Define Your Audience With Buyer Personas

buyer personaKnowing your audience is a crucial first step before creating any type of marketing communications. It can make the difference between hitting a project out of the park or completely striking out. In this post I’ll share how I help teams develop buyer personas for their website redesign projects.

What Is A Persona?

A “persona” is a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal customer based on user research. According to a 2010 Forrester report, they can improve ROI by up to four times since teams know who and what they are designing for.

Each persona is usually created on a single page and given a name, picture, and listing of specific demographic and behavioral characteristics. Keeping personas to a single page makes them easy to reference at a glance.

Buyer personas should be the foundation of any digital marketing initiative you undertake. When completed, they serve as an ongoing reference point for unified design decisions throughout a project’s lifecycle.

How Do I Make One?

To get started, it’s helpful to schedule a one-and-a half to two-hour meeting with all project stakeholders, especially the business owners. The purpose of the meeting is to run through a series of questions together to define your ideal customer(s) as precisely as possible.

It’s also helpful to have any available research handy at the meeting, such as Google analytics data. I also like to include any insights obtained from previous user interviews and competitive analysis.

The goal of developing a buyer persona is pretty straightforward. You want to really understand who your target market is, what their goals are, why they are buying what you’re selling and any challenges they face. A properly researched persona should inform all aspects of every marketing program you develop. That’s why it’s so important to build them intelligently from the start.

Persona Priorities

It’s important to rank your personas in order of priority. A primary user persona will often reveal itself during your discussions, but there might also be secondary and tertiary personas to consider as well. I recommend limiting total personas to no more than four.

For example, your primary persona may make up 65% of your site visitors, your secondary persona might represent 25%, and your third level persona makes up the remaining 10%. Knowing these distinctions will help you weight your content later so it’s served up to the right people in the right order.

Persona Questionnaire

If you’ve been charged with developing a set of user personas, here’s a list of questions you can review with your team:

Sales Leads:
What does a quality lead look like for your business?
Is the company in a certain geographical location?
Does the company have a brick and mortar operation or are they solely online?
Have they heard of you?
Do they already know about your product?

Lead Generation:
Where do your best leads come from?
How do online leads get to your website?
What happens to a lead from the moment you make first contact?

How do you currently capture sales leads?
Do you have a CRM?
If yes, do you use it to communicate with leads?
Do you create and send email campaigns?
Who manages your CRM?

Buying habits
What makes customers buy from you the first time?
What makes them repeat customers?
What result do your customers get from buying your product or service?
What do you specifically do to retain customers?

How badly do customers need your solution?
What problem does it solve for them?
What causes this problem?
How do they currently manage without your solution?

Family Life

Job Role/Responsibilities
What is this person’s role within their company?
What are they expected to do?
What keeps them up at night?

What influences their decision making the most?
Financial needs
Personal/family issues
Educational/Personal growth needs
Company expectations

Daily Life
How do they spend their time?
Work/Life balance

Where do they go for information?
Trade publications

What’s most important to them?
What are their goals?

Pain Points
What challenges to they face?
What is preventing them from reaching their goals?

What sort of experience do customers want to have when buying your products and services?

Change Agents
What needs to happen to get them to change the status quo?
What will stop them from changing?

What are some common questions people have about your products and services?
What are some common objections people have about your products and services?

Working through these questions with your team will likely open the door to a lively conversation about who your ideal customer really is. Once you have concluded your persona interviews it’s time to sit down and actually do the work of putting these semi-fictitious people on paper (or PDF).

Downloadable Persona Template

Below you’ll find a downloadable Powerpoint template that you can use to create your personas. Let’s take a closer look at what’s inside the template:

1. Photo – choose a photo of your audience member using a stock photo service such as iStock or Shutterstock. Be careful of using images that come across as cheesy or fake. The photo should capture your ideal customer as closely as possible.

2. Short descriptions – Using your interview notes, fill in short descriptions in each category. Give your Persona a name, title, and then some general background and demographic information.

Each Persona should fit on one 8×11 page, so that your team members can easily view them one at a time. You’ll get to know these people fairly well over the course of your design project.

Keep your completed personas in front of you for everything – site redesigns, landing pages, email campaigns, any digital program where your goal is to get your audience’s attention.

Pay close attention to crafting your personas and you stand a much better chance of your audience paying close attention to you.

Your Turn

Have you used Personas on any of your recent design projects? What was your experience like? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for reading!

Make Your Own Persona.

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