Buyer personas: the secret to attracting your ideal customers

Potential business customers waiting sitting on chairs

How can you attract your ideal customers? Well, to start with you have to know who they are. Sounds so simple right?

However, to have customers knocking on your door, you have to really understand them, you need to go deeper than just identifying a broad target market.

Building a buyer persona gives this process structure and provides you with clarity to make decisions across all areas of your business. Before we get stuck into that, let’s just review what we mean by a buyer persona.

The definition of a buyer persona

Hubspot defines a buyer persona as ‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customer.’

At its core, I don’t have an issue with this definition, except that the ‘semi-fictional’ element feels a bit unnecessary and unhelpful. Wouldn’t it work just as well if that element was dropped?

In the wrong hands, the concept of it being ‘semi-fictional’ could conjure up the idea that it’s actually made up, rather than the more accurate ‘based on a true story’. I like to consider personas as more fact than fiction, although granted, your real-life customer is unlikely to be called ‘Enterprise Ed’ or ‘Sales Rep Susan’.

Personas can be used as a guiding light for decisions, prioritisation and development, but this only works if the time and energy are put into crafting them well to start with. As the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. 

Researching your buyer persona

Research is what makes your persona actionable, firmly based on fact and not fiction. Your persona shouldn’t feel like a stranger, it’s an aggregation of people you should know well, albeit with a slightly ridiculous name.

Without research, a persona is likely to be a flat and unconvincing stereotype, more likely to put customers off than bring them in.

Although personas are typically depicted as individuals, they need to be based on an aggregation of people gleaned from a variety of sources. Personas are there to represent a key segment of your target market.

A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience.” Ardath Albee

Even if you don’t have customers currently, there are ways to research your buyer persona. And you can continue to fill in the gaps and fine-tune the persona over time as you learn more about your customers.

For any business, personas should be considered as always evolving and developing as technology changes and expectations shift. They need to be regularly viewed and adapted to continue to be a useful tool.

You might discover that you have multiple personas, and that’s ok. Just remember, each persona should represent a key segment of your target market, not a handful of people.

Are your customers picking you, or are you picking them?

Your marketing should act like a magnet, both attracting and repelling.” John Espirian, Content DNA. 

I love this analogy. However, repel is a pretty strong word. I’d suggest your aim isn’t to be the solution version of the creepy guy at the end of the bar, but rather the subtle dress code that signals to people this is the club for them. 

Having a clear idea of your buyer persona and ideal customer helps you to market to the people that are the best fit for your business. You can move closer to serving them rather than selling to them – a far more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Trying to appeal to everyone is exhausting and usually not very effective. It’s far better to have 10 leads that all convert, than 100 dead-end ones.

During your research, you can also create an ‘anti-persona’.  This could represent people who will never buy or can’t afford your solution, or if they do, it’s a disaster – constant problems, complaints and negative reviews. Let’s try and give them a wide berth, shall we?

Buyer personas vs. user personas

Although there might be some overlap, your buyers aren’t necessarily going to be your users and vice versa. This could be because you’re selling an enterprise software solution, or toys aimed at kids! 

Understanding both buyer and user personas for your business is ideal. This provides you with a strong foundation for attracting customers and developing and evolving solutions and creating fans. After all, gaining new customers is only part of the battle, you also need to keep your wonderful, loyal existing customers happy.

The benefits of creating personas

Traditionally, buyer personas tend to be most closely associated with sales and marketing departments. I would argue that personas have value across an organisation. Whether the roles are customer-facing or not, having a shared view of who your business is serving can only be a good thing and sounds like something everyone in an organisation should know.   

There are heaps of benefits to developing and using a well-crafted persona (buyer and user). Some of my favourites are below:              

For marketing

  • Crafting relevant content that resonates
  • Understanding the key problems your solution solves
  • Knowing where your customers are and the right messages to target them with  

For sales

  • Building rapport and developing relationships
  • Tailoring conversations around the customers’ issues and desires
  • Anticipating and alleviating barriers to purchase 

For Service roles

  • Offering empathy and the right resolution to any problems
  • Understanding user goals and the best way to support them
  • Tailoring conversations to a user’s level of knowledge 

For Product Development

  • Developing solutions that solve problems
  • Prioritising the features that matter most
  • To shape successful User Experience (UX)

Marketing is a fascinating blend of art and science, best practice processes wonderfully combined with creativity. With so many tools and metrics to look at, it can be easy to fall into the trap of chasing the numbers.

Buyer personas can bring you back to what will actually make a difference: how you can serve real people and start attracting your ideal customers. 

Need some help with developing your buyer personas? Check out my services to get you started.

I’ve mentioned some fabulous resources in this post, here are some handy links and some additional further reading suggestions.

Content DNA: Using consistency and congruence to be the same shape everywhere. John Espirian, 2020

Buyer Personas: How to Gain Insight into your Customer’s Expectations, Align your Marketing Strategies, and Win More Business. Adele Revella, 2015

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