Building buyer personas and keeping them up to date

Creating buyer personas
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Buyer personas are a core part of establishing a successful marketing campaign. Many businesses use them to identify their audience and cater best to them. But times change and so do people, so keeping your personas up to date is vital not just for your marketing efforts, but for your bottom line.

For the uninitiated, buyer personas are fictional, generalised representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your audience and prospective customers better, and make it easier for you to tailor content to the specific needs of different groups. Buyer personas are a crucial component of any successful marketing campaign.

At the most basic level, personas allow you to personalise 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 those different personas.

Based on your buyer persona information, you can plan highly targeted and optimised content such as infographics, evergreen content and blogs that appeal specifically to your target audience. This in turn will secure more engagement, and drive traffic to your site, resulting in higher rankings in the search engines for your key business terms.

If you take the time to also create negative personas, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the bad apples from the rest of your contacts that can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer, and see higher sales productivity.

Building your perfect customer

Buyer personas are created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside of your contact database who might 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 contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content
  • When creating forms to use on your website, use fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about revenue or employee numbers. You could also gather information on what 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 cycle does your sales team work with? What generalisations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?

Many buyer personas are created with the assumption that the person buying something is the same person using it, but this isn't always the case. When selling to businesses, the buying process isn't always as linear as when you're selling products to consumers. Though your product may end up in the hands of a payroll team or the marketing department, it might be a director of the company, CFO or secretary that ultimately makes the decision to buy.

Remember, buyer personas are designed to reveal insights into the problems and passions that fuel buyer behaviour. Understanding the end-user may be helpful for product development, but if they aren't part of the purchasing funnel, you don't need their data.

Keeping your personas up to date

Has your job title changed in the last year? Do you find yourself favouring chunky peanut butter over smooth these days? People change, the world changes and our perception of brands is just as subjective to change. One of the biggest mistakes companies make when developing personas is thinking the persona is complete once it’s developed. While the initial development of a persona is a single event, personas should be refined and re-established if they’re expected to remain effective.

If your content is good, but not converting, your buyer persona may need attention.

Unless you’re planning a major shift in your business strategy or your products, your initial personas will likely remain very similar. However, as the market changes, you can expect certain persona responses to change. These changes may be minor, but recognising the trends and responding to them is essential to understanding your audience needs.

How can you keep your personas relevant?

Always collect feedback and periodically compare. Data is king when it comes to analysing your audience.  It can be difficult to balance the equation of regular data collection against customer survey fatigue. If you bombard your audience, they'll stop giving you data and you run the risk of missing those essential persona behaviour changes. You want to make people want to give you their information, so get creative!

If the word ‘survey’ is feeling a bit tired, disguise it as a quiz. Quizzes have shown to have double the open rate of surveys and can be built to capture the same information. Something as simple as presenting a feedback form after a customer purchase or contract renewal can help you get your hands on the answers to your persona questions. This will keep your finger on the pulse of your audience to determine if there are any major shifts in behaviour.

Monitor social media channels to discover what your audience is talking about and what their interests are. Social media accounts can tell you so much about your audience and, over time, you can build up enough comparative data to keep your personas’ interests up to date. This also tells you where your audience can be found online.

One of the best ways of keeping your persona relevant is to use it! Keep your persona in mind when developing your content marketing strategy. If your persona is accurate, your content will get a more favourable response from your audience. If your content is good, but not converting, your buyer persona may need attention.

A buyer persona can be an easy and tempting step to skip in the strategy process. But they are much more than a basic snapshot of your customers. Personas are a foundational strategic tool in making decisions that will affect your business growth and bottom line. With data-driven buyer personas that are constantly being improved and tweaked for greater accuracy, your marketing efforts can become a lot more worthwhile. The most successful marketers are agile and respond to what customers actually want, instead of their perceptions of what they want.

About Adam Blackford-Mills

Adam Blackford-Mills

Adam is the manager of MRS Digital's marketing department. He has helped businesses all over the world grow their online presence and achieve their goals. With nearly a decade of digital marketing experience, Adam has build a reputation as a creative and resoursful marketing force in the industry. 

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14th Jul 2017 11:39

Great article, Adam! I am of the opinion that the customer is the one that decides 70% of a company's future, and although there are certain areas in which we can intervene to change his direction, most of the times we are inclined towards molding our actions in the aspects lead by him.

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to samanthaprowell
17th Jul 2017 09:59

You are right Samantha, the customer is in charge. That is why we work so hard to get our personas right. Knowing your customer means you can act rather than react.

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