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Have you ever wondered who first used the phrase “buyer persona”? Credit goes to well-known software designer Alan Cooper, who came up with the original concept of personas back in the 1990’s to describe the needs and characteristics of different types of users as he worked to design more user-friendly computer interfaces. In his 1998 book entitled "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum", Cooper made a distinction between “user personas” and “buyer personas”, emphasizing the importance of designing software to meet users’ needs and acknowledging that the needs of software buyers are indeed very different.
In simple terms, a buyer persona can be defined as a detailed description of a typical customer. To understand the real essence of buyer personas, however, it is instructive to reference Cooper’s blog post in which he recounts his personal story of the evolution of user personas that are “clearly differentiated by their goals, tasks, and skill levels”. Similarly, a buyer persona extends well beyond a demographic profile to include buyer behaviors and motivations as well.
Why are buyer personas valuable?
- Buyer personas describe the characteristics of customers with whom your product’s value proposition resonates most strongly.
- Buyer personas offer insight into buyers’ goals, priorities, influences, and constraints.
- Buyer personas help to define parameters for attracting viable leads.
- Buyer personas provide guidance for creating content that buyers consider highly relevant.
The key benefit of buyer persona development is the creation of a focal point for your marketing and sales activities. Focused efforts are always more effective in yielding improved results.
In-depth research provides the foundation for a well-developed buyer persona.
Use your knowledge and observations of your current customers to formulate definitions of one or more buyer personas for your business. In addition to identifying demographic information and observing their behaviors as prospects and buyers, interview your customers to uncover their motivations and the underlying factors that affect their decision-making processes.
A complete buyer persona is comprised of three essential components: demographic data, motivational factors, and behavior patterns.
1) Demographic data describes the buyer and the buyer’s business.
- In what industry is the buyer’s business?
- Where is the business located?
- What size is the business (annual revenue and number of employees)?
- What is the buyer’s job title or primary job responsibility?
- To whom does the buyer report?
- Does the buyer have decision-making authority?
2) Motivational factors offer insight into how the buyer thinks and what prompts the buyer to take action.
- What problem does the buyer need to solve?
- What outcome is the buyer trying to achieve?
- What buyer objections must be overcome?
- What triggers cause the buyer to act?
- Who is the buyer trying to influence?
- How is the buyer’s job performance measured?
- Why does the buyer choose your business over your competitors?
3) Behavior patterns reveal where the buyer looks for information and how the buyer proceeds through the purchase process.
- Where does the buyer go to research problem causes and solutions?
- Which sources does the buyer trust?
- Who influences the buyer?
- What purchase decision criteria does the buyer use?
- At what point in the process does the buyer make a decision?
- What are the buyer’s own objective measures of success?
- Under what circumstances does the buyer prefer to interact online, over the phone, or face-to-face?
Follow this straightforward approach to develop buyer personas for your business:
First, identify customers who match a particular demographic profile. Interview them to find the commonalities in their buyer motivations and behaviors. These shared traits combine to form the buyer persona for that demographic. Follow this same methodology to define a full set of buyer personas across all demographics within your customer base.
Keep in mind that buyer behaviors and motivations are constantly changing in response to fluid business environments. As a result, buyer personas must be reviewed and revised on an ongoing basis to maintain their validity as accurate targets for Inbound Marketing efforts.
Our next blog post will explore the important role that buyer personas play in content development and delivery.
In the meantime, download the 24 marketing tips to set your company apart. Hint: One of the tips is to develop a buyer persona.
Bristol Strategy is a full funnel inbound marketing agency and inbound sales agency offering the full complement of services to enable our clients to surpass their business objectives by transforming the way they engage with their buyer on-line. Reach out to us to learn more about how our experience and capabilities can help your business grow.