What do effective marketing and PR messages and interesting fiction have in common? Their creators develop vivid characters. Creators of fiction give us the likes of Alex Cross, Nancy Drew, Atticus Finch (one of my favorites), or Olivia Pope. The marketing professional uses her imaginary characters (called “buyer personas”) to craft attention-grabbing, persuasive messages.
Buyer personas are fictional characters that have the general characteristics and goals of your potential and current customers. Since you likely have multiple types of prospects and customers, experts recommend creating three to five personas. And just like the fiction writer, you’ll have to research the characters that you’re creating.
Why go to all that trouble? Well, knowing your audience enables you to effectively address their needs and interests. For example, you’ll be able to do the following more effectively:
- Create emails and other marketing materials that accurately address pain points and have a more personal touch
- Craft content in accordance with prospects’ and customers’ needs and interests and in the formats they prefer
- Tailor your overall content strategy
Developing your buyer persona
Even though buyer personas are fictional, they need to feel real to you. Give them names and look for photos that represent the customer group. Also, make sure to base them on facts, not assumptions or your imagination. Use information from sales, customer service, business development, and your buyers themselves. Supplement that information with social media listening/monitoring and website analytics. For example, Google Analytics can show you:
- The channels that funneled people to your business website (e.g., search, emails, social media, etc.)
- The keywords people used that brought them to your site
- How much time they spent on particular web pages
Once you’ve collected your data, organize the facts into profiles that can guide you as you’re writing. Below is an example of the information you could include in a persona’s B2B profile:
- Job role
- Type of organization – industry, size
- Demographics – age, geographical location (urban, suburban, rural), sex, salary, education, marital status, type of household
- Challenges – What’s preventing them from achieving their goals? What job-related frustrations do they have?
- Values – What’s important to them (in relation to their job and industry)?
- Personality traits
- Information-seeking habits – What are their professional development resources? Where do they obtain work-related information?
- Who influences their purchasing choices? – Who do they consult? Do they need a supervisor’s authorization for this purchase?
- Common objections
Below is an example of what a buyer persona might look like:
Buyer Persona Profile: Kevin
Data Migration Manager
Manufacturing company, mid-size
- Skews male
- Early to mid-40s
- Average salary: $74,000/yr
- Urban location
- Bachelor’s degree
- Smooth and timely migration of data across manufacturing sites, sales offices, and the corporate headquarters.
- Gaining department leaders’ buy-in for company-wide implementation of a new system
- Improving data quality
- Keeping communication flowing smoothly among team members and external consultants
- Managing expectations of business leaders regarding acceptable success rate, risk mitigation, etc.
- Addressing departmental resistance to change
- Managing team members disbursed throughout the country
- Team members pulled from other departments so only able to give part of their time to data migration
- Tight timelines
- Having a project plan that usually does not reflect the full scope of data migration needs
- Keeping to the timeline
- Giving team members support, mentoring, and professional development
- Keeping abreast of industry standards, developments, and best practices
- Acquiring industry contacts
- Fast-paced work style; prefers to-the-point communication
- Calm under stress
- Natural leader
- Conferences and industry events
- Industry-related blogs
Purchasing Choice Influences
Ranges from full authority over budget to approving any expense up to a certain limit (e.g., $75,000)
- “What’s the cost/benefit?”
- “I don’t like being sold to. If I need your services, I’ll reach out to you.”
- “We may need it, but we just don’t have the budget for it.”
As I mentioned, this is just an example of the information that could be included in a persona profile. Some marketers suggest including a “day in the life” so that you can see habits, goals, challenges from that perspective.
The information that you actually include will vary according to your business. The only universal rule is this: leave out unnecessary information. For example, it doesn’t matter if Kevin has a pet.
Once you’ve created a persona profile, don’t just stick it in a file drawer. Instead, post it where you can easily see it as you’re writing.
You also may want to consider sharing those profiles. For example, your research and development department may make changes to products/services based on a buyer persona’s needs, goals, and challenges.
So, even though you’re not writing the Great American Novel, you do have something in common with novelists. You need well-crafted characters for your best work.
Kelle Campbell is a content writer for e-learning and B2B software companies. Contact her to discuss your next project.