buyer persona
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How to Build a Buyer Persona (Includes Free Template)

A well-crafted buyer persona (or customer persona, audience persona, or marketing persona) allows you to personalize your marketing on a large scale by humanizing core target groups of your customer base.

From crafting the right message for the right consumers to targeting your social ads effectively, personalization is simply a must in the social media world.

Even more important, personalized marketing is something your customers expect. An April 2018 survey found that more than half of consumers expect companies’ offers to always be personalized. More than two-thirds of millennials feel that way. However, two-thirds of marketers find personalization difficult to execute.

But there’s no need to throw in the towel on this effective strategy. Continue reading to find out how to craft and use buyer personas in your social media marketing.

Bonus: Get a free buyer persona template that helps you craft a detailed profile of your ideal customer.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a model that describes your typical or target customer, based on detailed audience research.

The idea is to create a profile of your ideal customer as if he or she were a real person, so you can craft targeted marketing messages to them. These messages should use the right tone of voice and address the specific needs and desires of your customer.

Since different groups of people may buy your products for different reasons, you will probably need to create more than one buyer persona. Each persona should include basic demographic details, behaviors, goals, pain points, and buying patterns.

You can’t get to know every customer or prospect individually. But you can create a customer persona to represent each general segment of your customer base.

This makes it much easier to think of your customers as real people and to consider their wants and needs as you craft your marketing strategy.

How your business should use buyer or audience personas

Marketing personas allow you to craft effective, targeted messages that speak directly to each customer group.

In your personal life, you share important messages differently depending on who you want to reach.

Say you have interesting news to share with your parents, friends, and coworkers. You would probably use different words and tools to reach each of these groups. You might call your mom on the phone, post on Workplace to alert your colleagues, or use a WhatsApp group chat to share with your friends.

Understanding your buyer personas allows you to understand the best ways to reach each of your different customer groups, just as you intuitively know how to best reach and speak to different groups of people in your personal life.

Your marketing personas can also become company-wide shorthand for evaluating business decisions. Does a new product feature better meet the needs of your buyer personas? If not, you have good reason to reconsider your plan, no matter how exciting it is to your marketing team, or your IT department, or even your CEO.

How to create buyer personas in 5 simple steps

In order to be useful, your buyer personas need to be based on real-world information, not gut instinct.

Define the people who actually want to buy from you, not the people you wish would buy from you.

That means you need to start with some in-depth research. Gather the information as you work through these steps. Use it to fill in the buyer persona template when you get to step five.

1. Do thorough audience research

Here’s a basic primer on learning details about your audience. For a more in-depth look at these concepts, check out our complete guide to audience research.

  • Learn who is already buying from you. Gather all of the information you can about your current customer base. Some of the key data points you’ll want to collect are age, location, language, income, buying behavior, interests and activities, and life stage (such as new parenthood or retirement). Gather what you can from your customer records, and consider confirming and supplementing that information through email surveys, online surveys, focus groups, or even customer interviews.
  • Dig into your website and social analytics. Social media analytics tools can provide an incredible amount of information about the people who are interacting with your brand online, even if they’re not yet customers. Facebook Audience Insights provides especially valuable and detailed information.
  • See what the competition is up to. Once you’ve gathered information about your own customers and fans, check out who’s interacting with your competition. Are they reaching the same target groups as you are? Are they reaching groups you haven’t targeted yet but should? What can you learn from their efforts that can help you differentiate your brand?

2. Identify customer pain points

What problems or hassles are your potential customers trying to solve? What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals?

One key way to find out is to engage in some social listening and social media sentiment analysis.

Setting up search streams to monitor mentions of your brand, products, and competitors gives you a real time look into what people are saying about you online. You can learn why they love your products, or which parts of the customer experience are just not working.

It’s also a good idea to check in with your customer service team to see what kinds of questions they get the most. Find out if they can help you identify patterns about which groups tend to face different kinds of challenges. You could even ask them to collect real customer quotes that you can use to help give your audience personas depth.

3. Identify customer goals

This is the flip side of pain points. While pain points are problems your potential customers are trying to solve, goals or aspirations are positive things they want to achieve. Those goals might be personal or professional, depending on the kinds of products and services you sell. What motivates your customers? What’s their end game?

