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Posted by Paul Regensburg on Oct 21, 2015 7:30:00 AM

To Build Your Online Brand, Start with "Buyer Personas"

If you're in the marketing field, you've probably heard of "Buyer Personas," but what are they exactly, and why do you need them?

For fans of the Showtime series, Homeland, you may have seen super sleuth antihero, Carrie Mathison, sitting cross-legged, surrounded by an array of suspect's photos, including bios, histories and known associations. These are personas. In the case of "Homeland," these are Terrorist Personas. Fortunately, we live in the less perilous, yet often elusive world of marketing, but share Carrie's need for a deeper understanding of our targets; what they look like, what they like and dislike, where they congregate, what they read and who they associate with on a regular basis.

The process of gathering intelligence around a specific target audience and creating an identity for the person(s) to whom you wish to market results are known as "Buyer Personas." Done effectively they yield:

A Value-Based Brand - "Buyer Personas" will solidify your understanding of your customer and what motivates or demotivates them.

Compelling Creative - When engaging in "Buyer Persona" interviewing, your customers will sometimes use anecdotes and metaphors to better express who they are and what is important to them. Their use of language is often the catalyst for strong visual ideas that will resonate with them.

Targeted Copywriting - Building a messaging platform and writing on and off line marketing copy is greatly facilitated by the in-depth understanding derived from these personas.

Marketing Offers that Generate Qualified Leads - The marketing offers to which customers respond come directly from the development of "Buyer Personas."

An Understanding of Your Customer's Buying Habits -  This is the ultimate goal to which all of the above feed into.

 Building a "Buyer Persona" - here are the steps:

Choose interviewees carefully - Choose those that have bought from you and one or two that chose someone else. Craft a brief email request for a 20-minute interview to be conducted by a third party. Choose people that represent different types of buyers you encounter. You may end up with a number of "Buyer Personas." Last but not least, seek the most articulate customers; they are the ones most likely to identify the nuances that will make the persona most poignant. 

Create a concise and incisive questionnaire - Now that people have agreed to participate, make it count by building your questionnaire around the following:

  • Background - Sector, company, company size, their experience.
  • Role - Job title and description (if not obvious), reporting structure.
  • Attitudes - Likes, dislikes, opinions, what companies they admire.
  • Challenges - What is difficult in their job and why?
  • Goals - What are they trying to accomplish, what are they excited about?
  • Use of media - What do they read? Where do they go for information? What are their social media preferences?
  • The buying experience - Define their role in the buying process and what is most important to them. Ask if they had any objections to your process before, during and since the buying cycle.
  • Be an organized and conversational interviewer.
  • Begin by stating the purpose and length of the call. Ask if there are any questions before beginning.
  • Ask if you can record the interview. Not having to take notes while you're listening helps a great deal.
  • Try to maintain control of the process, but don't be a slave to your questions. If an interviewee says something that prompts a follow up question, by all means, expand the script.
  • Thank them at the end of the call.

 Capturing Your "Buyer Persona"

Remember Carrie Mathison's personas? They are visual with supporting text. Your persona should have the following content:

  • "Picture" of your composite buyer. Male or female? Age? Is ethnicity important?
  • Personal Profile - Demographic, role.
  • Challenges - What problems must he/she deal with?
  • Opportunity - Why would this person be looking for your kind of services?
  • Choice - Why will he/she choose you?
  • Obstacles: What impediments are in the way of you getting their business?
  • Authentic Voice - Use quotes or anecdotes from the interviews to create an authentic customer voice

 Using Your "Buyer Persona"

So, now you have these cool documents and you're ready to go out and get those terrorists; I mean... win those customers. How do you do it?

Try a little role play. Pretend you are the persona. Now, as that person, look at all of your current marketing, particularly your website. Is it speaking to you? Do the copy and images resonate? Do you feel compelled to register for the offers? Is the mix of content appealing to you or do you need more video or white papers or something else?

Still wearing your persona hat, does the SEO on your site use the right key words?

Now look at all of your other marketing, such as presentations, event graphics, collateral and advertising. Do they resonate?

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Tags: B2B / branding / rebranding / brand positioning