The old way of creating buyer personas (avatars) doesn’t work! It doesn’t hit on where these people truly are and how they feel. It simply identifies who they may be.
In branding, we typically start with creating buyer personas. Back in the day, we used to work backwards by creating ads, websites and whole campaigns based on our product. We then threw our nets hoping for a catch. Today, we look at marketing as an effort to understand our potential customers’ pain points and meet their needs by offering products or services that alleviate that pain. We start with the customer and look at the process he/she goes through to find our product.
What is a Buyer Persona?
“Built from interviews with real buyers, a buyer persona tells you what prospective customers are thinking and doing as they weigh their options. The buyers’ words reveal the attitudes, concerns and decision criteria you need to address to win their business.” (BuyerPersonas.com)
In other words, they are people whose needs may be met by your product. They may end up interacting with your brand in a variety of ways: via yourself, your website, your FB page, your ad in the Yellowbook or your reputation. When we understand how your ideal buyer personas move through their “customer journey,” we can customize their journey, qualify them along the way and convert qualified personas into customers.
Buyer personas are also known as customer avatars, ideal customer avatars and ideal customer profiles.
Creating buyer personas allows you to get clarity on who you are marketing to and tailor your offerings to achieve higher conversion rates.
So when you think about your buyer personas, you need to answer a few questions about who they are, what they’re looking for and where they hang out online and offline. And that will help you determine how you can help them and how to best position your brand message.
Start with assumptions, layer on formal research later
I want to start by saying that you will be tempted to say, “Well, I don’t know who my buyer personas are. And I need to do research. And I need statistics, and I need all this stuff.”
What I want you to think about is this: when you started your business, I hope that you started it to help them solve a problem, to help them overcome the pain point. In order for you to start a business that way, you have to understand what the pain point is and who it’s affecting. Probably 99% of business owners already know who their buyer personas are because they’ve been in their shoes, or their family members have been in their shoes. That’s the whole reason they come up with a product or service – to solve a problem that they’ve identified in the market. You already did preliminary research when you started: you probably looked at market data, interviewed people, researched Google trends and more.
Unless you started your business just thinking, “Oh, this would be cool to sell…” you have key information about your buyer personas. So please trust your gut. You interact with these people over the course of your business — you know what they are looking for and why. Make the assumptions, answer these questions and create your buyer persona profiles. Layer on the research after, because assumptions frame what and how you research. More on research at the end of this post.
If you are a new business, you simply don’t have the money for focus groups and $4500 market research reports. Does that mean you quit your business? That’s ridiculous. You start where you are and go from there.
The old way of creating a buyer persona focused so much on demographics and so little on pain points that the resulting profiles completely missed the mark! Yes, we need to identify the basic demographics, but this is where we should be spending the least time.
First, you want to compile the demographic information.
- Are they male or female?
- Where do they work?
- How old are they?
- Where are they located?
- What are their aspirations and their career goals?
- How long have they been working?
- Do they have kids?
- Are they married?
- How much money do they earn?
- What are their hobbies or interests?
One thing to consider, though, is depending on whether you are b2b or b2c business, and depending on what you’re selling, not all of those demographic aspects are going to be relevant to your business. While it’s helpful to have detailed buyer persona assumptions/data, some of them simply won’t matter. So if you’re not selling anything that relates to parenting, and if your buyer persona having or not having kids has absolutely no bearing on what you sell them, and you don’t have to define whether they’re a parent or not. Obviously, if you do, it’s going to help you see a bigger picture of what their life is like, and how the pain points that they’re experiencing fit into that overall life picture. But again, it’s not a huge necessity.
Next step in developing your buyer personas is figuring out their psychographics. In simple terms, psychographics is everything about your buyer persona that didn’t fit into the demographics. In even simpler terms, it involves specifying what kind of person they are.
Psychographic segmentation can be defined using the following factors:
- Personality traits
- Psychological influences
- Subconscious and conscious beliefs
You want to answer questions like:
What kind of personality do they have? How do they think? What are their key emotions? State of mind? Habits?
- Are you targeting someone who is a leader? Someone strong and decisive?
- Are you targeting someone impatient? Someone who wants quick and convenient solutions to whatever problem they are experiencing?
- Does your buyer persona have a particular habit that makes them your ideal customer? For example, if you are selling an unlimited gaming subscription, targeting someone who already has a similar subscription or downloads a lot of games on their phone would make sense.
- Is your buyer persona super organized? If you’ve developed a game-changing productivity app – they may be a great prospect for you!
Identify and list their pain points
Once you’ve defined your buyer persona demographics and psychographics, you have to address what pain points the buyer persona is experiencing that you’re going to help overcome.
What are pain points exactly?
Pain points are the challenges that your buyer persona is experiencing that are creating pain in their lives. Pain points come in all shapes and sizes. They vary in priority, relevance and impact. It may be:
- Something that keeps your buyer persona up at night
- Like a business owner worrying about securing funding to grow their business
- Or a mom worrying about her child’s medical condition
- Or a manager in a company going through a merger wondering about his next move
- Something they think about and worry about often
- Something that creates inconvenience and annoys them when they approach a certain task
- Something that makes them wonder if certain things can be done more efficiently… It’s not a huge problem but they would pay to solve it better if a solution was available
Brainstorm the pain points for all of your buyer personas. To do that, put yourself in their shoes and think through what their challenges are.
