No content strategy is complete without a customer, as in order to promote your products and services in a convincing way, you need to know who your audience is. In this article I’ll show you how to create a buyer persona for your website and how to incorporate the profile in your content strategy plan.
Buyer persona definition and principles
In simple words, a buyer persona is a profile or description of your target customer. This profile can include information about the buyer’s age, gender, education and professional background, hobbies, family size, typical buying behavior, and considers the main pain points and struggles of the potential buyer, their questions as well as reasons for buying or not buying a product and budget limitations.
A well-developed buyer persona (marketing persona) should state the stage of the buying process in which that potential customer is (problem recognition, research, evaluation, purchase, post-purchase evaluation), and should highlight what motivates the persona to buy, what frustrates her, what are her challenges and goals.
Marketing personas help you understand your prospective customers and tailor the content and marketing message to their specific needs and behaviors.
Depending on your company’s profile and industry, you may have one, two or more personas, and this means you need a different marketing strategy for each of these profiles. As explained in my previous article about inbound marketing, attracting visitors to your website and turning them into leads and customers involves creating personalized marketing messages and addressing each of the audience segments with content that is suitable for a specific lifecycle stage.
You will need specific content for a visitor who already knows about your niche and is looking to buy your products, and different content for someone who’s not familiar with your services, but has a vague idea about your industry and knows it can help solve one of his problems.
So the buyer persona research process should start with understanding the consumer buying behavior, which defines the attitudes, intentions and decisions of your potential clients.
The 5 stages of the consumer buying behavior
- The first stage is problem recognition, when the consumer realizes he has an unfilled need.
- The second stage is research, when the consumer searches for information relevant to his needs, hoping to find a solution to his problem. In this stage, the consumer gathers information about several potential solutions.
- The third stage is evaluation, when the consumer evaluates all the gathered information against his needs, wants and resources. This stage helps the consumer narrow his choices down to 2-3 options, which are further evaluated, based on criteria like price, efficiency, time investment, comfort, accessibility and so on.
- The fourth stage is the purchase decision, when the consumer decides to buy a product or service.
- The fifth stage is the post-purchase evaluation, when the consumer analyses the product and decides whether he made a good investment.
Marianne works a typical 9 to 5 program. She usually prepares her lunch casseroles in advance, but today she didn’t bring anything to eat. It’s almost lunch time and she’s hungry, so this is her need. Once she has recognized the problem, she decides to order something so she starts to search for food delivery companies in her area; this is the research phase.
She finds 4 companies, so now it’s time to evaluate the options. The first company offers fast food menus, but she wants to eat something healthy so this option is eliminated. The second company offers healthy food, but it takes about 60 minutes for the order to be delivered; she doesn’t want to wait that much so she narrows down her choices to the remaining two companies, which offer healthy menus and deliver in half the time.
The final criterion is the price, so Marianne decides to order from company #3, which meets all her requirements: healthy food, delivered fast and at a fair price; this is the 4th stage of the process. Finally, the food arrives and she’s satisfied with the meal, so the post-purchase evaluation is positive. Marianne had a pleasant experience so she’s likely to order from the same company whenever she needs a quick and healthy lunch.
Marianne is a typical client for a food delivery company. If you own such a company, your job when creating buyer personas is to visualize this process and to understand what may or may not determine a potential customer to buy from you.
How to create buyer personas: basic steps
Now that you know about the different stages of the buying decision process, it’s time to learn the basic steps for developing a buyer persona profile.
HubSpot offers a buyer persona template that aims to answer these main questions:
WHO is your buyer, WHAT are his challenges and goals & WHAT can you do to help them, WHY wouldn’t they buy from you, HOW should you craft the marketing message to convince and convert?
I’ll use this template and add questions to help you understand better. However, keep in mind that you may not need to ask all these questions; depending on your industry, you may need to adapt this questionnaire by adding/removing questions.
Section 1: WHO is your buyer?
Here you need the following information:
Your client’s gender, age, location and income; information about client’s family and marital status = demographics.
Ask questions like:
- Where does this persona live?
- What is her age and gender?
- Is she married? Does she have children?
- Does she live alone?
- What is her income? What about the family’s income?
- Does she live in an urban or rural area?
Your client’s job and career path = background.
Ask questions like:
- What is her education level?
- What field does she work in?
- What is her job?
How does your client communicate and behave? = identifiers.
Ask questions like:
- How does she prefer to communicate? Does she prefer emails or phone calls?
- What are her interests?
- What motivates her?
- What does she do for fun? How does she spend her day?
- What social media channels does she use?
Section 2: WHAT are his challenges and goals?
Here you need the following information:
- Your client’s primary and secondary goals. Try to think of both personal and professional goals.
- Your client’s main challenges and pain points. Try to think of professional and personal challenges, fears, and identify what makes her feel worthy and successful.
- What you can do to help them achieve their goals?
Section 3: WHY wouldn’t he buy from you?
At this point you need to identify common objections and factors that may prevent visitors from buying your products.
Section 4: HOW should you craft your marketing message to convince and convert?
Here you need to identify the most appropriate words for explaining your solution to potential customers. Tell them how your product solves their needs, and highlight the particularities and aspects of your product that address their specific objections.
Frequent buyer persona mistakes
Developing buyer personalities takes more than intuition; you have to know your audience, their problems and needs, and to be able to ask the right questions and anticipate their behavior. But an equally important aspect is to identify your negative personas, or who you don’t want as a customer.
Corey Eridon from HubSpot explains what negative personas are and how to create their profiles here: Everything marketers need to know about creating exclusionary personas. I recommend you to take the time and read this article as it’s very useful if you’re just starting with online marketing and want to do things right from the beginning.
Also, here’s a list of frequent buyer persona mistakes that may result in inaccurate and unhelpful profiles and content marketing strategies. The list is crafted by Stanley Martin for Writtent and it’s a useful read before starting to develop customer profiles. The mistakes identified by Stanley include:
- Asking confusing questions
- Using jargon or technical questions
- Developing too many buyer personas
- Skipping the interview stage and developing profiles based on assumptions
Now that you know what should and shouldn’t be included in the marketing persona profile, it’s time to take a look at some practical examples. Feel free to download the buyer persona templates and adapt them to your business and marketing goals.
Buyer persona template
Here is another sample buyer persona created by Strategy-Plus.net.
And here’s a third one, developed by ShopifyNation.com.
I hope you’ll find this article useful and I’d love to hear about your experience with buyer personas. Did you create buyer personas for your website? Why or why not?
Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to share this article with your friends and audience if you think they might use some extra information on building buyer personas for their websites. If you need help developing your own marketing personas, feel free to get in touch via the Contact page!