What is a buyer persona?

Have you ever been served an ad for jeans that better suit your mom? Or received an email hyping pool cleaner in the dead of New England winter? It’s likely that the companies behind those promotions don’t understand or simply don’t deploy buyer personas.

Buyer personas are representations of ideal customers that provide insight into the customer psyche and help marketers target their strategy. The more developed your personas, the more tailored (and engaging) your marketing tactics. In fact, personas should live at the heart of all your company’s efforts (and every tactic therein) because they personalize the customer experience and help you deliver the right solution to the right customer at the right time.

So, how do you develop buyer personas?

Research, research, research. Look to surveys, analytics, focus groups and customer-facing employees. Scour your database for trends and use contact forms to capture important data from your buyers directly. And while you don’t need to note every detail about your ideal buyer to create a persona, you’ll want to consider each of the following factors and how they might affect the way you do business:

  • Demographics

Information like age, gender, geography and language can influence the kinds of products you develop, the social networks you leverage and even the languages your website supports. Demography plays a key role in the development of buyer personas and marketing in general. Ignore them at your own risk.

  • Stomping Grounds

Where do your buyers hang out? Do they prefer email to social media? LinkedIn to Facebook? Online communities to face-to-face events? The answers to these questions will help you better understand where your buyers are, so you can be there, too!

  • Firmographics

B2B companies in particular should consider the characteristics of the companies their ideal buyers work for. What size is the company? What is its annual revenue? Which industry is it in? A company that sells standing desks, for example, may want to avoid buyers employed by retail industries where employees are unlikely to need desks at all. Understanding the types of organizations that employ your buyers will help you determine whether they are a good fit.

  • Job Function

Job function is especially critical to B2B personas. Just don’t confuse job title with function. There are plenty of marketing “managers” with no direct reports or business development “analysts” whose primary duties involve cold calling. A job title can be misleading and offer little in the way of what a persona actually does.

A job function, on the other hand, describes your buyers’ real-life day-to-day activities. When considering your buyers’ job functions, ask yourself: What are their key responsibilities? Do they have a budget? Who do they report to? These questions will help you better understand where your personas fit in the buying cycle.

For B2C companies, job function becomes less important though it can supply insight into lifestyle and buying power, especially when combined with our other factors.

  • Goals

Goals drive decisions. Knowing the goals of your ideal buyer will arm you with the knowledge you need to help your customers exceed them. Be sure you understand not only your buyers’ goals but also the priority of those goals, so you can address them accordingly.

  • Pain Points

In the words of J.K. Rowling, “To hurt is as human as to breathe.”  All buyers have pain points. They can be as simple as trying to make an online purchase without a credit card or as complex as implementing a new software platform. The sooner you learn your buyer’s pain points, the sooner you can offer a solution the will ease the path to purchase.

Once you’ve sufficiently researched your buyers, take the time to develop 3-5 personas based on what you’ve learned. Write them down. Formalize them. And most importantly, socialize them! Get everyone on your team on board. Remember that well-honed buyer personas will help you deliver a 1:1 customer experience for all of your marketing efforts—from lead nurture campaigns to content development to web design and beyond. So make your personas count and target your “mom jeans” ads to moms.