obligations and researching, testing, and crafting market segments is not simple work. It can be hard to find the time to do it right.
Enlist the market research and brand experts at JSL Marketing & Web Design to help create your perfect marketing strategy!
Our team has years of experience in market research, web design, branding, graphic design, and marketing to drive growth for your business! Our “tried-and-true” experience isn’t just a matter of years: it’s recognized across the digital marketing industry!