What is a buyer persona?

This post is aimed at James. James is 30 and lives in a hip suburb of Melbourne, let’s say Brunswick, and James loves going to the pub with his mates, or getting a slab in when his group are low on funds and they don’t necessarily want to venture out. James loves watching the footy (usually with a pint) and he is also fanatic about new and innovative technology. As soon as the latest version of his phone comes out, he is the first in the queue to pick it up.

Okay, this post isn’t really aimed at James, but you get this idea. James is a brand persona for a brand developing a new product in beer technology, but it could just as easily be an existing product. Also, it is very likely that James is a real living, breathing person. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands of James’ out there. This is one brand persona for one, albeit niche, brand but you get the idea.

Brand personas are created by compiling raw data from your own audience insights and using some educated guesses about who is buying or using your products to create personalities which represent some portions of your brand users. You could create one persona, but we’d recommend compiling between three and five different variations of James’ (or Susans) in order to tick every single box. It is enough to make sure most of your customer needs are met, but not spreading yourself too thinly that it stops being specific at all. Remember: specificity is important when creating a brand persona. It isn’t a broad target market, it is a fictional (but still very real) character to represent a large chunk of your audience.

Why are buyer personas important and why should brands have them?

When you can put a face, background and personality to the people you’re marketing towards, it makes meeting their needs even easier. By meeting their needs (and wants), it also makes it more likely for them to take the step and make a purchase (or even just click a link) and engage with your business.

Think about it. If you don’t have a particular person in mind and just a generic target audience then it is likely your brand messaging will fall through the cracks and won’t reach who you want it to.

Tips and tricks for creating a buyer persona?

If you have the right tools and analytics, creating your buyer personas should be pretty simple. Start by checking out your brand insights and demographics from data you might have already collected. You could even get some quotes from actual customers to help build this profile. Talk to your customers!

Start gaining new data as well, and keep doing this even once you have compiled a few personas. You should never stop researching, changing and adding to your personas because as your business grows and changes, it makes sense that your audience will too. Do surveys and polls to gain more information and you could do this as easily as through your brand’s social media accounts. Design story polls and ask questions to your audience within your creatives. It will give you engagement and it is free market research. You could also do competitions and prizes for completing surveys and questionnaires with explicit persona-related questions.

Importantly, check your Google Analytics for clear and concise raw data. Research what keywords people used to find you and how long they spent looking on your website once they got there. Also, don’t just focus on insights only from your marketing team. If you have customer-facing roles or community management roles, their team insights are just as, if not more, important.

Once you have enough research, you can start creating these personas. To make it a little easier, we have put together the key touchpoints you should focus on:

A name. This isn’t overly important but it adds a nice personal touch
Location. This doesn’t have to be too specific but can be as simple as urban, suburban or rural – this still tells us a lot.
Hobbies. Do they love going out on the weekends? Do they spend time cooking home-cooked meals? Do they watch sport?
Shopping habits as a consumer. Do they shop based on price points or do they prefer quality? How do they find their information, eg google searches or clicking email links?
Their living situation. Do they flatshare with strangers? Do they live with a partner and kids?

Once you have done this you can create a clear image: you could even add a photograph or create a graphic based on what you think they may look like.

Now you have your buyer personas how can you implement them into your marketing?

Every time your brand comes up with a new marketing initiative, product or campaign you want to implement, your buyer personas should be your first port of call. You should be asking “Is this a good product for James?” or “is this how Susan wants to be communicated to?”, which will ensure the precise needs of a specific audience are always incorporated into every decision.

Once you have understood and fleshed out your buyer persona(s) you can use them in various ways:
Product Development: Once you know what your customers need the most, you can create products based around these findings, as well as prioritise changes to existing products based on these needs.
Marketing strategies: Buyer personas can help focus keyword research (“if I was James, what would I be searching for?”), they should always be used as a reference when crafting copy (“would James use the word ‘buddy’ or ‘pal’?) and deciding when and what promotional activities to do (“would James take the time to answer a lengthy survey or would he prefer a poll?”).
Acquire more customers: Your buyer personas are possibly those people that should be familiar with or actively engaging with your brand, but aren’t yet. By simply identifying them, acquiring them as customers becomes a lot easier because you can address and solve their specific concerns.
Customer support for existing customers: Customer support teams and those in charge of community management can serve existing customers better because you can understand their exact needs, wants and concerns and be able to address them accordingly.

It also helps if you need to communicate your target market to senior management or to outside companies (such as pitching to a marketing or advertising agency), this is a great starting point for kicking off any discussions.

In conclusion

Constructing in-depth and definitive buyer personas might require a subtle shift in how you present yourself. Stop talking about what you do and start talking about what the customer needs and how you can provide it. This always keeps you centred on the needs of the customer: it sounds simple but it is something that can easily lose focus as a brand grows and develops.

Constantly research and tweak your persons so that you can adapt elements of your marketing to match them exactly. By understanding which people are benefiting from your solutions to their problems, you can both attract new customers and retain those you already have.