While it isn’t always, it should be a standard for all companies to create buyer (or customer) personas. Buyer personas are fictional, generalized personifications of the segments of your target audience. They usually encompass not only demographic information like age, location and income, but also psychographic information like interests, reasons for buying and concerns.
All successful marketing efforts come from successfully communicating with customers. Therefore in order to successfully communicate with your audience, you’re going to have to get to know them. To do so, you start defining them based on their characteristics, needs, and wants, and using that to communicate, or market, to them with a message that resonates with them.
Here we’ll learn how to segment our target audience by building buyer personas for your online business. This will help you laser target your ads and create more compelling content that will engage your ideal customers.
Why buyer personas are important
There are two polar approaches to finding your target audience in digital marketing:
- Cast a wide net and reign in your catch, then fish for that.
- Cast a single in an attempt to catch a certain fish, rinse and repeat as you find out what works and what doesn’t.
In either case, you’re going to arrive at finding out who you are buyers are. The problem with the first method is that it’s the most expensive and the most wasteful if you advertise on it. Unless you’re a huge, household-name company, the second method is going to be the most efficient for a couple reasons. First, as the online commerce space gets increasingly crowded, it’s becoming increasingly important to have ultra targeted ads and communications. Additionally, both the information that can be gathered on users and the tools to target customers have become accessible to the point that anyone can create campaigns to target customers based on a ever-growing list of demographics and psychographics. Really, for the first time in history, new, small-budget online stores can be successful because they have access to very specific audience targeting.
Start by broadly defining your personas
On paper, begin by defining your target audience broad as possible, then drilling down into more specifics. Most likely you will come up with more than one.
For example, let’s use a fictitious online businesses that manufactures and sells super durable military gear. We will call it DuraMil Gear.
Because our fictitious company manufactures their own gear, it’s easy to spot two potential groups of buyers:
- End Consumer – These are customers that are purchasing for themselves or as a gift for another person.
- Wholesale Accounts – This would include wholesale buyers from other businesses that may want to sell Bold Socks in their own retail and online stores.
Without getting too into the weeds, it’s important to note that this simple exercise has already brought to light the advantages and disadvantages of either audience – one is a higher frequency of smaller orders while the margins stay high, the other is less frequent larger orders, and low margins. Now, let’s get back into it.
Now that we have two very broad buying groups, and each one can be be broken down further. So for example, the first group, End Consumer can definitely be broken down into a few buyer personas.
Depending on the type of product you’re selling you may splitting your personas differently, however, in this particular case, we will divide the end consumer up into two distinct personas:
- People employed in military and law enforcement.
- People who airsoft and paintball.
- Now that we have defined our initial buyer personas broadly, it’s time to dive deeper into some key characteristics about them.
- Narrow the focus by diving into persona details
- When it comes to defining in detail your customer personas, where do you start? There’s a lot of possible information you could research, use and define, however, a great place to start is by looking at what details will be important to your audience’s purchasing decisions? How will you communicate with them?
Below are some major characteristics that influence buying decisions:
- Physical Location – Where do people from this persona live?
- Web Hangout – Where do people from this persona hangout on the web?
- Excluding Location – Where do people from this persona not live?
- Age – What is the age range of this persona?
- Gender – What is the gender of people in this persona?
- Interests – What are the interests of people in this persona?
- Education Level – What is the education level of this persona?
- Job Title – What field of work do your customer work in and what types of job titles do they carry?
- Income Level – What is the income range of this buyer persona?
- Relationship Status – What is the relationship status of this buyer persona?
- Language – What languages do people in this persona speak?
- Favorite Websites – Why type of websites do people in this persona frequent?
- Buying Motivation – What is this personas reasons for buying your product?
- Buying Concerns – What is this personas concerns when buying your product?
While you don’t need to answer all of these questions about each of your personas and you may even opt to answer different questions altogether, the purpose should always be to understand your customers more to be able to communicate more effectively, as well as to be able to target your ads more precisely.
Research your buyer personas
To begin, you’ll start with some research and fill in the gaps with assumptions and educated guesses about your target audience.
If You Already Run An Established Business…
If you have an already established online business, there are tools you likely already have set up that can help you better understand who your current customers are. Some of these tools include Facebook Insights (if you have a Facebook Business page), as well as Google Analytics, you may even be able to use data from your own customer lists. You want to gather as much information as you can on your website visitors to use in your marketing.
To understand your personas psychographics in depth, your best bet is to talk to your existing customers. There are few effective way to do this:
- Pick up the phone and call them.
- Surveying your customers with a tool like Google Forms.
- Schedule an in person interview.
Since they’re already a customer, they’re the type of customer you want more of, so understanding their motivations, triggers, and concerns can help you more effectively communicate with people similar to them.
If You’re Just Getting Your Business Started…
If you don’t have an online business already established, you’re going to have to put together some educated guesses using the solution you’re offering to the the type of people who need that solution.
Much like if you have an existing business, you’re going to want to get some real life qualitative data from potential customers by communicating with possible customers. We did this buy looking on LinkedIn and Reddit for people that seemed to fit our buyer persona and asking them to fill out a google survey. For our fictitious business, DuraMil Gear, we might ask our army buddies, go to Facebook group, or some other place where our target audience is and ask them a few questions about who they are, what motivates them to purchase, and what their fears on when purchasing gear online.
Additionally, you can also use services like SimilarWeb or SEMRush to analyze the traffic of your biggest competitors to help you put together more information on your audience.
How To Use Buyer Personas
With all of your buyer personas defined, you should now have a much better idea of who, how, and where you should be marketing to achieve the greatest level of success. The information of each persona will help you target your ads more effectively, and the psychographic information can help you create more engaging visual and copy for each particular persona.
Going back to our DuraMil example, you could go back to the same Facebook group to advertise. You could also come up with a list of keywords that those people might use to advertise on Google.
Remember, Personas Will Evolve And Change
It’s important to remember that your personas will change as you discover more information about your major types of customers and what motivates them. Especially when you’re first starting out and creating personas for a brand new business, much of you customer personas will likely be based on personal thoughts, feelings and hunches. However, as your business progresses and you makes sales, you will start learning a lot more about your core customers.
As you learn more, don’t forget to go back and continually re-define your buyer personas to ensure you’re targeting your potential customers most effectively.
As mentioned previously, your buyer personas will likely change as you learn new information and you may even discover entirely new buyer personas altogether as your business grows.
With defined buyer personas your ad targeting and communication stands a much better chance. From increased engagement on your social media channels to a greater ROI for your online ads, taking the time upfront to define your buyer personas can help your online business succeed by better knowing and understanding your core customers.