How To Define Your Marketing Personas
Buyer personas are a valuable part of current marketing efforts, but what are they, and how does marketing persona research work? Here are the things you should know to help reach your target audience, including reaching potential customers and getting existing customers to come back and spend again.
What Are Marketing Personas?
Marketing personas are fictional representations of a part of your customer base that you can use to help predict the outcomes of actions, including those of prospective customers. Well-made buyer personas can help you target customers more effectively, ignore irrelevant data, and maximize the return on your marketing efforts.
Businesses can have multiple buyer personas depending on the demographics of their audience. For example, retail stores in tourist destinations may have buyer personas to represent locals and out-of-town visitors. In contrast, social media companies may have buyer personas to represent companies willing to advertise on their platforms.
Why are Buyer Personas so Important to Your Business?
Buyer personas make integrating a few ideas into your marketing plan easier. The growth of big data makes it possible to help predict buyer behavior, but utilizing the results requires understanding your buyer demographics and what they mean.
Having a customer persona works because people from similar groups often act similarly. Content marketing efforts cannot be 100% accurate at predicting things, but with effective audience research, your sales team can get significantly more successful.
Audience personas also make it easier to replace older techniques like focus groups. Since you don’t need to go through the same research process, you can streamline development and shorten advertising cycles while improving the results.
Different Types of Buyer Personas
There are many ways to categorize buyer personas; only some are appropriate for some companies. For example, suppose you’re selling to another business and pass the offer through several layers of senior personnel. In that case, they care mainly about analytics and aren’t easily swayed by persuasive arguments.
However, many companies using data-driven research ultimately end up with one or more of the following six archetypes for personas. The primary thing to remember here is that creating buyer personas should always involve looking at the facts, and you should adjust the personas to fit the facts as necessary.
Analytical personas do more market research than anyone else. Analyzers are an interesting marketing persona because it’s more common at larger businesses willing to spend a lot of money, so they can be valuable if you’re dealing with it. Any customer database indicating an analytical persona has work to do but can earn a lot of money.
When persona research shows you’re dealing with the analytical type, expect them to ask for a lot of data and information. Analyzers prefer established methods, like large amounts of data (and ways to process it), and only like taking leaps of faith if they can see the ground on the other side.
Analytical personas are excellent problem-solvers and will likely examine a question from multiple angles. They overlap with skeptical personas, but rather than outright doubting you, analyzers prefer gathering information and won’t judge you too much until they look at the data.
Analyzers are a tricky part of a customer base because you can’t fool them with marketing or slogans. Like the skeptic, they’re going to see through any nonsense. However, since they research to validate their decisions, they’re also highly confident in their outcomes.
If an analyzer discards you, you can only convince them if you can provide new data to change their minds. However, if they decide you’re the right choice, they’ll stick with you unless and until numbers appear saying they shouldn’t.
Customer data showing an analytical bent means you should push slowly to get the sale. Analyzers will buy things when they’re ready to, not before, and they’re deeply uncomfortable with any attempts to make decisions before analyzing.
Analytical members of a customer base are also sensitive to criticism and likely to take it personally. They don’t like being wrong because they put a lot of effort into proving they are right. Rather than telling them that they’re wrong, it’s better to offer new, verifiable data to support your stance. They accept data more than discussions.
Large corporations, including some government agencies, tend to have many analyzers. Small business owners may also fall into this category. Many small business owners prefer being decisive but must analyze the numbers to make the best choice.
You’re in a good position when you research buyer personas and find that you have a consensus option on your hands.
Consensus personas are the opposite of the decisive persona. They are deliberate, diplomatic, and thoughtful, more likely to respect your business and your needs than many of your other customers.
Consensus personas put a lot of value on information and other people’s input. They’re especially likely to research products and read reviews from others, and having more reviews of your product is always better.
However, they can also be much slower than other buyers. They don’t like rushing into making a decision. Instead, they’ll only go ahead after getting agreement from others, which can take hours to months.
