Inbound marketing is, more often than not, all about knowing how your ideal customers think.
Having a solid grasp of who your customers are, what they want when they visit your website, and how they usually like to consume information can help you craft more effective messaging for your marketing efforts.
Every business needs to know who their ideal customers are and how to market to them – otherwise, you’re just blowing hot air around, and then nobody’s happy. In the world of inbound, these customer profiles are called buyer personas.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
Simply put, buyer personas are a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. The true objective here is to base this off of market research and real data about your existing customers so you can accurately market to this person (or people).
Customer personas are the basis of everything you do as a digital marketer, so it’s extremely important to do your due diligence fleshing them out. Every campaign and effort put forth should begin with how it will resonate with your persona in the most helpful and convenient way.
Consider personas as a chalky outline to provide you with guidelines on what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.
Why Are Buyer Personas Important?
Without a well-defined buyer persona, you don’t have any kind of profile to focus on when creating new content.
You might know that one offer is outperforming others based on the number of clicks it gets, but you may not know exactly why it’s performing well – such as it being especially well-targeted for one kind of buyer.
Also, you run the risk of focusing on attracting the wrong kind of customers.
Who would be the wrong customer? What separates them from your “ideal” customers?
This can be hard to define, but it’s usually the customers who end up costing your business more in time and resources than the revenue they generate is worth.
With personas, you can assign each customer to a persona so you know which prospects to focus on for best results.
You can also see if you're underperforming with specific groups of people so you can create content that targets them better – in turn bringing in more “Grade A” customers and fewer of those that just make your life harder.
How Personas Are Used in Marketing
When you think about it, you pretty much use your buyer personas in every aspect of your marketing efforts.
From content creation to campaigns, even to prospecting and lead generation, your marketing personas are what fuel the fire.
Your personas should be at top of mind in everything you do and create, as they are the ideal customers you want to attract. Without personas, your marketing efforts might not bring in the right people.
Buyer Persona vs. Ideal Customer Profile
At first thought, you might think these two terms are synonymous. But think again.
A buyer persona is one (fictionalized) person that fits within an ideal customer profile.
Your ideal customer profiles should think about the logistics of your ideal customers, such as:
- Company size
- Industry or vertical
- Geographic location
- B2B or B2C business
Once you’ve solidified your ideal buyer profile with these details, you can begin to create various buyer personas within that profile.
Think about it: every employee at a company has a different job, whether it’s client-facing or internal. And, these employees all face unique challenges, pain points, and goals.
Therefore, it’s important to identify your ideal user personas so you can properly target your messaging and marketing efforts that will resonate with their specific challenges and goals.
B2B vs. B2C Buyer Personas
Note that depending on if you're a B2B or B2C company, your buyer personas might look a little different.
For example, B2B buyers tend to make decisions in a group setting, such as with a leadership team. However, B2C buyers are usually individuals who make their own personal purchase.
Also, B2C buyers are typically more impulsive (you see something online, you want it, you got it, right?).
However, if B2B buyers were to be just as impulsive, their company might end up with a product or service they don't or can't use. This is why there is a lot of decision factors that come into play, and thus it takes more time to get them to trust your business and what you have to offer.
How Many Buyer Personas Should You Create?
Persona development shouldn’t be a haphazard task you rush through at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.
Brainstorming, ideating, and fleshing out your marketing personas should – and will – take a decent amount of time. Therefore, it never hurts to start small.
Many businesses start off with one to three personas to hit their core customer base. We recommend that you begin with no more than four to five. Otherwise, your marketing initiatives can become too spread out and not focused on any one group.
That isn’t the most actionable or strategic way to move the needle.
However, as you gain better insights as to who is coming to your website and why, you can start to build new personas for not only the decision makers at your ideal companies, but also gatekeepers and other influencers within the company.
This way, you'll be able to hone in various different levels of employees within your ideal company. Think about it: Lower level employees are often tasked with researching solutions to problems.
By creating targeted, educational content for various buyer personas, you're building trust with people who have influence and directly communicate with the big wig decision maker at the top.
How to Create Buyer Personas
Personas help you establish not only who and where your most valuable followers are, but also why they eventually decide to purchase from your company or not.
