When launching any marketing initiative – web design, mobile landing page, print campaign, social media marketing – it is always important to know your customer. This applies to any type of organization or business.

For example:

  1. International association – marketing for support, membership and awareness to members and potential members as well as political figures
  2. Private high school – marketing their education solutions to students, parents and the community
  3. Local fence company – marketing their fence products and services to builders, homeowners and contractors
  4. National IT firm – marketing cloud computing and IT consulting services to CIOs, IT Managers and business owners

These are not made up. They are all Wood Street clients. Our job is to help them understand who their target audience is and how to sell to this audience.

You are selling something. It could be a product or simply an idea. But make no mistake, you are selling something to someone. So, the question is, how do you get them to buy it?

Before you tell me you need a website and a blog or that you need to “do social”, I want to know about the who. Tell me about your customers. We want to identify your buyer personas.

Working together, we need to identify your customers. What do they care about? What are they really buying? Hint: people who purchase a car aren’t usually buying the “car”.

To paraphrase Adele Revella, founder of Buyer Persona Institute, a buyer persona is defined as…

A detailed profile of an example buyer that represents the real audience – the buyer that you hope to persuade to buy your products, services or solution.

This profile is the cornerstone of all your marketing and communications efforts. Let’s discuss some of the ways you can develop these personas…

Come up with some “characters” – Defining Buyer Personas

An exercise that will prove useful is also visual in nature. Basically, you chart out the “personas”. You can either use real examples of different client types or create characters around different client profiles. Have some fun with it…

Buyer Persona Chart

As you can see these can be made up characters based on real data. The idea is to get to know them. Give them a name and a face so they are easy to remember and will readily factor into any marketing initiatives.

Who is Brad and what is he looking for from you? The more fun you make it the more memorable and useful this exercise will be.

You will want to consider certain pieces of actual data associated with these personas…

  1. Demographics
  2. Their value, in terms of money, reach and return business
  3. Where they choose to interact with you – phone, email, website, mobile, social, etc

Take the hard data from your web analytics, CRM, sales reports, etc and boil it down to the core essence of each group. These are your buyer personas – the clients, consumers, advocates, members, etc. that you will target with every type of marketing effort you employ. You need to answer these questions:

  1. Who are they?
  2. What do they do?
  3. Why should they care about your organization?
  4. Where are they and where do they find you?
  5. How do you convert them into a client or a fan?

Looking back to our example above (which is simplified for this example) we conducted an exercise to identify certain mobile users for a client. This client needed to figure out how to build a targeted mobile landing page for each user type.

We went as far as to give each user a name and look. This makes it easier to apply the data related to each persona to each marketing decision we made, i.e. “how would Brad react to this call to action?”

Integrating Social and Search – Casting a Wider Net of Influence

When you begin adding social and search to your marketing equation, you will want to build a supplemental list of peripheral groups to the personas you’ve already identified. You are looking for who Brad influences as well as who influences Brad, so to speak.

These are the connections that help to grow your audience. You do not simply want to have a laser focus on the personas and no one else. You want to cast a wider net of influence. To integrate search and social means to insert yourself into the conversation.

You do no walk up to a group of people at a dinner party, interrupt them and then start talking at one specific person. Same rules apply here. If you do nothing but pitch your solution to the target, you will alienate them in the sense that they will not feel empowered, they will feel pitched.

Marketing today is about empowering your audience. Empowerment is what converts a stranger into an acquaintance and an acquaintance into a fan. These fans will either become clients or influence those that become clients.

How often do you blindly purchase a product or accept an idea? With instant access to research data and social signals of approval or disapproval, this happens less and less. Consumers are constantly seeking the reassurance that is just a click away.

Just think about Brad. Brad is a power user. More data about Brad could tell us that he is a heavy user of technology and social. He uses these tools to help him make decisions. If you want more Brads you need to be there when Brad is searching for what you offer.

Targeting the people around Brad as well as Brad himself will have a greater effect on the spread of your influence and the influx of Brads.

What do you think about buyer personas? Do you know who your customers are? Tell me about your Brads and how you connect with them in the comments area below….

Feel free to give me a call at 301.668.5006 x8452 or contact us if you would like to get a little deeper into this topic.

Jon-Mikel Bailey - Before co-founding Wood Street in 2002, Jon worked in sales, marketing and business development for technology and marketing firms. A popular speaker, he gives seminars on marketing, internet marketing, branding and web design to chambers of commerce, trade associations and colleges. He has a BFA in Photography from Frostburg State University and still shoots photos for Wood Street clients.

2 Responses to “Tell Me about Your Customers – Identifying Buyer Personas
  • Thanks for the great post on my favorite topic, and for the link to my site. These are all great recommendations. I would add that the interview with these buyers is the most important step, as every marketer I know is blown away by what they learn. Marketers aren’t accustomed to interviewing buyers, so I know this will be a bit uncomfortable, but there are a lot of resources at http://www.buyerpersona.com to help marketers get started. And honestly, just a few 30-minute well-constructed conversations with buyers can change everything.

    • Yes, great advice! Go to the source, eliminate the middle man and get the real story on who these people are.

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