With inbound marketing fast taking favor over traditional outbound marketing, it’s important to understand the tools available to you to make your strategy as effective as possible. Before you start strategizing, you need to have a clear picture of who you’re selling to, what will make them buy and what they want from you. To do this, you should invest time in creating a detailed and well-researched buyer persona.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona allows you to put a human face to your customer base. By building up a picture of your average consumer’s likes, dislikes, interests, spending habits and needs, you can more accurately tailor your marketing strategy to them. While a traditional profile might give you a useful jumping off point, it’s important to remember that the focus is on their behavior as a customer, rather than their personal details.
A good buyer persona should go beyond a typical profile and look at buyer behaviour on a more in-depth level. As well as monitoring activity on your site, you should speak to real customers and take on board their feedback. Including genuine quotes about your customers’ interests, concerns and opinions will give your whole team a better idea of who they’re selling to and what their key priorities should be.
You should consider the most important factors you need to figure into your persona to suit your company and your marketing strategy. To figure out what will bring customers to your site, you need to understand what they’re looking for and how they feel your product can best suit their needs. In order to tailor your navigation to suit them, you’ll need to understand their journey and what leads them to click versus ignore. If you’re experiencing a high rate of returns or abandoned shopping carts, you’ll need to find out what concerns your customers have and what boxes they want to see ticked.
Where to Start
One of the best ways to gain insight into your customers’ thought processes is to set up a focus group. This is particularly effective for smaller businesses, as you can get a more comprehensive representation of your customer base. Invite loyal customers to join you for a question and answer session, or simply send out online surveys. The latter, while allowing less flexibility, allows your customers to participate as is convenient to them, and so may see a better response rate.
You may want to consider hiring an external agency to complete your focus group. While you may feel best placed to find out the information you need, customers may be reluctant to give negative feedback to members or indeed the CEO of a company – and it’s the negative feedback that will give you the most scope to grow. It also helps take some of the potential bias out of the equation, as an agency is less likely to ask leading questions or to interpret answers in a manner that best suits your existing products or ideas.
It’s also important to use the resources you have readily to hand. Make sure that you properly capture and analyse user data in order to understand typical buyer behavior. Look for common trends as a way of ascertaining what works and what doesn’t – but be sure to back-up any speculation with more thorough research. It can be easy to draw favorable rather than logical conclusions when data is left up to interpretation, so the more questions you can ask directly of your customer the better.
If you run a website with a membership database, this is an excellent opportunity to find out more about what your customer is looking for. For example, if you’re operating a B2B business, you might find it helpful to include questions about company size and industry in the sign up form. You can also ask customers how they found you, as a way of comparing the success of your different marketing strategies. For further feedback down the line, consider adding an optional feedback form to your website, or sending short surveys to your email database. Ensure these are not so frequent as to become annoying, and always include a clear and easy opt-out option.
What to Do With Your Results
Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to apply it to your marketing strategy. Inbound marketing is all about bringing customers to you, whether that’s via your social media channels, your blog or your SEO practices. Once you have a better idea of who you’re trying to attract, you can put in place a more effective inbound marketing strategy.
One of the most important things to consider is keyword planning. Unless you’re operating a large, well-known business or a common brandnomer, the chances are that your audience won’t be searching for your specific business or product name. Your buyer persona should include into search terms and keywords that your consumers are typing into Google, so that you can incorporate them into your copy and boost your search engine rankings. It also helps to understand things like common locations, as regional differences will likely affect search terms, and age groups, which may influence slang or informal terms.
As well as telling you what your customer is looking for, a detailed buyer persona should tell you where they’re likely to be and who they’re likely to trust. If, for example, you’re partnering with bloggers, you should find out what kind of blogs your consumer base reads and whether they’re likely to take advice or recommendations from their favorite pages. By finding out who the key voices of authority are in your industry, you can find more successful affiliate sites and partners to work with. You should also apply this strategy to social media. While many platforms enjoy a wide audience base nowadays, the location, age, gender and interests of your customer may influence the network which they lean on more heavily. While a younger audience might be best targeted on Instagram or Snapchat, you might find that older customers are more likely to find you through Facebook. If you’re targeting a business audience, consider writing regular posts on LinkedIn. If you’re in a fast-paced flash-sales environment, you might find that Twitter is best able to keep up with your business. Again, it’s important to look to buyer behavior rather than statistics for a more accurate result, but both should be taken into consideration in order to create a complete picture.
Creating an initial buyer persona is a great way to get your business off the ground, but it’s important to remember that as your business grows and changes so too might your customer base. It’s important to regularly review your buyer persona, particularly when you’re making big changes in your company’s offerings or direction.
It’s worth reviewing your buyer persona shortly after making significant changes, but it can also be beneficial to use it before and during the process. By looking at your current customer base, you’ll be able to decide whether your new ideas are likely to be popular or whether you risk losing some of your current consumers. It can also provide inspiration when brainstorming, as you may identify gaps in the market or potential improvements through the concerns and unmet needs your customers tell you they have.
Not only will applying your buyer persona to your decision making help your product and sales teams make better informed decisions, they’ll also make the jobs of your marketing team much more straightforward. After all, a good marketer might be able to pitch any product, but they’ll also tell you that the stronger the product, the easier their job. By referencing a comprehensive buyer persona, you can tailor your new products to their intended audience, and you can also clearly highlight how and why these developments will benefit them.
Too often entrepreneurs are so eager to get to work on selling that they forget to take time to create valuable tools such as buyer personas. While it might seem slow-paced and theoretical in the beginning, these resources are a great way to set a solid foundation for your business and to give your whole team a clearer idea of what they’re working for.
Has having a buyer persona benefitted your business? Or have you had difficult experiences in a company that didn’t have a clear persona in place? Share your experiences, and your top tips for creating a useful buyer persona, in the comments below.