Knowing your audience is a vital piece of the puzzle in the development of any type of content, and yet it is surprising how many marketers don’t have a clear picture of who they are communicating with, or indeed selling to. To ensure you don’t fall into this trap, Chris Callander from G and C Media explains what a buyer persona is and how you can create one for your brand or business.
Whenever you create content for your business or brand, you have to write it for your particular audience. Gone are the days of pushing out promotional messages. Today’s customers are too savvy, and nothing puts them off more than an obvious sales pitch — except maybe a poorly masked pitch.
For content to be successful today, it has to add value to the reader. It has to share useful information, to provide a solution to a problem, to elicit an emotional response.
The only way you can confidently do this is if you know the audience you are writing for.
This is where buyer personas, or customer profiles if you prefer, come in. A buyer persona is a research-based model of your typical customer. The model generally takes the form of a profile of a fictitious character that carries your customer’s traits. The traits should include who they are, their likes and interests. It should explain what they aim to achieve by buying your products. It should also outline how they think and how, where and when they make purchases.
What to explore
There is a range of information you can aim to discover relating to who your customer is. This can include gender, age, level of education, occupation, hobbies and interest, habits and even religion and beliefs if this might be relevant.
It may also be useful to understand typical personality traits shared by your customers. Are they risk takers and do they respond well to change? You may want to know if they are generally left or right brain thinkers, who therefore will be more creative or logical. Perhaps whether they follow the crowd or take a more independent approach could also be useful to know.
Regarding what it aims to achieve, a profile needs to cover your customers’ aspirations, motivations, the challenges they face and what they may want to change about their role or industry.
You will want to know why they purchased your products and which factors helped them make a positive decision. You should also try and establish what information they sought out before making the decision, and where from; was it peer reviews or technical information on your website for example?
Where your typical customer sources information and engages and communicates with peers is also important to understand. Do they use social platforms and, if so, which ones? Do they prefer digital information or other media formats?
To gain some of this information, you may need to interview your customers. This would give you the opportunity to find out why they bought into your solution and what made them choose you over the competition. You should also be able to establish what questions they sought answers to before choosing your solution. For example ‘can I afford it’ or ‘is it an ethical choice’?
Depending on how your business operates you may have a wealth of this information already available. Can you talk to your sales team and find out what common traits they see when interacting with customers? Does your CRM database offer information about how and how often your customers like to communicate? What else does that tell you about their preferences?
There may also be information about your target market available from secondary sources. Research may already have been carried out into groups you have identified as including your customers. Some desk research will quickly identify what is available.
Putting it together
You do want to be as specific as you can. ‘Man or women aged 18-60’ is not enough. That said, there is almost no end to the levels of detail you can go to or the amount of information you can gather.
The trick is to establish which areas are most relevant in your case. But do be prepared to find trends and traits you didn’t realise your customers shared. As well as helping you tailor your content it may open up unexplored groups of prospects.
Don’t try to fudge the exercise, or worse still guess or use assumptions. Wherever you can, the information you use to build your profile has to be based on data and insight that can be verified. Otherwise, you risk your marketing decisions being based on flawed information.
With all the information captured and verified, create a fictitious person with a profile and backstory to allow you to visualise your ideal customer. Give them a name and even an image. Then, every time you create content ask yourself: Does the topic, style and method of delivery appeal to our customer?
Meet Gary, our example buyer persona
Location: Rural Manchester
Education: Level 4
Occupation: Production Director
Goals: To consistently produce products that stand head and shoulders above the competition.
Motivations: Satisfied customers, low prices
Frustrations: Pressures placed on quality by the need to keep costs low.
Personality traits: Outgoing, detail oriented, loyal
Biography: Gary began his career as an apprentice at Fictitious Foods and worked his way up to his current role over the course of 19 years. He has been Production Director for the last six years. He is passionate about the products his company produces with quality being his top priority. He measures the success of his products through the satisfaction of his customers.
Gary is a customer of ours because he appreciates the focus we place on quality and customer service. He has been buying our products for four years having initially been introduced to our company by another of our customers.
Quote: “I’m not happy until our customers are.”
Favourite brands: John Lewis, First Direct, Virgin Trains