Important: This article is a part of my step-by-step guide on how to create a fully functioning Content Marketing Strategy that will serve as a backbone of your content marketing efforts.
Step 4) Creating a buyer persona <<< YOU ARE HERE
Your ideal customers need your help right now and you're not targeting them because you don't know who they are.
90% of the companies using buyer personas have a clearer understanding of who their buyers are.
71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals have documented personas.
In this article, you'll find out how to create a buyer persona and why you need one in the first place.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a fictional character or representation of your ideal customer based on hard data and customer research.
Don't let the word "fictional" take away from the importance of creating a buyer persona.
A buyer persona has a name, age, profession, background, family, hobbies, goals, challenges, and anything else a real person would have.
Buyer personas help content creators put themselves in the shoes of people they're creating content for in order to create content that helps them and solves their problems.
You can have one or multiple buyer personas.
The number depends on the versatility of your audience, especially when it comes to the decision-making process.
It's a good idea to have a buying persona for every type of customer responsible for making a purchasing decision concerning your product or service.
Not for the sake of having multiple buying personas, but to inform your content creation process and help you comprehensively cover each pain point of each of those customer types.
Now, that's not to say you should have dozens of buyer personas.
Start small and targeted, preferably with one or two, and expand from there if necessary.
Why is it important to create a buyer persona?
1 out of 10 people in your target audience needs your solution, and 9 of them aren't prospects.
You need to understand the people you are selling to.
Find out what your customers need, when and where do they need it, and how can you help them.
Creating content informed by your buyer persona keeps the costs of content marketing down because you're targeting your ideal customer.
You're not wasting resources on creating content for someone who is unlikely to become a customer.
The same could be said for paid marketing efforts.
Knowing who your ideal customer is gives you the ability to target them specifically which drives the ad costs down too.
Content relevance is another huge reason to create a buyer persona.
Knowing your customers means you're able to "speak their language" and create highly-relevant content for them.
Think of it this way…
Relevant content is useful - useful content build trust - and trust results in higher conversion rates.
When you know who you're addressing in your content, you're able to use the language they use, examples they can relate to, and establish a deeper connection with them.
Furthermore, creating a buyer persona can help you pinpoint the frictions and objections your customers might have concerning your product or service.
For example, you might be thinking many of your potential customers have an issue with your pricing point, while that's not true at all.
They might go to your competition simply because of some benefit or feature they offer and you don't.
Doing your homework and gathering as much information as you can removes the guesswork from the equation.
If you're still on the fence about the importance of having a buyer persona, here's a great presentation given by Stephen Higgins of HubSpot on the topic.
How do you create a buyer persona?
The only way to create a helpful buyer persona is to actually get to know your real customers.
Talk to them.
Find out what their problems and objections are.
To create a buyer persona, you need to ask questions and let the answers to those questions shape your buyer persona.
Go as in-depth as necessary to really get to the core of issues.
Let your inner child take over and ask "why" a lot.
During this process, you want to learn everything you can about your customers.
Here are some of the key areas to focus on:
- Professional Information – job title, experience level, tools used for work
- Workplace Information – industry, company, number of employees, revenue
- Challenges – biggest problems and pain points
- Goals – short-term and long-term goals
- Learning Resources – platforms, websites, and publications they consume
- Personal Information – age, gender, family, education, hobbies, interests
- Objections – reasons why not to use your product or service
When you're set on the questions, you have to figure out how to reach out to your customers and in what format.
The easiest way of actually getting your customers to cooperate is to give them an incentive in the form of something like a gift card.
To get the answers you need, you can conduct:
- One-on-one Interviews
- Surveys and Quizzes
- Online Research
Interviews are very important when it comes to getting to know someone.
Obviously, you want to base your buyer persona on what you know and not what you think you know.
Sure, you can fill in the gaps here and there, but if you rely entirely on guesswork, you risk getting a lot of the stuff wrong.
Who should you interview?
It's a good idea to diversify the customers you interview.
This means interviewing the customers you had a great experience with as well as those who you didn't see eye-to-eye as much with.
