Personalization is a critical component of sales in modern commerce. Customers want a product and experience tailored to meet their specific needs. If your brand doesn’t deliver that, they can easily find someone else who does.
So how can you be sure that you’re creating a personalized experience for your ideal customer?
Enter the buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It is generalized based on research that helps you identify the demographics, goals, and challenges of your target audience. A persona should seek to identify those who want your product or service and those who would be a good fit for your company.
While buyer personas are often discussed in B2B companies, they are just as essential for B2C. Your persona should seek to answer why your customer should choose you over the competition. It allows you to look into their personal life and how your business benefits them directly.
The buyer’s journey in B2C has much more to do with emotion since purchases are more impulsive than B2B. Your buyer persona, then, should try to understand the subconscious motivations that drive your customer behavior.
Why Do You Need a Buyer Persona?
First, though, why do you even need a buyer persona? These fictional characters help you get valuable insights and actionable information that can help inform your marketing and sales strategy. When you know more about your ideal audience, you can create more targeted campaigns that can help them directly.
Buyer personas offer impressive benefits for companies that use them:
- Companies that used a buyer persona in an email campaign doubled their open rate and saw an improvement in their clickthrough rate by 5x.
- Websites that used personas were 2-5x more effective in reducing bounce rates.
- 79% of customers stated that they are loyal to brands that they feel understand them.
A buyer persona is helpful across most departments. Sales, marketing, and service can all benefit from getting a look into the ideal customer to better understand how to meet their needs. They can know what customers they are trying to attract.
Many businesses use a significant part of their budget for marketing. However, how can you know that your marketing is landing and connecting with the right people? A buyer persona allows you to tailor your content, services, and messaging to make sure you can create campaigns targeted towards the right customers.
A buyer persona can help you put your market research, data, and observation into a clear and usable format to guide your business to reach your ideal audience and customers. It allows you to have communication that resonates with customers and extends beyond marketing to product development, customer service, and more.
Here’s how to create the right buyer persona that gives your company valuable insights and useful information to help inform your business strategy.
Steps for Creating a B2C Persona
The right buyer personas take a systematic process to get a thorough understanding of your customers. You might also find that you have multiple buyer personas: most businesses have between 3-5, and some can have more than a dozen.
By following these steps, you can identify your target personas and create a practical design to express what you need to know about your personas.
Ask the Right Questions
To begin, you need to know what questions should drive your personas. It will guide your research and give you information to consider your current market.
The right questions should aim to find out the demographics, motivations, and pain points of your market. Some of these questions should include:
- How old are they?
- What is their gender?
- Are they concerned about price?
- What do they want in your industry?
- Are they concerned with social media? What channels?
- What technology do they like?
- Do they research before making a decision?
- Do they make the purchasing decision?
Kids and teens, for example, may be a target persona, but they do not make the purchasing decisions. For those companies, then, they may need another persona for the parents who have purchasing power.
While the right questions lets you know the basic demographics about your persona, they should also continue to dig deep into why your customer makes the decisions they do.
IBM, in their research piece “Customer Journey Maps and Buyer Personas: The Modern Tool Kit for Marketing,” recommends using probing questions to get to the heart of the persona: “The goal should be to find out why contacts decided to look for a new product or solution what brands they initially considered (and why), how they evaluated those brands, what was important to them, and what concerned them.”
Once you have the right questions and know what you want your buyer persona to answer, you can move on to research your target customer.
B2C Persona OKR #1
In this OKR, we’ll try to prepare ourselves to create our buyer personas.
Do Your Research
It’s essential to put in the effort to research your customers. A buyer persona is not a guess or created at random. Use data to hear from your customers exactly what they want and are looking for in your industry and market. Some ways include:
Competitors. Take a look at what others in your industry are doing and how they are targeting customers. Search for them on social media and utilize Google Alerts to see how customers respond to other companies if they have any complaints, or what they like.
Surveys. One of the best ways to find out what your customer likes is to ask them directly. A simple questionnaire can help provide valuable information and allows you to hear their opinions in their own words. You can use any of the numerous survey tools available in the market.
When Salesforce wanted to create better buyer personas, they leaned on large-scale surveys. It provided them with the information they needed to analyze their target customer behavior. Although a B2B company, it still goes to show how taking the time to ask questions in a survey can reveal a lot about your target customer for B2C as well.
Data. Look at the information already at your disposal. Purchase data can give you valuable insights into your target customer: what area they are from, average order size, preferred brands, and even what time they’re most likely to shop. You can glean your customer’s shopping habits and demographic information by analyzing their data.
For example, Nike wanted to expand its brand through personas. They utilized the information they had with their Nike+ loyalty program. With that information, they were able to create three distinct personas to target for their marketing:
- The “Weekend Runner” was a 30-year old woman training for a half marathon.
- The “Style Shopper” was a 26-year old woman who wants to be on-trend before, during, and after her workouts.
- The “Dedicated Sneakerhead” who is interested in the excitement of getting the newest shoe from Nike.
Through the use of their data alone, Nike gleaned specific information about their average customer to create personas for more effective marketing tactics.
Focus Groups. Focus groups give potential customers the open-ended discussions that could allow you to get a better understanding of their thoughts on your company, branding, and competitors. It’s not necessary to speak with hundreds of people before you start to see a pattern in their answers. A random sample will likely give you the diversity and information you need.
Online. Go wherever your customers are likely to be. Forums, blogs, and reviews can all allow you to see what they are talking about, what concerns them, and what excites them about your service or product. Social media can also be an invaluable tool. Where are they most active? What are the kinds of things they talk about? What are they sharing?
Your research should be an ongoing process. The needs of your customers will continue to change, so keep an eye on the market.
