Selling to everyone is easy street. You cast your net wide and reel in as many fish as possible.
That strategy might work for a while, but it won’t hook your ideal customers. Sooner or later, you’ll struggle to keep your business afloat.
Doing the hard work of figuring out who your ideal customers are and catering to them will help you net long-term results. Once you know who they are, you can target them with specific products, services, content and messaging.
Creating buyer personas
The first step to decoding your ideal customers is to develop research-based buyer personas. These are detailed, realistic descriptions of your target customers that include demographic, personal and professional information. The more specific you can be, the more traction you’ll gain in understanding, finding, engaging and keeping your ideal customers.
How to develop buyer personas
Interviews and surveys with your customers, prospective customers, and sales and customer service reps will provide key insights. You can also check Google Analytics to fill in potential holes.
- Customers. The questions you ask will depend on how much you already know about them. Beyond the basics such as company information, job title and role, you’ll want to learn why they selected you over your competition, what challenges they face, how you help them reach their goals, what problems you help them solve and what they like about working with you.
- Prospective customers. Interview prospective customers who are in all stages of the buying process to learn about their needs, motivations, objections and buying decisions. Their challenges and motivations may be different from those of your current customers.
- Sales and customer service reps. They’re a gold mine of information about prospects’ and customers’ needs, pain points and problems.
- Google Analytics. You can compile demographic information about your audience, including gender, age and general location.
Once you’ve collected the information, identify patterns and commonalities from the responses you received and the data from Google Analytics. You can then build buyer personas.
What’s the right number of personas?
How many personas you create depends on the size and complexity of your organization. A niche firm will have fewer personas than a global organization that has many divisions and products. The goal is to identify your ideal customers – not just those who can afford your products and services. Having a budget doesn’t equate to need or interest.
What does a buyer persona look like?
A typical persona contains information such as job title and role, age, salary, goals, challenges and motivations. Giving your personas names will make them easy to remember. Some companies even select photos to represent their personas.
Here’s an example for a vice president of marketing at a package manufacturer:
How to use buyer personas
Use buyer personas to get more mileage from your sales, marketing and product development initiatives. These actionable insights can help you:
- Segment your customer and prospect lists to deliver personalized experiences and messaging.
- Create content and landing pages that address relevant pain points and solutions for specific customer/prospect groups.
- Build a segmented website that addresses the motivations of each persona.
- Develop new products and update existing ones based on customers’ primary needs.
- Improve relationships with prospective and current customers by understanding their concerns and needs.
Sample questions for buyer personas
The questions you ask will vary based on whether you’re a business-to-business organization or a business-to-consumer company, what products and services you sell, what information you may have about your target customers, and whether you’re contacting current customers or prospects. Use this list as a starting point and customize it as appropriate.
- What’s your name?
- What’s your gender?
- What’s your age?
- Where do you live (urban, suburban or rural environment)?
- What’s your salary or combined household income?
- What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend and what did you study?
- What is your marital status?
- Do you have any children? If so, how many and how old are they?
- Are they boys or girls?
- What’s your occupation?
- What’s your job title?
- What’s your role?
- Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
- What does a typical work day look like?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- What are your professional goals?
- Do you prefer to follow the rules or challenge boundaries?
- Are you an innovator or someone who tends to go with the flow?
- What are your biggest career challenges and how are you addressing them?
- How do you stay current in your industry?
- What professional associations and social networks do you participate in?
- What’s the size of your company (revenue and employees)?
- In which industry or industries does your company work?
- What are the biggest challenges your company faces and how are you addressing them?
- Which companies are your top competitors? How are you different from them?
- Why did you decide to work with our company instead of our competition?
- How have we helped you reach your goals?
- How have we helped you solve your challenges?
- What results are you seeing from our work with you?
- What do you like about working with us?
- What prompted you to seek our company’s products/solutions?
- What problems were you trying to solve?
- What other solutions did you consider?
- What results did you want to achieve?
- What was your evaluation process? How did you decide to purchase our company’s product/service?
- What was your role in the final decision?
- Were there others who influenced the decision? If so, who are they and what criteria did they use?
- Are you getting the results you expected?
- What’s your marketing budget?
- What are your marketing goals?
- What are your marketing challenges?
- How do you market to your current customers and prospects?
- What marketing campaigns have been the most successful?
- What marketing campaigns have been the least successful?
- What hobbies/activities do you pursue?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What social groups and networks do you participate in?
Don’t set it and forget it
Buyer personas should evolve as your business, industry, products, services, technology and buying motivations change. Review your personas from time to time to make sure they’re current and accurate. You want to be sure your company is generating qualified leads and addressing current and prospective customers’ needs.
How do you use buyer personas to boost your sales and marketing? Let us know in the comments below.