You can even reach out to 'potential' customers to find out their side of the story too.
The idea is to get as much information as possible so you can recognize trends or patterns.
Once the answers start becoming predictable, it means you most likely gathered sufficient data to build a buyer persona.
Surveys and Quizzes
Surveys and quizzes are a great way to collect information.
You can have one running on your website, or you can send it out in your email outreach.
It's unlikely that people will want to give out their information in a survey, but if you attach something worth their time to this process, you can make it work.
On top of being useful info gathering tools, surveys and quizzes are interactive content that keeps your audience engaged on your website for longer.
Every second users spend on your website benefits your SEO efforts.
Asking your customers for the information you're looking for to create a buyer persona is not the only way of getting said information.
Your customers are on social media, sharing everything about themselves all the time.
Researching their social media profiles could give you vital pieces of information here and there.
This approach is not scalable and it takes a lot of time, but it's sort of a last-ditch effort if nothing else works.
It's also free.
While you're at it, you can also occasionally leave a comment on your customers' social media profiles to engage them and form a deeper bond with them.
It doesn't have to be anything business-related.
In fact, it's better if it's not.
The effects of just being nice are often underestimated by businesses.
Most important information to capture when creating a buyer persona
Any information can prove to be useful.
Remember, you're not creating a buyer persona to put a checkbox on it and move on to something else.
You're creating a buyer persona to continuously inform your content creation decisions.
The idea is to publish relevant content that fosters deeper connections with your audience and you can only achieve that if you know something about them.
So, no information is irrelevant.
Of course, not every bit of information warrants including in your long-form content like blog articles or videos.
You can use the more obscure information in your social media posts, for example.
That being said, if I had to choose which information is "the most useful," it would be the information that's closely tied with the problems your customers are having connected with the product or service you're offering.
Obviously, you want to jump on those immediately and create high-quality content that addresses them.
While some other types of information can help you create content that makes your customers feel warm and fuzzy about your business, the problems are a great opportunity to demonstrate your expertise.
Connecting your audience with solutions to their problems is one of the pillars of content marketing, after all.
Solving their problems will make you an expert in your customers' eyes.
People like and trust experts.
And when people trust you, they buy from you.
Why is it important to include personal information in your buyer persona?
You never know which little piece of information might prove to be important and seal the deal with someone.
For example, you might find out that a lot of your customers like hiking.
Occasionally working in a hiking reference into your content can really strike a chord with some of them.
Remember, people make purchasing decisions based on feelings and then they use reason to justify them.
Building trust and relationships with your customers based on their real-life experiences and interests is very powerful.
Another example would be finding out that a good portion of your customer base is talking about Tiger King right now.
(Yes, I think Carol did it.)
Posting a meme from the show and capitalizing on this moment wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with your business, but it would definitely impact your customers' perception of your business.
Naturally, you always want to deliver an excellent product to your customers, but that's not the only way of building relationships with them.
Humanizing your business through lighthearted and more personal content is just another tool at your disposal and you should use it.
How many buyer personas should you create?
The advice that's often given is to start small and target your most ideal customers first.
This is a good idea for a couple of reasons.
One, it's the customers you most likely have the most interactions with and know the most about.
By having a lot of information, you're able to fully flesh out a buyer persona.
And two, it's easier and more enjoyable to work with someone who's your ideal customer so targeting them makes a lot of sense.
The idea is that you'll have to spend the least amount of effort to sell to your ideal customer and you'll also be able to provide the most amount of value to them.
So the relationship will be beneficial for both sides, which eliminates a lot of friction.
Once you feel like you've exhausted the content ideas on your one and only buyer persona, it's OK to create more.
Especially if there is more than one type of customer that's making purchasing decisions concerning your product or service.
It should be one of your goals to cover all the types of decision-makers connected with your offers and create content that answers all of their questions and concerns.
Be mindful not to go overboard, however.
It doesn't make sense to have dozens of buyer personas.
Your content would be all over the place.
Maintaining a high level of relevance is important.
If content is king, relevant and targeted content is God-Emperor.
