There’s no doubt that small businesses know their customers. As a small business, you probably have specific types of people in mind when you consider your ideal and potential buyers. When you take the time to describe these customers—profiling them on a demographic, firmographic, and psychographic level—that’s called creating buyer personas.
Buyer personas, also known as marketing personas, help businesses to visualize their customers. It also helps clients to build marketing campaigns that will resonate with them. You need to understand who you want to sell to before you sell to them.
Even if you have a general idea of who you’re trying to capture, buyer personas at their best contain a wealth of information. You can use this information across your organization to make highly targeted and effective business decisions.
Let’s review why your small business needs to create actual buyer personas, how to do so, and what your finished product should look like.
Why create buyer personas?
At their core, buyer personas are marketing tools. Your description of your clients—based on data you cull from interviews, surveys, social media, and other sources—helps you attract more clients just like them, since you’ll have a better understanding of what they want and need.
Buyer “personas” are different from the outright profiles of existing clients. They are fictionalized versions of the clients you’ve already come across. Most personas use alliterative names like Prosperous Perry or Desperate Dana.
Now, you may want to sell your services to both Prosperous Perry and Desperate Dana. But would you market your services to them in the same way? Probably not, because the campaign that draws in Perry might not appeal to Dana.
Using the information you collect on your customers, you can create a document that reflects who your customers generally are, where they’re coming from, what they’re thinking and feeling, what problems they’re trying to solve, and how your business might be of use to them.
How to create buyer personas
Creating buyer personas can take a variety of forms. You can create as many or as few as you deem necessary. A good place to start is three to five personas.
You may have some basic data from clients, but for a full-fledged picture of who they are and what they need, you’ll need to go deeper. Here’s how to start building buyer personas.
Step 1: Gather information
The first step is to gather as much information as possible about your current customers. Besides, you can gather information about future prospects and people found via referral and third-party networks.
Start by looking through your database. Make a list of your current clients, including any basic information you have on them and how they found you.
Once you have a framework, reach out to those clients in a variety of ways. This will help you to better understand their background, their feelings about working with you. Besides, why they were driven to contact you in the first place.
Use the following methods:
- Interviews: Contact your clients and prospects by phone and let them know you’re conducting research so you can improve operations and better serve them. Armed with an incentive of some kind (gift cards or a small discount on services), find a mutually agreeable time for you to delve into what makes this customer who they are.
- Surveys: Send out surveys via an email newsletter. it should cover a lot of the same ground as your phone call would. Your response rate will likely be lower this way, but you’ll reach some clients who wouldn’t otherwise be bothered to take the time to jump on a call.
- Social insights: Some social media platforms and search engines come equipped with tools to tell you about your followers and customers. Facebook Audience Insights, for example, can provide businesses with anonymous, aggregate information about geography, demographics, purchase behavior, and other factors.
- Forms on your site: Without disrupting the user-experience, place forms on your site with basic questions that can help you gain a firmer understanding of that client—and open the door to future contact on this topic.
Repeat these steps for potential clients found through peers, existing clients, and connections through social media. This will help you to get the perspective of your prospective clients.
What exactly should you ask a client during an interview or survey? It depends on your business, industry, and goals. If your small business provides digital marketing tools to other firms, your questions should get to the heart of who they are personally (What’s your background? Where do you live?), what kind of business they run (What industry are you in? How many employees do you have?) and what they’re thinking (What are your business aspirations? Why do you use our tools?).
Step 2: Break your data down by category
Your buyer personas are based on three categories of information, which build on each other to provide a complete look at who they are.
A customer’s demographics are their statistical characteristics, including age, location, education level, and personality type.
Their firmographics are descriptive attributes of their business. That includes the name of their business, industry, time in business, number of employees, revenue, and overall health of the business.
Their psychographics are their classification based on attitudes and aspirations. Questions that reveal psychographics include:
- What motivates you?
- What drove you to buy this product or service?
- How do you define success?
- What would you do if our business disappeared tomorrow?
- What would drive you to stop using our service?
With this information in hand, you can now start identifying patterns in client responses. Afterward, group them by similar demographic, firmographic, and psychographics. Though it’s up to you how many personas you need, remember that narrower personas make it easier to deliver targeted content; but too narrow means extra work without a higher ROI at a certain point.
Step 3: Personalize each persona
Group your personas into a few distinct personalities. These fictionalized versions of your clients are based on real people. When you give them human characteristics, it will help you put yourself in their shoes.
For example, Prosperous Perry might be a long-time marketing executive who isn’t tech-savvy. However, she is gregarious and knows when she needs expert help. On the other hand, Desperate Dana could be a young, college-educated woman up on the latest social media platforms and trends. However, she is frantic and frustrated now that she realizes she can’t convert that knowledge into sales. Not everyone will fit neatly into these boxes, but they’ll be close enough that your messaging to each one will still resonate.
Buyer personas can take a variety of formats. Some businesses compile their personas in a Google doc, while others use a spreadsheet to more easily break down personas by demographic, firmographic, and psychographics. You can also use a visual tool like HubSpot’s Make My Persona Tool.
The most important thing about your buyer personas is that you have them. You can always tweak and improve the formatting as your business grows.
Step 4: Craft messaging
Your messaging to each persona may take many forms. Let’s examine a two-pronged approach: Marketing and Sales.
Your digital marketing messaging that can be customized to appeal to different buyer personas is somewhat limited. Most businesses are not going to create entirely different websites that appeal to specific customers, for example.
That being said, there are a few main ways that you can customize content to appeal to individual personas, so they’ll be more likely to convert once they enter the sales funnel:
- Content marketing: Writing blog posts that appeal to the issues, trends, obstacles, and goals of each persona. For Prosperous Perry, write posts explaining how an investment in marketing will deliver a return-on-investment in the long-term. For Desperate Dana, posts about inexpensive marketing tools and strategies, or how to find new customers, may be more compelling.
- Email newsletter marketing: You can A/B test your email newsletters, changing the copy, links to blog posts, and included media to better appeal to each persona. The newsletter that encourages Perry to click through likely won’t look the same as the one that induces engagement from Dana.
- Social media marketing: Your social media channels likely already appeal to different demographics—Facebook, for example, has a different audience than Snapchat. Match your content to both the platform and your desired persona audiences for higher engagement.
Sales and marketing are intertwined, of course. But if you have a sales team that interacts directly with customers and potential customers, keep in mind that your buyer personas can help the sales team deal more effectively with new customers who fit into your existing personas.
- Sales pitches: A pitch to a new customer who fits the mold of a Perry will differ from the pitch to a Dana. These customers may end up using some of the same tools you offer, but for markedly different reasons. Make sure the language in your scripts reflects the issues and obstacles these people face.
- Landing pages: You can create custom landing pages on your website that appeal directly to each persona you have as well. This will ensure they see messaging that resonates with them, making them more likely to convert.
When crafting your messaging, keep in mind some of the following questions: How would you describe your service to each persona? What would your elevator pitch be? Which deals or offers specific to them would you be willing to offer? What channels will you use to find and engage them?
These questions will help guide you in presenting the story of your company—from the content itself to where that content lives—and how it intertwines with the story of their company, for a compelling fit.
Your clients aren’t just nameless, faceless people. Each person has a distinct backstory and reason for approaching you in the first place. That being said, it’s true that many people that become your clients will have similar reasons for doing so. That’s what makes buyer personas so helpful: They can accurately claim to represent wide swaths of your customer base.
Use these representations to start making better decisions about your content, lead generation strategies, and overall marketing and sales techniques. By better understanding your current clients, you’ll already have a head start on your future ones.