B2C Persona OKR #2
Once you know your candidate personas, you can set yourselves out on an information gathering expedition. Do not do this in a vacuum. Get out and meet these target personas as much as you can. Sometimes, interacting with them will go a long way to frame the picture more accurately.
Put Your Information Together
Once you have research, it’s time to put it into a convenient format for your buyer persona. The essentials to put in your buyer persona include:
Name. Your persona is a fictional representation of your customer, so choose a name that can help represent who they are. There are name generators or Social Security’s list of baby names that can help you come up with era-specific names that will encapsulate your fictional customer.
You don’t have to overthink your names. Goodbye Crutches had four personas:
- Andy the Athlete
- Gerry the Grandparent
- Mary the Motivated Mom
- Woody the Working Dad
Keep it simple and easy to reference.
Picture. A picture will help you put a face to your persona. It makes it easy for you and your team to visualize who you are talking to or who you are making products for when they have a photo to represent the customer.
Demographics. Include the basics that apply to you and your brand, such as average age, income level, where they live, gender, etc.
Background. How did they come to find your brand? It might include a short story of how most of your customers find out about your industry or your company specifically.
Motivation and Values. What do they want from you? This is what drives them to purchase your brand. Include the driving emotions that factor into their decision to purchase from you. Also, if you’re a values-based brand, consider what values you should highlight that appeal to them.
Likes and Dislikes. Not only should you include what they like or dislike about your brand or industry, but also include their top general pain points to get an overall accurate view of them.
Financial Background. Include average income, spending habits, and preferred payment methods. If your customer prefers paying by card or does plenty of research before making a decision, these things should be included in your persona.
A Day in the Life. A day in life shouldn’t be a minute-by-minute look into their life. Instead, it should be used to identify common hobbies, interests, and should give you an overview of what your persona’s life looks like.
Brand Affinities. Understanding what brands your customer is loyal to can help you identify their style and opportunities for the future. For example, you can create strategic partnerships with these brands and future collaborations to reach more of your target audience.
Quote. Conclude with a quote that summarizes what the persona is about and their general attitude. It can come from surveys, reviews, social media mentions, or an amalgam of them all. A buyer persona should take your questions and research to put them in a useful document that can be referenced whenever needed. By putting it together with all of these elements, you can get a snapshot of the features that make your customers choose you for their purchase.
B2C Persona OKR #3
In the previous 2 OKRs, we prepared some candidate personas and then collected information around those candidate personas. In this OKR, we are going to prepare our target personas using this information.
Tips for a Killer Persona
Creating a persona is equal parts science and art. While it is based on research, it can take some time to put it together in an insightful and impactful way. Here are some ways you can get the most out of your persona.
Take on their perspective.
It can be easy to find yourself writing from your own perspective. Instead, use their voice and speak from their point of view. It’s essential to get into your customer’s mindset to create a compelling persona. Brian Tracy, a leader in entrepreneurial development, recommends defining your product or service from the customer’s point of view. By taking their perspective, you can focus on how you benefit them.
While the specific customer is fictional, use actual research and quantifiable data. If you’re unable to get quantitative data, such as if you’re a start-up, get qualitative data from experts. Don’t try to rely only on your gut; use research to get a realistic perspective.
As renowned expert in UX Neil Davey states, “Personas need to be grounded in reality. They are based on your real customers, and specifically your most important customers. Therefore, to accurately represent their behaviors, preferences, wants and needs, you need to commit time and effort into researching them.”
Keep a growth mindset.
Your persona isn’t a static document you do once and then leave. It also doesn’t have to be perfect. As you gather more information about your customers, and as the market changes, you can continue to improve and refine your persona. You might even find additional personas as you continue to expand the ones you have.
Even a large corporation, such as Starbucks, continues to expand and refine their customer research. The Chief Financial Officer of Starbucks, Troy Alstead, mentioned to reporters that “From what we can see, and also the research we do, I think the consumer sporadically feels a bit better about themselves than a year ago.” They continually keep an eye on their customer’s feelings and thoughts about their product.
By keeping an eye on the customer and refining their personas, Starbucks has been able to keep up their growth and sell more effectively.
Put on one page.
While it is tempting to try to stuff it with more information, your persona should give a general overview. One page makes it easy to digest and share so you can get the most use out of it.
Talk to your sales and service teams.
Your sales and service reps act as the face of the company. They are the ones who get actual encounters with your customers. They know who buys, who returns and hear all the comments about your brand. They can provide valuable insight to help shape your persona.
As expert Katie Martell states, one of the biggest mistakes is failing to collaborate. “Too often, personas are created by a marketing team or agency in a closed conference room without any outside perspective, leading them to be wildly inaccurate and therefore unused.”
Get everyone’s opinion for a buyer persona you can use.
Consider your “bad” customers.
It might be tempting to only talk to the people who love your company and brand. However, potential customers who don’t work out can also provide you with valuable information. For example, if a customer finds your product too technical, you know that you want a more tech-focused customer. By identifying the customers you want to avoid, you can create a more comprehensive persona.
As a B2C persona, you need to understand the underlying motivations that customers might not even be aware of. When you follow up with “why?” questions, you can discuss core issues with your customers.
B2C Persona OKR #4
When you have good personas defined and your messaging channels are targeting them in the most effective way, your conversions will be very good. And these visitors who convert well will play a big role in word of mouth as well. So, we can have an OKR that covers both these KPIs.
Drive a More Effective Business with Buyer Personas
A buyer persona allows you the perfect opportunity to understand what drives your customer and helps you create more effective strategies to reach them. Plus, it is easy to share with your marketing, sales, product development, and service teams to help them be more effective.
With the right research and tools in place, you can create personalized and relevant messaging that will help drive higher conversion rates. Try it for yourself by getting information on your customer and summarizing it in a well-designed document!