Best Practices for Creating Buyer Personas

If you don’t currently use buyer personas for your business, you’re likely pouring time and money down the drain. Buyer personas eliminate the guesswork around who you’re selling to and how to reach them.

Buyer personas form the foundation of your marketing strategy, and for good reason. Research shows that personalized campaigns perform 18 times better than generic messaging, and the more you know about your potential customers, the better your personalization.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is an in-depth profile that represents an ideal customer. Each persona represents a category of the customers you’re targeting and includes information about who they are and what they need. These profiles are designed to help you tailor each step of your marketing and sales funnels to correlate with their tastes, challenges, pain points, interests and goals.

Best Practices

Invest Time in Researching Your Buyer Personas

If you’re a B2B business, you likely want to interview 20 past customers. Make sure you include a mix of different decision makers and points of contact at the company to learn from a variety of perspectives. Don’t limit yourself to your best customers, either — you’ll want to learn from the less-than-ideal relationships as well.

Ask questions that will help you learn more about those customers’ priorities, success factors, challenges and goals. According to research by SmartBug Media, the most effective question to ask in buyer persona interviews is, “What has changed in your organization that led you to look for this?” 

Remember that your sales and account services teams are also key resources for developing personas. Learn about the most common questions asked by leads and customers. What pain points, key decision factors or goals do these individuals share?

Include Qualitative and Quantitative Information

Your goal is to create a complete picture of who your ideal customers are and what they seek. Focusing solely on their job title, income, education level and other demographic identifiers will restrict your ability to understand them on a greater level. Ask questions that will help you understand why they are looking for a particular solution, what their biggest goals and challenges are, and which communication channels they favor and why. Add details about their lifestyle and personal goals, the roles they play outside of work, and how they choose to spend their free time. This information will help you tailor your content and personalize your sales and marketing touchpoints.

Stick to Three or Four Personas

Think quality over quantity. According to Mark W. Schaefer, three to four personas account for roughly 90% of a company’s sales. The more personas you create, the fewer differences there are among them, which makes segmentation more difficult. If you don’t have enough information about a specific persona to write a full profile about them, it probably isn’t useful or relevant. Scrap it and focus on the core personas who matter the most to your business.

Use Personas Across All Activities

Your teams in marketing, sales, account management, customer service, PR, content and design should all be working from a shared understanding of your company’s personas. This includes everyone in the business that is directly or indirectly involved with leads or customers. To get started, here are 14 specific ways to implement your buyer personas across your company.

Know When to Add or Remove Personas

As a rule of thumb, add a persona whenever you notice a strong set of patterns in your lead or customer data that comprises a new customer type. Do you keep seeing leads from a particular region, industry, company size or job level? Data shows us the bigger picture and gives us clues about who our personas should be.

Your personas need to stay relevant, so you will likely find yourself needing to remove a buyer persona down the road. As soon as a persona is too vague, too challenging or costly for your business, or in need of solutions outside of your company’s core competencies, it’s time to let them go. Goodbyes are never easy, but we promise that this kind pays off. 

Know Who You Are

You can’t be all things to all people, so focus on attracting the right people.

Creating negative personas — fictional representations of who you don’t want as customers — will save you time and frustration. Whether this kind of customer is too expensive to acquire or simply a bad fit, you want to identify them early and know how to move on to the next prospect.

Develop this persona as you would a regular buyer persona, providing as many helpful details as possible. Base this persona on trends, past experiences, and knowledge of your company’s strengths and areas of expertise. These negative personas will help your sales and marketing teams identify and flag leads that fit the description. Altogether, this means increased ROI of sales and marketing efforts, and fewer frustrating relationships with customers or clients who are a bad fit.

Assess Your Content Against Your Personas

Use your personas as a tool for evaluating the relevance of your existing website and blog content. Is each piece of content connected to a buyer persona? If a blog post, whitepaper or article has no value for your personas, it’s not worth the real estate it takes up on your website. If possible, update it to reflect the needs and questions of a relevant persona. Otherwise, delete it entirely and focus on creating new content.

Note that even the most fully-developed buyer persona is worthless unless it is implemented. Keep your buyer personas front of mind and talk about them with your team to the point where you can bet what your personas would say if they were sitting at the table with you.

For more resources on creating buyer personas, check out the links below:

HubSpot Sample Buyer Persona

HubSpot: The Science of Building Better Buyer Personas

The Buyer Persona Institute’s Five Rings of Buying Insight

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