Our mission as marketers, advertisers, and entrepreneurs is to consistently be developing new and creative ways to attract customers and sell products. As we focus on the new year, we must answer a critically important question: How will we do more in 2016?
In order to compete in our increasingly crowded verticals, we invest in cutting edge tools and hire the best possible talent to execute campaigns that yield impact and ROI. So, when operating on an even playing field, how can we find a solution to stand out from the status quo? Start with the people who literally make or break your business: your customers.
Before dismissing this idea by saying, “Yeah, yeah, we know. We’re already using Buyer Personas and doing customer-centric marketing,” consider that 80% of businesses and marketers are doing both incorrectly.
Buyer Profiles vs. Buyer Personas
According to “The State of Buyer Personas” survey results published in early December 2015 by leading expert, Tony Zambito, nearly 80% of businesses consider profiles and personas synonyms, and don’t fully understand what they are and how to develop or use them.
Buyer Profile: a description of a customer, or set of customers, that includes demographic, geographic, and psychographic characteristics, as well as buying patterns, creditworthiness, and purchase history.
Buyer Persona: a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data extracted from your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer priorities, success factors, perceived barriers, story, and decision criteria.
The key difference between them comes down to quantitative vs. qualitative data: what you can count vs. what you observe. Remember, it’s not one or the other, both are important to sharpening the competitive edge that sets you apart.
Profiles and Personas in Action
Let’s say you’re marketing one of the hottest tech toys of 2015: hover boards.
The Buyer Profile: Who Your Buyers Are, What They’re Buying and When They’re Buying It
Built with qualitative data pulled from Sales/CRM programs, website analytics and SEO reports, profiles show results and success; a summary of characteristics and attributes of your existing customer base. They help you understand who your buyers are, what they’re buying and when they’re buying it.
However, if you’re launching a brand new product to the market and lack sufficient historical data, you can leverage high-level market research studies for behavioral trends and preferences specific to your target audience.
When reviewing your profile, position each statement as a question:
- Are target customers male and female aged 7 to 15?
- Do they spend significant time online browsing social networks, watching videos and listening to music?
- Are their purchases emotionally driven; triggered by immediate needs of being cool and feeling accepted?”
If you can answer “YES” to each question—and have the validating data to back it up—congrats! You’ve successfully created a solid Buyer Profile.
The Buyer Persona: Understanding Your Buyer’s World
Buyer personas account for the unfortunate reality that purchases don’t occur in a vacuum. As marketers, our jobs would be much easier if consumer buying behavior was linear: they saw, they wanted, they bought.
But, we all know that it really looks something like this:
Collecting Qualitative Data
To get a glimpse into the challenges and interactions your target audience encounters before buying, you’ll need to get out of the office and see things from their point of view.
Don’t worry, you won’t need to hire a private investigator to follow your target audience’s every move. You can get the unfiltered answers you need by conducting a survey or focus group. If your company has front-line sales and support teams, bring them in and ask them to share customer feedback. These teams interact with your customers on a daily basis and can provide eye-opening insight into how people feel about your brand and product.
To develop your Personas, ask questions that will help you understand:
- Goals: All significant purchases are goal-driven efforts. Understanding customer goals provides insight into the actions they’ll take in order to achieve them.
- Topics: In the consideration phase of the purchase process, customers want to vet the desired product before they buy. It’s important to find out what questions they’re asking and where they go to find answers.
- Preferences: But it’s not enough to just know what your customers learn from their research; you should also identify which answers impact their decision the most.
- Value: Beyond obvious product features, what personal value do customers associate with purchasing your product?
Once you have all that information—you can start to construct your personas. This is the fun part, incorporating their goals, topics, preferences and values to create a story arc that represents their purchase process.
Constructing Buyer Personas
Constructing Buyer Personas is kind of like playing a board game where each game piece represents a persona in your target audience.
In this game there are five key “challenges” that your Persona must overcome:
- Priority Initiative: What situation and/or condition triggered purchase awareness?
- Success Factors: What are the results and/or desired outcomes tied to obtaining your product?
- Perceived Barriers: What internal and/or external attitudes or concerns are preventing the purchase?
- Decision Criteria: What key features are considered non-negotiable?
- Buyer’s Journey: What role does the Persona play in the decision and how does their opinion impact the end result?
Personas give real life context to Profiles and creating them gives Marketers the insight they need to connect the dots and understand the situations and challenges customers experience on their way towards conversion.
Now you know that your marketing campaigns need to have the “kid tested, mother approved” element. Because, even though publishing videos of kids zooming through city streets at night would significantly increase desire within your target audience—it certainly won’t convince mom and dad that it’s a safe purchase. The last thing they want is a phone call from the cops or, even worse, the emergency room because their child was hover boarding around town.
Looking back at your Buyer Profile, it’s easy to see how different it is from your Persona—and why you need both to create a truly comprehensive marketing strategy.
Start Using Buyer Personas at Your Organization
So now that you’ve read this article, I bet you’re excited to get this going at your company, right? Before you rush into your boss’ office to tell him or her that you want to invest time and resources into an initiative that doesn’t yield immediate ROI…test out what you’ve learned and construct your OWN Buyer Persona. Set the target audience as your boss and other relevant decision-makers, and start gathering some qualitative data.
After all, if you’re successful, you could’ve found the answer to how your company will do more in 2016!