Consensus personas often respond well if you allow them to ask questions and get more information. If you want to hurry them along a little, you can ask about scheduling a call in the future. For example, you can ask them if calling back in two weeks to answer any questions they’ve come up with will work out.
A consensus persona can appear in some surprising places. For example, many government contracts need to go through a consensus process and get agreements from different levels of legislators or regulators.
Decisive customers want to make decisions and move on. They’re proactive, focus on results, and strongly value winning. They can also be overbearing or pushy and have less tact or desire for consensus than other personas.
If you conduct qualitative research and find that you’re dealing with a decisive persona, your response should include quick decision-making and easy access to facts. Decisive personas are often impressed if you can recite relevant facts and statistics, and they’ll jump right in if you can prove that your offer will help them win.
Decisive personas also like being treated like the most important person around, and they tend to respond well if they think you’re willing to take risks on their behalf. Note that you don’t have to take risks as long as the decisive persona thinks you are.
Decisive personas tend to thrive on conflict, and with their focus on winning, giving them a slight pushback before capitulating makes them happy. They may also enjoy follow-ups after victory, like going out to get drinks.
Marketing efforts that you aim towards a decisive persona should focus on simple topics like how much they can save or how much they’ll improve. Using percentages tends to work well, but shorter campaigns tend to work better.
Nike’s Just Do It campaign is a prime example of appealing to decisive personas. As a sports-focused company, Nike’s customers include active, athletic people who focus a lot on success. Discarding the extra stuff and simply acting is an appealing tagline, which is why the company’s used it for several decades.
Many decisive personas are also present among lower-income buyers. People with less flexibility in time and finances often prefer making decisions and freeing up more time for other things.
Innovator personas balance out the analyzers. They only care a little about existing rules or procedures and are happy to throw established plans to the wind if they come up with ideas.
Detailed buyer personas that show an innovator mean you need to think on your feet and support creative solutions. Innovators love coming up with new ways to do things, and they can jump forward if they believe they have a way to put it into practice.
Conversations with innovators go over better if you act in a supporting role. Let the innovator bounce ideas off of you and support their agenda. Try to avoid shutting down creative talk, but remember to redirect the conversation back towards the topic if it’s moving too far away from that.
Innovators tend to focus on the big picture and don’t like focusing on a lot of detail work. Marketing persona research involving an innovator means you may need to do the technical things yourself, allowing you to bring the innovator’s goals into reality.
Innovators think boundaries exist to be pushed, so they tend to be social and like talking. Brainstorming sessions are often fun for them, especially if you can walk away from it with a plan to accomplish a goal. Innovators like deciding things more than doing them but occasionally slow down to enjoy the results.
When you create customer personas and find a relationship persona, you can make a friend over a customer.
Relationship personas are highly interactive. They’re creative at solving problems, play well on teams, and tend to focus on the big picture over individual details. Most relationship personas prefer hearing only a few technical details, figuring that’s something for others to care about.
Many relationship personas find it easy to get “off-topic” and discuss matters that seem irrelevant to your sales, such as vacations they’ve had or family matters. They may weave in-between business and personal topics without hesitation but don’t appreciate it if you constantly try to tie their issues back to sales.
Relationship personas want to finish what they start talking about, so conversations can get long. However, they tend to respond well if you can last the whole time and show interest in what they’re talking about. You can use a few questions to keep them talking, too.
Relationship personas tend to make decisions based on emotion. They will likely close the deal if they like you and have a good feeling about you. However, if you seem like a downer in the relationship because you’re trying to be the voice of reason, a relationship persona may feel like you’re not a good fit. If that’s the case, they’ll never convert to a customer.
Many relationship personas are female because women are more likely to talk to each other, especially in same-gender conversations. However, men can also fall into this category in certain areas.
Outside of gender focuses, relationship personas often crop up when dealing with hobbies or interests. A customer who’s analytical when buying food may be more relationship-oriented at a hobby store because they have a personal attachment to it.
