Buyer personas are a critical component of any successful marketing campaign. Without them, you cannot hope to create advertisements that appeal to your customers and encourage them to choose your product. Why? Because your ads are going to real people with unique circumstances.
What are Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to their specific needs, behaviors, and concerns.
The strongest buyer personas are based on market research and on insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas or as many as 10 or 20. (Note: If you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas later.)
What are Negative Personas?
Whereas a buyer persona is a representation of an ideal customer, a negative or “exclusionary” persona is a representation of who you don’t want as customer. This could include professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, students who are only engaging with your content for research/knowledge, or potential customers who are just too expensive to acquire (because of a low average sale price, propensity to churn, or unlikeliness to purchase again from your company). Defining negative personas is just as important as defining buyer personas.
How to Use Personas
At the most basic level, personas allow you to personalize or target your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead-nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about each. Negative personas allow you to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a lower cost per lead (and see higher sales productivity). When combined with the lifecycle stage (i.e. how far along someone is in your sales cycle), buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content. For instance, Nike doesn’t send all of their customers the same ads. They target running ads to running magazines or web portals, while their basketball ads appear during basketball games or on basketball-focused web portals. You should treat your customers the same way.
How to Create Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. This includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside of your contact database who align with your target audience. Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas:
- Interview customers either in person or over the phone to discover what they like about your product or service.
- Look through your contact database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms. You could also gather information on which forms of social media your leads use by asking a question about social media accounts.
- Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they are interacting with most. (What types of sales cycles does your sales team work with? What generalizations can they make about the types of customers you serve best?)
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