HOW TO CREATE BUYER PERSONAS

Personas are detailed profiles of fictional but representative prospective customers

Tom is a successful businessman in his early 40s. He’s the CEO of a mid-sized wireless communications company that has experienced steady growth and profitability over the past decade. Tom is proud of his company’s success, but doesn’t let it go to his head. He sees himself as an “Average Joe” who works hard, but makes time to lift weights three to four times a week, spend time with his family and coach his 8-year-old daughter’s soccer team. He’s a multi-tasker who reads industry trade journals and general business magazines at breakfast or when lunching at his desk. He enjoys listening to NPR and the news on his drive to and from work. He prefers polo shirts and chinos to suits and ties, and wears glasses when reading and working on the computer. Tom’s employees respect him for his down-to-earth attitude and friendly manner.

Like any business leader, Tom worries about the future of his company. He needs to balance its growth with managing its operating costs and keeping its customers happy. Tom thinks better marketing will be one of the keys to his company’s success. Tom also recognizes the need to keep his company technologically up-to-date, but he is unsure how to do so without exacerbating the rising costs of doing business in a highly competitive field.

Recently, Tom hired Liz as his new Marketing Director. She took over the job from Bill, who recently retired after more than 20 years with the company. Tom hopes that Liz–a 30 year old who drives a hybrid, runs marathons and listens to jazz–can reenergize the company’s marketing to drive more leads and sales.

As a young woman who’s new to the company, Liz struggles to maintain equal footing among other executives, mostly men, many of whom are 10 to 15 years older than her and have been with the company for years. She tends to be a workaholic, working many late nights and weekends, but gets defensive it that is pointed out to her. Liz is also a multi-tasker, sneaking peaks at her Blackberry whenever she can to keep up on e-mail and reading the e-newsletters she subscribes to.

These days, Liz is in a panic on the job – she needs to convince Tom, as well as the company’s CFO, to invest a substantial amount of money in a new CRM system which she believes is key to more leads and sales. Liz fears these executives will disagree with her argument that the company has long since outgrown is current contact management system.

Although you probably know people just like them, Tom and Liz aren’t real people; they are simply examples of customer profiles used in persona-based marketing – a powerful and highly effective way to make connections with your existing customers, and your target audience.

To implement persona-based marketing, create detailed profiles of fictional but representative customers, prospects and influencers to help determine how best to craft and deliver its key marketing messages.

Persona-based marketing relies upon creating these realistic character profiles using real-life data, observations and experience – much like the way characters are created for blockbuster Hollywood movies.

Persona-based marketing is about more than simple demographics – answering the question of who a company’s target audience base is. Instead, it’s about getting inside a customer’s head and knowing what makes him or her tick. What does she do in her spare time? How does he respond when being marketed to? What do they think about while lying in bed at night?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help your marketing messages cut through the clutter. If you’re able to create a clear picture of your ideal customers, you can fine-tune your marketing message to appeal to their interests, questions, and concerns. They’ll want to do business with you, because you’ve let them know that you understand what they really need and want.

Going back to Tom and Liz: say your target market is mid-sized companies like the one Tom manages. You can base some of your marketing tactics on what you already know about Tom: He’s a busy man, both in his work and family life, so a full-day seminar or evening event probably wouldn’t appeal to him. However, he’ll be much more likely to log-on to a 45-minute webinar while sitting at his desk, or “pop in” for a networking breakfast to meet with other mid-sized communications company CEOs. And he’s likely to read articles in the trade and business magazines.

Understanding people like Tom and Liz can help your company make decisions about smaller business matters as well.

For example, knowing that Tom needs to wear glasses to read, you’ll want to make sure that the font size in your print brochures and on your Web site is large enough to be easily readable.

Liz, like Tom, will respond to offers that speak directly to her needs and wants as a business professional. Because she’s been so concerned about convincing Tom to invest in a new CRM system, Liz would benefit from attending an afternoon seminar on CRM options for different budget levels. She’d be likely to request a white paper or sign-up for an e-newsletter on the topic of CRM results. Because Liz is a young woman who’s also image-focused, she’d respond positively to a business luncheon invitation at a new and upscale café – even more so, if the invitation she receives via e-mail is formatted to display well on her Blackberry.

Keeping strong fictional customers in mind when designing your company’s marketing campaign can help you make important decisions with regard to what your real customers want. Promotional campaigns become more defined and less generic when created to appeal to your ideal customer, and your overall marketing decisions become less about what your company thinks, and more about what your customer thinks.

To get started creating your buyer personas, download this free guide and template:

Get Your Free Persona Guide

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