A buyer persona is like an ‘identikit’ picture of your ideal customer. It’s a character you create to represent the people who you most want to buy from you. Think of it as a mock-up of your ideal customer. It’s like you’re creating a ‘wanted’ poster from a description, so that person is easier to recognize.
You’ll see personas called other things, like:
- Customer Persona
- Customer Avatar
- Marketing Persona
And a bunch of others.
They all mean the same thing, more or less.
Personas are there to give you a ‘real’ person to direct your marketing and sales efforts toward. They put a name, a face and other details on the abstract data of audience segmentation. Without them, you can feel like you’re marketing to statistics. It’s a lot easier to address a person, even if they’re an invention.
What a Persona Isn’t
What personas are not is a job title or role, a level within the company, or a target market. You’ll want that information in your personas, but it’s not enough by itself. It doesn’t humanize your ideal buyer, and it doesn’t contain enough information to dial in your messaging to their interests.
They’re not tech or tool dependent. Again, the tech or tools your ideal buyers prefer is pretty important information about them. It goes beyond a preference for object 1 over object 2, and speaks to a wider value system. Picture a Linux user, then a Mac user. It’s not just that one tool; it’s a way of looking at things.
And personas are not specific real people. Even your best customer can’t become a persona, because their base is too narrow. They might have quirks that aren’t relevant, or that are totally unique to them, and there’s no way of knowing without knowing more about more of your buyers or target buyers. By all means, start personas with your best customer. But don’t stop there.
What are Personas Good For?
It feels weird and uncomfortable – unnatural – for you, writing copy to a collection of qualitative data. But buyers really hate it.
Remember, buyers are used to personalization on websites, streaming TV services, in marketing emails. If your messages feel dry and generic, your phone calls sound robotic or your blog posts read like they’re written for keywords and not human eyes, you really will be talking into a void: no-one will hear you.
That’s not just true in B2C; it’s arguably more important in B2B. It’s all P2P – person to person – but B2B buyers face significant pressures that mean they’re scanning blog posts and other content for useful, actionable information. You can’t charm them into staying: you have to present value that actually meets their needs.
Personas help you do that by identifying those needs and humanizing the buyer.
Now you’re writing emails, sales letters, listings or sales scripts for Andy the VP Sales, or Jane the Small Business Founder-CEO.
How much more human are you going to feel, and sound?
Personas do the vital work of putting a human face on your segmentation. For instance, it’s pretty common to have a range of provisions for different budgets:
If someone’s eager to save 95p (about 70¢) to have half the speed and disk space, they’re probably in a pretty different position mentally, financially and in other ways to the person who just chooses ‘Business’ automatically and moves on. They’ll see the world differently, care about different things, they might live somewhere different and their business probably looks different too.
In other products, the difference in price is far greater, and therefore the differences between those market segments are likely to be even greater.
Assuming that these audience segments have very different needs as well as pockets that are ten times as deep in one case as another, it’s even more vital to come up with personas that match the differences so your marketing materials, sales collateral and customer support materials (FAQs, knowledge base) match the customer’s needs and interests.
Insight vs Information
Small businesses, startups, agencies and enterprise buyers will have different attitudes. If you only know what they’ve done, it’s tough to predict the future. If you create personas you can gain a level of understanding where you get why they act the way they do. Then you can predict what they’ll do in the future, based on that persona.
For instance, as many as a fifth of American small businesses are running their IT on Windows XP. Why cling to an antiquated operating system that can be emulated in a browser now (assuming you’d want to)? Because most of these operations don’t want to learn new IT skills; they haven’t got the time, the mental energy or the basic know-how. They don’t like XP because it’s good; they tolerate it because it works.
If you know that they still prefer XP, you might think there’s no point trying to sell these folks IT; they’ve had, what, 65 million years to change their minds, and they still prefer dinosaurs, so why bother?
But if you know why they’re sticking with that old OS, you can sell them a new one – because you know what they care about and why, so you can talk to them on their terms.
That insight is what personas exist to deliver to every sales rep, marketer, customer support rep and everyone else in the business. Data can’t bring you face to face with your customers this way.
You have the marketing data you need to address their pain points already. But there’s more to talking to people than addressing pain points.
You also need to be able to talk their language, and relate to them. You need to know hobbies, values, vehicles, vacations. You get a feel for them as a person, so your blog posts, emails and sales copy resonates with them. You’re talking to them, not at them. Again, this is true for B2B too. The idea that B2C is all ‘hey, you guys!’ and B2B is all numbers and figures is wildly mistaken; getting a feel for your audience’s culture and ‘soft’ concerns helps you match your message with what your audience cares about.
That’s what a persona delivers. Some businesses even put posters of their personas on the office walls, or create cardboard cutouts of them to stand over you while you work. Whatever keeps personas top of mind is good.
Need help with your personas – or explaining them to your audience?