The best personas are those that help you understand the basic motivators of a high quality target audience.
But how do you create personas for your company?
It's not just a guessing game; in fact, you might even have all the information you need based on your current customers, prospects, and referrals. Here are a few ways to start gathering information to create new personas.
Analyze Your Current Contact Database.
How are people finding your website? What content are they reading? What actions are they taking?
By taking an analytical approach, you can pinpoint different behaviors of your current audience. This can help give you a clear idea of the people looking into your business as a solution to their needs and also determine what messaging you should be tailoring to them.
Run Surveys and Interviews.
This is one of the easiest ways to collect real, valuable data to determine who your customer personas are as it uses the information provided by human people to help you find out what drives your audience.
The best place to start off is with your current customers. Why? Because they're already customers. They've purchased your product or service and engaged with your company in some way or another.
Another group to interview is prospects – these people are already aware that they have an issue and are considering your business as the solution. Tap into what brought them here, what goals they have, and why they're considering you.
Remember that you should have information stored about both your customers and prospects already – whether it's industry, company size, challenges, etc., you'll want to note these because they can help you better define your target personas.
Start with three to five interviews for each persona you will be creating. As you begin to gather information, you can always interview a few more.
10 Questions to Ask When Developing Your Personas
Again, you should not just take a wild guess when it comes to your personas – taking the knowledge you gained from your research, sit down with a team and ask these 10 questions to help develop accurate customer personas.
1. What Is Their Age, Education Level, Marital Status, Etc.?
Collecting personal data about your buyers helps you truly flesh them out as a real person. Sure, while they are just fictional, they represent the real people who come to your business looking for information or help.
2. What Is Their Job Title/Role at Their Company?
What does your ideal customer do at their company? This can impact how you approach your messaging and content, as C-suite employees are likely to be looking for something different than an entry-level employee.
3. What Are Their Day-to-Day Responsibilities?
On an average day, what is this person responsible for? Asking this will allow you to put yourselves in their shoes and better comprehend the importance of their role at their company. This question is often more important for B2B organizations to know than it is for B2C companies.
4. Who Do They Report to, and Who Reports to Them?
This is a valuable question because it helps you establish the chain of command at their company. Understanding where they are on the totem pole can help you better tailor your content and marketing efforts to their specific roles.
C-suite employees have different goals and needs than entry-level employees. However, knowing how they interact in the company can help you discover the gatekeepers and decision makers.
5. What Industry Do They Work In, and How Large Is the Company?
While you should define your ideal customer profile before your buyer personas, it's still important to understand which specific industry or vertical your buyer personas might be working in, as well as the size of the company.
This basic company information allows you to put into perspective the needs they might have and how many objections they're likely to face while they're researching content related to your company's products or services.
6. What Are the Biggest Goals They’re Trying to Meet – Both Now and in the Future?
Every employee has certain goals they set for both themselves and for their company.
Think about the specific goals your buyer personas might have in their current position – this can help you create valuable content and relevant solutions geared toward those aspirations.
7. What Are Their Biggest Challenges?
Most of the time, when someone visits your website, they have some kind of immediate need.
When your best customers visit your site, what are the biggest challenges that they’re typically trying to overcome? Knowing this is always useful information.
8. Where Do They Go to Get Their Information?
Get a better idea of where they seek out information. Is it a certain blog or publication? Do they prefer reading books or taking online courses?
This way, you know where to spread your messaging. If your buyer personas are highly engaged on Reddit, you need to be there in the discussions.
Also, how they consume knowledge matters. If your audience prefers video, for example, you'd want to produce marketing content on YouTube and other video platforms.
9. What Would Be a Reason They’De Be Against Your Solution/Product/Service?
Not every prospect is going to be on board the second they land on your website. Objections are fairly common, whether it's about price, product fit, or even a competitor.
You can break this down in all kinds of ways – a purchase in your price range, for example, or a purchase in your category. Each individual answer helps you add up to a bigger whole.
Suss all these out and lay them end to end and you might just come across a pattern in your buyer’s thinking. That could help you cut through the clutter and get your message heard.
