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Buyer Personas: Definition & Application

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Buyer personas can be a useful tool in better understanding your customers. In this lesson, we'll discuss what personas are, why they're important and how you can use the information you gather to reach people with compelling content, at all stages of their buying journey.

Are You More of a Jack or Jill?

Create buyer personas to better understand your customers.

Or you could be a Dan, a Sally or a John. Maybe you like to read the newspaper or perhaps you prefer television. Do you shop online or frequent local stores? Do you check social media daily or prefer face-to-face interactions? Are you fresh out of college or well into your career?

How you answer any of these questions can provide a great wealth of data to a marketer looking to segment their customers and prospects. The information can be assimilated and used as a model for the best ways to create and send marketing messages.

What Is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona paints a picture of different types of customers by using real data about your existing audience and information gathered through researching your audience further. In general, buyer personas are easy to craft and can be invaluable to your business and content marketing efforts by giving you a deeper understanding of your customer.

Why Is It Important?

By seeing your customers for what they are, human beings with wants, needs, likes and behaviors, rather than a sales number, you are better able to relate to them and target them through effective marketing. Personas for content marketing can help you craft and disseminate content that is relevant and useful and, in turn, serve to create life-long customers.

How Do I Create a Buyer Persona?

The good news is that buyer personas are not difficult to create, if you get the proper information from the correct sources. A recommended starting point is to build three to five personas, which should cover the majority of your audience, but still enable you to be specific.

First, look at your existing database of customers, as well as your website analytics, and draw from data that has already been collected. Consider selecting several customers to interview and gather more information from. Most people are flattered to be asked to share their opinions. Prospects, or potential customers, are important to include to balance out your persona mix. Many can be found through your existing network or social media platforms. You may even choose to issue a small incentive for those who participate.

Then, ask questions about their careers, goals, challenges, publications or television programs they watch, social media channels they frequent and pages they like. Talk to them about personal demographics and gather as much intelligence as you can about their age, marital status, household numbers, political/religious beliefs, ethnicity and educational background. Get details about their shopping behaviors and how they decide when, and from where, they purchase a product or service.

Next, assimilate the data. Through personal interviews, you've gathered a lot of information that needs to be molded. Look for common behaviors and similarities in your data. Give each persona a real name. If a persona has a real name, they will feel more like a real person when you move on to the phase of creating content and distributing it.

Finally, create personas to represent commonalities that you discovered in your research. Each persona should have specific demographic data, career information, values and goals, preferred media sources, shopping habits and any other details you deem important. The more thoroughly you can flesh out a persona, the better you'll be able to understand how to meet their needs in your marketing efforts.

Your marketing personas will likely not be the same as other stores or online retailers, and that's o.k. Buyer personas may appear similar across the board, but vary slightly to fit each company's needs.

How Can I Put My Buyer Personas to Work?

Once you've established several marketing personas for your business, it's time to put them to work. You've now taken much of the guesswork out of marketing to specific personas because you've discovered their preferred channels for information and how you can help solve their problems, just by simply asking!

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