The pain points need to be relevant
Everyone has a lot of different pain points. But not all of your buyer persona pain points have a bearing on whether or not they will interact with your brand.
If you are selling supplements, and some of the pain points that your audience is experiencing are lack of energy, or poor digestion, those are great ones to address in your buyer persona profile because they are relevant to your business.
You don’t want to go into all of the other pain points those audiences have. Don’t talk about the trouble they’re having with their spouse, their career challenges, or how their current smartwatch is too old. While they are valid pain points, they have nothing to do with the solutions you offer.
The pain points need to be clear
List your pain points in your buyer persona profiles. Provide context where necessary to further explain how each challenge is affecting their life. Be specific about the pain points in relation to different types of buyer personas, instead of pasting the same pain points in all buyer persona profiles. This will allow you to create better systems to personalize how you interact with different audiences.
Map out the buyer journey
Once we address those pain points, we need to figure out what the buyer persona journey is. Because as part of that journey, you’re going to create the buyer persona experience, or your brand experience. Based on what pain points they are experiencing, you’re going to develop systems in your business that are going to help them address their concerns, answer their questions, help them make a buying decision, and help them make retention decisions. Through all the stages of the buyer journey, their experience is very relevant. You want to address that.
Let’s think about the buyer journey. Based on their pain points, what are these people doing?
- Are they talking to their family and friends?
- Are they doing research online?
- Is their pain point an emergency? Something they have to immediately resolve?
- For example, if my pain point is that I have a flat tire in the middle of a highway, I am most likely not going to do extensive research. I’m going to call somebody to come and fix it. Whether I have roadside assistance with my insurance, whether I have roadside assistance with Triple A, I’m going to call directly and get my problem fixed. If I don’t have anything, then I’m going to probably Google “towing companies” and pick the first one. And that’s all I’m going to do, because I need to get back on the road as quickly as possible. It’s a little different from researching, say, my next vacation that I am just slowly planning. We want to get to a point where we understand what their actions are to address their pain point…
What’s important to keep in mind is that sometimes your buyer persona doesn’t know that they have a pain point. In fact, they’re sort of in denial. They haven’t identified it as a pain point, they just live with it. If that’s the case, the journey of your buyer persona through the lens of your brand has to start before they discover their pain point – you have to be the one to help them discover that pain point.
Once they know their pain point, they’re probably going to do some sort of research. How do you as a brand provide value to someone who’s doing research? – You create content of course. You create social media posts with strategically planned hashtags, because they might be doing research on social. You create blogs and articles. And you put all these things where they are going to find them, whether it’s an ad on a search engine, a blog post, sponsored content on a partner site, a YouTube video — whatever it is that you have to do, you need to develop content that’s going to satisfy their curiosity and that first stage of the buyer journey. And then you have to think about what that person does next, now that they have some information, which is, they need to figure out a solution. Now, maybe they’re considering DIY solutions. Maybe if something’s broke, they’re going to try to fix it themselves after watching a YouTube tutorial. Maybe if they have a health issue, they’re going to try to address it with diet and exercise.
They’re going to download some PDFs or buy a book, watch some videos, order supplements, or whatever. Maybe they do need professional help, so they’re going to call somebody. And once they figure out that they need help with addressing their pain point, they’re going to research who is available to help them.
From there, they’re going to start comparing. What you need to do is you have to make sure that you’re creating content for all the stages in the buyer journey. And it’s not that hard. For example, when they’re in the comparing stage, you can do comparison charts, or maybe blog posts that highlight the benefits and features and unique selling propositions of your product or service, versus other, similar products or services. They’re also probably doing price comparisons. In that case, we have to make sure that we build up the value of our product, especially if we are not competing on price.
Getting back to the buyer persona profile development, the question you need to answer is, what is this person doing in different stages of the buyer journey that is leading them to find us?
Now we have the demographic information, and we have their pain points. We’re figuring out how this person ends up coming to us and, once they come to us, what they want to know, and what they do not want to know. That’s going to help us create the right content to address their concerns and those different stages of the buyer journey. Then we have to ask, now that they have the information, what should they want to do? And what should or would they not want to do? And lastly, we answer the question of what makes them buy from us.
Ultimately, we’re able to put together a comprehensive brand experience for those buyer personas, based on their pain points and journeys.
Use your assumptions to drive your research
Start right at the source(s): reach out to your existing customers and ask them what led them to your company. What were the pain points that brought them to you? What were the solutions you offered that worked, and that kept them coming back to you? What were the other companies they researched, and what was their offering?
Your employees have a lot of info about your customers, and probably stuff you don’t know. Ask them about what kind of feedback they’ve gotten from customers and prospective customers.
Data on existing customers (if applicable)
You likely already have information at your fingertips, even without reaching out to your customers about their experiences. Use the data you’ve already gathered from your current customers, like what they’ve purchased, their demographics, and a whole slew of helpful facts.
Researching through reviews
Reviews are invaluable, and not just of your business, but your competitors. They do a lot of your work for you. Scan reviews, negative and positive, and see what is coming directly from customers. If you’ve just launched, and don’t really have any new customers, reviews are some of the best ways to find potential customers’ pain points.
Another useful resource is Google Trends, which collects, researches and graphs the top searches across various regions and languages. By looking at this, you can find out the likely demographics of your buyer persona by comparing what you have to offer with what Google users have been searching for, and therefore, what their pain points are.
There are any number of other free industry reports and market research you can use, like Google Analytics, SiteProfiler, and Statistica.