How to Create Actionable Buyer Personas

How to Create Actionable Buyer Personas

The Dos and Don’ts of Effective Buyer Persona Creation

Buyer personas are data-driven, research-based models of idealized clients. When done right and used to their fullest effect, they can help steer overall content creation and marketing strategies, allowing businesses to convince and convert audiences with the right content at the right time. But, when they’re done wrong, they are essentially useless and can even harm your marketing efforts, making your organization seem out of touch with the needs of your target market.

Let’s look at a few dos and don’ts to help you develop data-driven buyer personas and avoid some common pitfalls along the way. When you learn how to create buyer personas the right way, your business is that much closer to a strategic, effective content strategy to convince and convert your target audiences.

DO: Avoid Assumptions: Work hard to develop a deep understanding of your target audiences. If you’re not careful, the “semi-fictional” representations of a target audiences used in buyer persona creation can quickly morph into out of touch, fairy tale depictions of customers. This occurs when companies create buyer personas without asking the right questions.

Never assume you understand what your customers need at different stages of the buyer’s journey. Instead, rely on in-depth research. When it comes to buyer personas, think about your prospects’ roles, asking careful questions such as:

  • How much decision-making power do your prospects have? Do they make buying decisions with others or are they sole decision makers?
  • What kinds of information do your targets need to help them make informed buying decisions?
  • Do they prefer to read, watch videos, or research solutions on their own?
  • What helps convince them of the strength of your company’s track record? Testimonials? Case studies? ROI calculators?
  • What do your prospects like about your competition? What do they dislike about your company or solution?

DON’T: Create an arbitrary number of buyer personas: No two businesses are alike, so it follows there is no one-size-fits-all number of buyer personas. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, experience, research, and customer interviews should help you determine how many broad categories your target market contains. You may discover you have just two or three identifiable target markets. That’s perfectly fine. For other businesses, especially those working in multiple industries or with multiple products, there may be many, many more targets.

In either case, settling on a “package” deal of three or five buyer personas does your business a disservice because the number of buyer personas your company uses doesn’t really matter. Rather than the number of buyer personas, focus on creating the right number of accurate buyer personas for your business model and targets. Too many buyer personas can confuse content creation to the point of stalemate. Too few can leave out entire swaths of potential customers. Begin by asking the right questions, then think carefully about who you’re really trying to reach. Don’t stop based on an arbitrary number; your buyer personas are “done” when they encompass all vital aspects of your targets’ wants, needs, and barriers to decision making.

DO: Speak to real customers: Creating actionable buyer personas requires leg work. Although it may take some coaxing, work with your sales and marketing teams to identify current and former clients who make up the largest segment of your target market and ask them to speak with you, honestly and openly. Do in-depth interviews and carefully record their answers. Ask the tough questions, going beyond, “Where did you hear about our company?”. Dig deep with questions like:

  • Why did you choose our company over the competition?
  • Is there anything you prefer about our competitor?
  • What does our company/product do best to solve your problems or meet your needs?
  • How could we improve our product/service?
  • Would you recommend our product or service to a friend or family member? Why or why not?
  • What could we understand better about the needs and challenges of your position/company?

DON’T: Forget about your buyer personas: Once you’ve done all the hard work it takes to correctly identify the wants, needs, and stumbling blocks your targets face when choosing your product or service over your competition, use those insights to their fullest effect. Allow them to inform all aspects of your sales and marketing. Take the time to help your sales and marketing teams understand how and why your buyer personas were created and how they should be used to inform content creation and marketing strategy.

Once you have data-driven buyer personas in hand, use the information they provide to inform every blog post, tweet, and email campaign you create. Start seeing your targets as real people with real problems your organization can solve and you’ll not only find more qualified buyers, you’ll close more business and turn your customers into loyal company promoters.

If you’d like to learn more about creating actionable, data-driven buyer personas, we’d love to chat. Reach out and let’s take your marketing efforts to the next level with informed marketing tools that work.

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Posted by Jennifer Cooreman

Jennifer Cooreman

Strategist: Jennifer relies on her background in digital marketing, psychological testing, and education to create content that converts. She enjoys all facets of writing, from research to editing, but especially learning what makes customers happy and companies tick.