Sep 18, 2018

Know Your Audience: Buyer Personas 101

“If you try to please everyone you’ll end up pleasing no one.”

It’s one of those adages that's impossible to attribute, infinitely adaptable, and so, so true. Especially when it comes to your marketing and communications strategy. With the immense amount of content out there, it’s more important than ever to be thoughtful about who you’re trying to reach, and how you can reach them effectively.

If you’re a business owner you probably have a basic understanding of the people you’re marketing to — your target audiences. But how well do you actually know them? Are you able to identify their pain points, and how your product or service can help? Do you know what they’re passionate about, or where they spend their time online?

Knowing who you’re talking to — and more importantly, knowing what they care about and why — is essential to developing strategic content that drives customer engagement. And the best tool to get to know your target audiences? Buyer personas.

What Are Buyer Personas?

Buyer personas are generalized archetypes of your target audiences. They should be based on market research and include the various demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals of the people you want to reach. Ideally you’ll have one buyer persona for each of your target audiences, so you can adjust your content and strategies accordingly.

Buyer personas can be broken down into four distinct pillars of information:

Who: Demographics & Identity

This should include your buyer persona’s demographic data — gender, age, income, location — as much data as you have on your target audience that’s relevant to your business. You should also give them a name, a job title and a photo. This makes the persona more concrete and real, and acts as a shorthand reference as well. “Does this appeal to male software engineers age 23-35 in San Francisco?” takes a lot longer to ask (and is a much less useful question) than “What would Paul think?”

What: Drives & Pursuits

Think of the “what” as short for “What do they care about?” A thorough research process will uncover your target audience’s drives, and, more specifically, what they might consider or prioritize when shopping for your product or service. This is also a good place to consider what your audience’s expectations are surrounding content: are they looking for FAQs? Story-driven blogs? Instructional videos? These can help you shape your content to the needs and expectations of your customers.

Why: Pains & Challenges

Why should this person care about your business? What problem does your product solve? What need does your service fulfill? Using the data you’ve gathered, you should have a pretty good idea of the sorts of pain points experienced by your audiences, and how your product can address them. Having these written out is one of the most helpful parts of constructing buyer personas, as it allows you to focus on the most impactful benefits you can provide to your customers.

How: Preferences & Particulars

This is where you can leverage your market research to define where you want to connect with your target audience, and how you should go about delivering your content. Defining what sorts of media your buyer persona engages with can clarify where you’ll want to focus your efforts, and identifying the kinds of voice and tone cues that might resonate with them will help you adjust your delivery to match.

Putting it all together

Here’s an example buyer persona for a senior living client:

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This persona lays out essential details that could help a senior living facility shape their communications strategy. To reach the “Karens” of the world, they’d want to produce emails, blogs or articles that cover topics like how to talk to parents about senior living, and addressing concerns about isolation or loneliness. Other audiences (like the parents themselves) would have a different set of pain points and priorities.

Together, these personas create a roadmap of content types, topics and tones that can be harnessed to stand out from the crowd, reach the audiences your business cares about, and drive awareness and engagement. After all, you don’t have to market to everyone if you’re marketing to the people who matter most to your business.

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