Knowledge is power. And nowhere is this better articulated than in Back to the Future Part II.
If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that the villainous Biff goes back in time to give his younger self a sports book that contains all future sporting results for him to bet on, making him filthy-rich in the process.
(This leads to horrible repercussions, but we’ll gloss over those.)
The point is that, just as a gambler would love to know the result of a match before it happens, winning at marketing is about limiting the variables that can derail your business’ success.
In marketing and brand strategy terms, short of a fool-proof time machine (aka a flux capacitor for all you Back to the Future geeks out there), one of the best ways to do this is by building buyer personas.
What’s a buyer persona?
In short, it’s a representation of your ideal customer based on market research (interviews, focus groups), the historical behaviours of your customers (data insight) and your own educated assumptions.
A buyer persona contains basic information, such as age, gender and job role. But it also reveals numerous other factors about your ideal customer: their career ambitions, what industry publications they read, their preferred social media channels, their family life, shopping preferences, job pain-points and so on.
If you want to know how to create one, this step-by-step buyer persona guide is a great resource.
Why they’re important to your business
Knowing the attributes of your ideal customer improves the chances of your marketing and sales efforts’ success, as you can tailor those efforts towards prospects who are more likely to be interested in what you have to offer.
Knowing, for example, that your ideal customer is a 35-year-old ambitious woman in a high-powered job who loves to spend time on Instagram means you won’t use communication methods that might better befit a 60-year-old man who’s planning on retiring and thinks Instagram is a way to play vinyl records.
Just as Biff’s future-telling and fortune-making almanac in Back to the Future allowed him to disregard all the other horses in the race and pick the winner, a buyer persona removes the majority of people who won’t be interested in your product from your sales and marketing strategies.
As such, one of the key benefits of buyer personas is to generate better leads with less effort and fewer wasted resources.
Which, by itself, would be a good enough reason to champion buyer personas. But they help in a number of other ways, too.
They make you put the customer first
A lot of companies talk about what they do, but they don’t often talk about what their customers need – and how they should meet those needs.
Customers have challenges to overcome and goals to fulfil. And so they want to hear about products that help them overcome these challenges and fulfil these goals.
A buyer persona helps you shift the focus away from what you do and more towards what you do to help your customers. This helps attract people to you because they feel you understand them – their motivations and their pain-points.
By doing this, a buyer persona helps you position yourself in the eyes of your most important asset: your customers.
They promote cross-departmental alignment
The very act of building your buyer persona can be highly revealing. To build your persona, you need to ask yourself – and your focus groups – detailed questions about your ideal customers’ behaviours. And then you need to compare notes with your colleagues.
Doing this will uncover any inconsistencies in how you see your ideal customer versus how your inter- and cross-departmental colleagues see them.
Which has obvious implications for your copywriter who thought your buyer persona was a mid-50s comb salesman from Cumbria, when in fact they’re a Champagne-quaffing thirtysomething from Surrey.
Understanding your buyer personas, therefore, lets you deliver aligned, consistent communications at all touchpoints.
Beyond that, they also help your sales and customer support teams build better rapport with customers simply because they understand them better and are well-equipped to deal with their concerns.
They help you spot opportunities for change
What if by developing a buyer persona you find you’re not that keen on them? What if they’re too old or young? What if they’re all men or all women? What if they don’t represent ethnic minorities? What if they’re all millennials, who you’ve recently learned don’t have the buying power you thought they did?
In constructing buyer personas, you might find out that your product has a too-specific target market and that you’ve put all your eggs in one demographic basket.
This offers you an opportunity to find ways to appeal to other markets. Maybe you could create a product that appeals to a younger demographic (i.e. your long-term customer base). Perhaps your buyer persona will reveal that you’re not being inclusive enough culturally or with regards to gender. Maybe you could tap into a post-retirement demographic you’d not previously considered. After all, they’re often the ones with the most money…
Developing a buyer persona is crucial for your business. It helps you send targeted, personalised messaging that resonates. It reduces wasted resources spent on audiences who wouldn’t be interested in you. It ensures your different departments are aligned in their marketing, sales and support activities. And it offers you the opportunity to appeal to different demographics.
Which might not quite be the equivalent of being able to travel back in time with all the sports results in your hand, Back to the Future-style, but it’s a pretty good substitute.