Lunch and Learn: How small businesses can create buyer personas

Posted: Wed 15th Jul 2020

Dan Smith joined today's Lunch and Learn to share his insights on developing buyer personas.

Dan is the director of Doogheno Growth Marketing and helps companies overcome their sales and marketing challenges. In our webinar, he outlined the steps you can take to build buyer personas from scratch and why they should be a fundamental part of your marketing strategy.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional biography of your typical buyer. Buyer personas should be based on facts and research, not just who you think your customers will be.

The main benefit of buyer personas is that they give you a clearer picture of who your customer is. As Dan explains, buyer personas stop you thinking about customers as vague and amorphous. Instead, you can focus your messages on people who feel real.

"We create three to five personas for a company. One buyer persona might be Mary, who is 34 to 45 years-old, married, lives in South London and owns a house and car. She works as a project manager and reports into a board. Suddenly, you're thinking about the person, rather than the customer," Dan said.

Should buyer personas be existing customers or people you want to reach in future?

Some businesses will already have customers and they will be exactly the type of buyers the business wants. But, as Dan points out, a lot of businesses will want to reach a new audience. Maybe they want to target a new market or their current customers aren't buying premium products.

"You want to create buyer personas around where you want to go as a business. You can identify existing customers and think about how you could move them to where you want, but you should always focus on where you want to go," he said.

It's a difficult time for businesses at the moment and everyone's reassessing how their marketing should work. If you already have personas, Dan recommends revisiting them. Think about what challenges your customers are likely to be facing and how much the crisis might have affected their cash flow.

How do you start creating a buyer persona?

The first place to start is research. Dan explains that it's important to base your personas on concrete research, otherwise you end up with confirmation bias.

If you have existing customers, talk to them. You'll start to see common themes crop up when you've spoken to a few people.

It's more challenging if you don't have customers yet or you want to go into new markets. Dan recommends running focus groups or using a tool like Respondent, which finds research participants for you. Be aware that this method can get expensive quickly - if you don't want to spend money, you can source interviewees from your network.

How detailed should buyer personas be?

Your buyer personas should give you an image of a person that you can focus on. They need to be detailed, but don't make them too granular.

"A buyer persona where Mary is 33 years-old and her child is five is too granular. You need to bring common elements together. Look at general demographics like age, gender and whether they're married. You might think, why am I concerned about those characteristics if it's B2B? But it's all about getting a real feel for the customer," Dan said.

Once you have a basic outline for your personas, look at the qualitative aspects. What are their challenges, objectives and goals? You can bring these in through research and interviews.

Next, think about how they communicate. This gives you an idea of how you will be able to reach your customer:

  • Do they use emails or phone calls?

  • Where do they get their information from?

  • How do they make decisions?

How do you use buyer personas?

Dan recommends going back and looking at your website first. Ask yourself: does my website work for the personas I've created? Is Mary coming here and seeing what she wants to see?

"We need to focus everything we do on these buyer personas. If you're writing a newsletter to Mary, rather than a blank customer, it becomes much easier. You can think, is this newsletter going to resonate? Is it going to make her take action? The same applies when you're writing content," he said.

What's the difference between B2B and B2C personas?

The information you include in your persona will differ if you're B2B or B2C. With B2B you're primarily helping customers fix a problem and overcome challenges. On the other hand, B2C focuses on the benefit the customer will get from buying your products.

"We know Mary's basic demographic, but we need to look at her from a B2B work perspective too. How is she measured? How many projects are delivered on time and on what budget? What are her challenges at work? This will influence what and how she buys," Dan said.

If you're in retail and creating a B2C persona, you might want to look at where customers shop and how they're spending their money. What percentage of their shopping is being done online? Are they risk-averse and likely to go into shops at the moment?

"Your marketing activity needs to resonate with your persona. Your personas provide a fundamental base for marketing. You need to know who your customers are and why they are spending money with you."

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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