B2B vs B2C buyer personas
Fundamentally, there isn't going to be much difference between a B2B and B2C buyer persona.
Even if you're selling to a business instead of a person, you're still appealing to people and not the company itself.
This study has shown that there could be anywhere from 1 to 6 people involved in a purchasing decision in a B2B setting.
For a B2B marketer, this means a lot of research and prioritizing.
Even though you ideally want to cover everyone involved, it's most likely unrealistic to do it all at once.
I would still include personalized information like hobbies and interests because principles remain the same.
For example, it very well might be a Star Wars reference that lands you a deal with a company where the CTO has been posting baby Yoda memes for months now.
If you're aware of his or her love for The Mandalorian, you can even target that specific CTO with content geared towards converting them to the dark s… I mean your product or service.
Remember, content doesn't always have to be long-form.
A Tweet can be a very effective piece of content too if it's armed with the right stuff.
Should small local businesses bother creating a buyer persona?
Even if your business is specialized to the point where you're servicing one type of customer only, you still want to know as many real-life information about your customers as possible.
Everything mentioned so far in this article still applies.
You want to know more about your customers in order to create content that will connect with them on a more personal level.
This is especially important if your local business is new and not yet rooted in the community or you've done a poor job at branding and making your business an integral part of the community over the years.
For example, being aware of the fact that many of your customers are die-hard fans of your local college basketball team gives you an opportunity for many references that will boost conversions and seal many a deal.
How do you create a buyer persona if you don't have any customers yet?
If your business is brand new and you don't have many opportunities to interview customers yet, there's still a way to gather some actionable information.
And that's by going to your direct competition and researching their customers.
It would give you a good idea about the potential customers you want to attract.
When opportunities arise, it's still best to start interviewing your own customers and building a buyer persona based on them, however.
There are still potential nuances you want to be aware of.
How do you use a buyer persona in your content marketing strategy?
Even though it might seem odd at first, the way to use buyer personas in your content marketing strategy is to try to make them happy.
Solve their problems, answer their questions, dispel their doubts, and try to be as useful to them as possible.
In other words, treat them as if they just walked through your door and asked for your help.
To get the most out of your buyer personas, "converse" with them as if they were real.
Play devil's advocate, if you will.
Allow them to bring up even the hardest of questions and attempt to come to mutually beneficial conclusions.
For example, if your buyer persona says "But John, why shouldn't I just go to your competition? Their solution is cheaper and their customer support is much better."
A statement like this warrants a content piece where you compare your solution to that of your competitors and, without being mean or misleading, make a case for your solution.
I'm sure specific questions like this about your business are popping into your mind right now.
The questions would get even better if you had a fully fleshed out buyer persona.
Buyer persona templates
A buyer persona template doesn't have to be super-complicated.
You can create one just like this by using an online graphic design tool like Canva in a couple of minutes:
From here, simply populate the sections with the relevant information you've gathered.
If you don't want to build your own template from scratch, Hubspot offers a free buyer persona building tool here.
The tool allows you to add and populate as many sections as you need.
The blank version looks like this:
It's a great tool that allows you to skip the graphics design stage and jump straight into populating a nice looking template and breathing life into your buyer persona.
If you're looking for more options, feel free to check out my article on the best buyer persona generators in 2020.
Let's now take a look at a fully fleshed out buyer persona so you can see how one looks like when it's done.
This buyer persona was shared by Coforge:
As you can see, a fully fleshed out buyer persona looks and feels like a real human being.
After completing the exercise of creating your buyer persona, you can start putting it to good use and start creating helpful content around it.
If you're interested in seeing how other companies utilized buyer personas, check out my case studies article on that topic.
Using a clear buyer persona informs your decision making and content creation.
It sharpens your content marketing strategy.
Investing a business day or two is well worth the effort if, in the end, you know more about your ideal customers and what makes them tick.
From there, the fog lifts and the path to creating relevant content becomes obvious.
Guessing becomes knowing.
I hope this article inspired you to create your own buyer persona.
What are you going to name him or her, I wonder?