These goals might be directly related to solutions you can provide, but they don’t have to be. This is more about getting to know your customers than it is trying to match customers exactly to features or benefits of your product.

Even if your personas’ goals don’t relate specifically to your product’s features, they can form the basis of a campaign, or they might simply inform the tone or approach you take in your marketing.

Social listening can be a good way to gather this information, too. And just as your customer service team was a good source of insight for pain points, your sales team can be a good source of insight on customer goals.

Your salespeople talk to real people who are thinking about using your product, and they have deep understanding of what your customers are trying to achieve by using your products and services. Ask them to collect real quotes that embody the customer experience. You can also ask them for any key strategies they use to overcome buyer objections when selling your products or services, which leads us to…

Bonus: Get a free buyer persona template that helps you craft a detailed profile of your ideal customer.

Get the free template now!

4. Understand how your brand can help

Now that you understand your customers’ pain points and goals, it’s time to create a really clear picture of how your products and service can help. As part of this step, you’ll need to stop thinking about your brand in terms of features and dig deep to analyze the benefits you offer to customers.

It can be hard for marketers to get out of the feature mindset—which is one reason buyer personas are so important. They help you flip your thinking and consider your products and services from a buyer’s point of view.

Remember: A feature is what your product is or does. A benefit is how your product or service makes your customer’s life easier or better.

Ask yourself one question for each of the pain points and goals you’ve collected: How can we help? The answers to this question will provide the basis for the key marketing messages you’ll craft in the next step.

5. Turn your research into buyer personas

Gather all of your research and start looking for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, you’ll have the basis of your unique customer personas.

Here’s how this looks in practice. Let’s say you identify a core customer group of women in their 30s who live in big cities, like to run, and own small dogs. Great—now it’s time to take this abstract collection of characteristics and turn them into a persona that you can identify with and speak to.

Give your buyer persona a name, a job title, a home, and other defining characteristics. You want your persona to seem like a real person without getting too specific and excluding characteristics that should rightly be considered part of this customer group.

Aim for about the amount of information you would expect to see on a dating site, or what you might learn from a short conversation on an airplane or at a bus stop. Don’t forget to include pain points and goals.

For example, your group of dog-owning urban women runners could be represented by the persona you name Jogging Jane. Rather than speaking generally about city living and dog ownership, you’ll give Jane representative characteristics that make her a real person:

  • She is 35 years old
  • She lives in New York City
  • She works at a tech company
  • She owns a two-year old Chihuahua named Sam
  • She likes to run in Central Park

And so on.

Remember, a list of characteristics does not equal a persona. A persona is realistic description of a person who represents one segment of your customer base. Sure, not all people in this customer group match the characteristics of your persona exactly. But this persona represents this customer group to you and allows you to think about them in a human way rather than as a collection of data points.

It’s a lot easier to speak to Jane than it is to speak to “women.” Or even “35-year-old women who own dogs.”

As you flesh out your buyer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition.

How to use personas to guide your marketing

Thinking of your buyer personas as real people allows you to craft marketing messages that speak to real people. Marketers too often fall into using corporate-speak that incorporates a lot of buzzwords but doesn’t really mean anything. It’s harder to fall into that trap when you’re crafting a marketing message specifically for Jogging Jane.

What questions does she have that your marketing message can answer? What social networks does she use? What kind of language does she use when she interacts with her friends online? Thinking of Jane as a real person makes sure you address her priorities instead of your own.

This is where your answers to the “how can we help” exercise come in. For each buyer persona, create one key marketing message that answers this question. How does your brand help this specific persona solve their problems and achieve their goals? Capture that in one clear sentence and add it to your persona template.

Think about your buyer personas every time you make a decision about your business and your marketing strategy. Do right by those personas and you’ll build a bond with the real customers they represent, boosting sales while creating brand loyalty and trust.

Research and engage your target audience on social media with Hootsuite. Besides digging into audience demographics, you can compose, schedule, and publish the messages you’ve crafted specifically for your ideal customer . Try it free today.

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