You know how the characters in a good novel or movie seem so real? They’re not, of course. They’re fictional representations, but because they’re developed so fully, we think of them as real people. It’s the same when you create buyer personas—also referred to as customer profiles—which are fictional representations of the customers you want to find.
A well-drawn buyer persona of your ideal customers can seem so real you might think this imaginary person is about to give you a purchase order. That might be wishful thinking, but if you use buyer personas in your marketing efforts, you should be able to attract real and valuable customers.
Industrial marketers use buyer personas to develop targeted campaigns and content for different customer types, craft relevant and compelling messaging, and help unite sales, marketing, and service teams by sharing a greater understanding of customers. When the buyer personas you create truly reflect your customers’ wants and needs, they can even help guide product development efforts.
Source material for buyer personas
You need raw material to develop and shape your buyer personas. Where do you find it? Usually from a combination of the following sources:
• Anecdotal experience from your sales team or other institutional knowledge regarding the goals and needs of your customers
• Customer surveys or one-to-one customer interviews
• Analytics such as online behavior of your customers or tracking website visitors
• Content from existing case studies
• Purchased demographic and product sourcing data
• Industry research; for example, the IHS Engineering360 research report “Pulse of the Engineer” reports on the values, needs, and challenges of today’s engineers
What information to include
Buyer personas don’t need to be complex or long—a list of bullet points under appropriate headings should work well. Include only information that can help you target your marketing efforts or messages. If you have only one type of customer, you need only one buyer persona. If you have many types of customers, or if many people are involved in the purchase decision for your products (such as recommenders, influencers, users, and purchasing agents), you should develop a buyer persona for each type.
Here is the typical information you might include in a buyer persona:
• Professional profile. The profile includes the title or functional responsibility of your target buyer. Identify whether you are trying to reach an engineer (design, process, production), a department head or a team lead, a senior manager, and so on. What are their professional duties and areas of responsibility? Are they influencers, recommenders, or decision makers in the buying process?
• Challenges. What problem is your customer attempting to solve? How is this problem negatively impacting them? What are the consequences of not solving it? This goes back to the old adage of “what keeps your customers awake at night?” Different types of buyers are solving different problems. For example, a buyer with a financial perspective is trying to solve the ROI problem. A buyer that is the end user of your product wants to know that your product will perform as needed.
• Goals. What benefits or goals do your customers hope to achieve with the sought-after product/solution? In other words, what will help them to sleep better?
• Obstacles/Objections. Marketers sometimes overlook this, but knowing how to overcome potential customer objections is critical to creating effective messaging. What might prevent your customer from buying your product/solution? For example: financial constraints, strong competitive offerings, lack of confidence in your solution or perceived weaknesses, support or warranty issues.
• Value proposition. Describe the solution you are offering and how it addresses the challenges, meets the goals, and overcomes the obstacles/objections of your profiled customer.
Use a buyer persona template
In order to maintain consistency in your buyer personas, develop a template that you can fill in with the fields you need to collect. Each buyer persona will have the same fields, such as Customer Profile, Challenges, Objections, Solution.
Share buyer personas with your team and across teams, including sales, customer service, and product development. Help everyone get to know what makes your customers tick and what’s important to them. Buyer personas are also important tools for internal training efforts and when you bring on new team members.
Develop compelling marketing messages
Detailed buyer personas will help you develop stronger, more relevant, and more compelling marketing messages. You’ll better know how to match solution benefits to customer goals, needs, and challenges. You’ll also be able to more accurately position your products by focusing on what’s most important to your customers.
Developing buyer personas shouldn’t require excessive time and resources on your part, yet the payoff can be significant. Revisit the buyer personas when your company launches new products, enters new markets, or undergoes organizational changes such as mergers or acquisitions that could change your customer profile or mix.