10. How Can You Curate a Solution to Them in an Actionable Way That Shows It Will Make Their Lives Easier?
This question helps you establish a marketing message (almost like an elevator pitch). If you had 30 seconds to talk to this persona face-to-face, what would you say to convince them that they need your solution above any others?
Buyer Persona Examples
Here at Bluleadz, we analyze our target audience often and aim to create tailored content and messaging to attract them to our business.
Over the past year, we have expanded our buyer persona list to include not only the decision makers, but also those employees who play an integral role in the companies we target.
For each of our personas, we created a detailed PDF guide that describes who they are, what they do, why they do it, and what they hope to do. Plus, we even put a face to the name!
Tammy is a talent manager or hiring manager at her company. She works under the COO at her company and is responsible for recruiting top talent.
For each of your personas, sum up everything your person does into a "get to know them" section. Doing this will give you the most basic understanding of who this person is, what they do, and who they work for.
Based on your ideal customer profile, you'll also want to include the location, industry, and company size where your persona works. (For Bluleadz, these are the same throughout.)
The next two pages of each buyer persona PDF focuses more on the nitty gritty details, including:
- Pain points and challenges
- Where they seek knowledge
- Marketing message
For us, the talent managers coming to our site seem to struggle with educating employees on becoming brand ambassadors, keeping talent pipelines organized, and creating a streamlined recruiting process, among many others challenges.
We chose to go into a lot of detail for each buyer persona because the person in that position faces a handful of different challenges – it's not a one-size-fits-all thing, so you shouldn't always treat your personas like they are.
Next, highlight where your personas seek out knowledge; whether its from books, webinars, courses, or online. The Tammys of the world turn to recruiting blogs and interviews to gather information.
However, talent managers still face objections, and for Tammy, it's about budget restraints, lack of buy-in, and past negative experiences. Understanding what objections are in the way of your personas choosing your company can help you better tailor a proper marketing message to them.
Though challenges can be the negatives of a persona, goals are the positive – and they're what keep your personas going and striving for more. Jot down a lot of common goals that your persona might have, as this will help you better understand what they are working toward and how your product/service can help them do it.
For example, Tammy wants to develop an employee referral program, so writing and publishing a blog about how to develop an employe referral program would most likely attract her to your website.
Be sure to include your "elevator pitch" on how you will market your business to each persona. Touch on any pain points, goals, and objections your personas have and why your business is the best solution for them.
We use our buyer personas in every aspect of our marketing and sales efforts – from the content we write to the prospects we prospect, our personas shape how we grow as a business.
For more detailed examples of how you might fill out your buyer persona profiles like ours, say hello to Marketing Specialist Sarah and Service Rep Ralph!
Free Buyer Persona Templates
Putting the concept of buyer personas on paper can really help you visualize and humanize your target audience – which is why we made persona PDFs in the first place!
If you're looking for a quick template to answer the right questions and include the right information to better understand your ideal customers, you've come to the right place.
Here are two free templates you can download to help you complete your own buyer persona profiles!
How to Import Personas Into HubSpot: A (Quick) Step-by-Step Guide
Adding personas to your CRM can help you easily identify the people who come to your site and put them into their appropriate persona "buckets."
Luckily, HubSpot allows you to create and add your personas to your CRM so you can properly set personas for prospects coming through the door. Here's how you can do it:
How to Add a New Persona in HubSpot
1. In your HubSpot account, click the settings icon.
2. In the left sidebar, click properties.
3. Search for "persona," then click the persona property.
4. Under dropdown options, click Add another persona.
5. Add relevant information about your persona, including a name, description, roles, goals, challenges, and any other details that help you define who this persona represents. (Note: only fields with an * are required, but we encourage you to fill out any fields that would be of use to your company.)
6. Optional: Add a stock image of an individual to help you tell personas apart from one another. Feel free to have fun with this! (Maybe try cartoon characters?)
7. Click save.
Get to Know Your Buyer Personas
Now that you see the importance of your buyer personas and you know how to create them, you're ready to put them into action. Use them to develop and execute targeted marketing campaigns.
With buyer personas, you have the foundation set for delivering real value in your industry and attracting relevant leads who are eager to buy from you.