Any lifestyle brand may encounter relationship personas regularly. Having staff who can chat with customers without rushing them to buy can make shopping a better experience and encourage clients to return.
Skeptical personas are the opposite of relationship personas. There may be some overlap with the analytical persona, but where an analytical person runs on data and evidence, a skeptical persona runs on doubt.
Skeptical personas will often perform market research on products before they even consider buying. They will only feel your product if they have evidence that it is good. They may want to read customer interviews or reviews, look for real-world tests, or evaluate problems.
Skeptics take a long time to develop trust in a company. You can expect them to see right through any nonsense in your advertising campaign or attempts to direct people away from flaws in your products.
If you’re selling a food product and advertise “all-natural ingredients” on the label, a skeptic’s first thought is, “Okay, so you have two all-natural ingredients in here, and they’re probably only in small amounts.” Ambiguity is fatal for gaining a skeptic’s trust and only convinces them that you have something to hide.
You can expect a skeptic to be familiar with standards for advertising. In direct conversations, they’ll ask detailed and specific questions about technical aspects or how things work.
Skeptics like documentation that shows how things work. Clear guides for product use make them more comfortable. They tend to know what they want from something, and by showing how your product or service meets their exact need, they’re more likely to buy.
Unlike relationship personas, skeptical personas often prefer communicating at a distance. They’re more likely to use email than grab a phone and prefer responding to things in their own time. They rarely display too much emotion when discussing business, nor do they share their thoughts in most meetings.
If you suspect you’re dealing with a skeptic, try to find out for sure. They might try to kill a purchase without ever talking to you, but if you can get them to open up about their questions, you can earn their trust.
Summarizing the Personas
When you look at the six main options when you want to create customer personas, you can see that they ultimately fall into two greater categories.
The analytical, decisive, and skeptical personas are more serious and information-driven. They enjoy facts and details in different amounts but respond well to evidence that shows how something you’re selling will help them.
The consensus, innovator, and relationship personas are looser and more emotion-driven while making decisions. They often talk more and enjoy long conversations, and while they may like having some information, they get more from direct talks.
4 Steps to Creating Buyer Personas
Now that you know more about defining your target audience, let’s discuss the four steps of creating personas.
Quantitative analysis involves analyzing as many members of your target audience as possible. Companies may do things like online or in-store surveys, reference website analytical data, or look in relevant trade journals and other sources of information.
The goal of quantitative analysis is to help figure out important details like who your customers are and how they tend to respond to things. With enough data, you can get good results for each part of a customer’s demographics.
Details like age, income, gender, neighborhood, employment, religion, nationality, marital status, and hobbies can all affect the way people respond to marketing efforts. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to create buyer personas that genuinely reflect their behaviors and help you predict what they’re likely to do.
Qualitative analysis is a deeper analysis of specific details to help you understand more about your customers. The focus should be on details about your products or services rather than general interests and opinions. For example, qualitative analysis can investigate customers’ challenges or what frustrates them about your company.
Avoid asking personal questions about buyers at this stage. You already know enough about that from the quantitative analysis, and deeply personal questions can make respondents less forthcoming in their answers. Keep the focus strictly on business.
Drafting the Personas
Once you have information about your audience, it’s time to start making marketing personas. A good persona should have a name, an age, a gender, a job title, and information about relevant things like how they spend their time and what pain points they tend to experience. Make sure to include how your product or service helps them.
Most companies do well with somewhere between three and five personas that address different aspects of their customer base. You may lose focus and try too hard if you have too many.
An essential part of creating a marketing persona is being honest with the information. A persona isn’t an ideal imaginary customer you want to find but an accurate representation of the customers you’re dealing with. If the persona isn’t honest, you can’t do much with it.
Many companies use alliterative names that tie the persona to an established personality model. For example, you could have Analytical Albert and Skeptical Sarah. Aside from being easier to remember, this lets you quickly categorize personas into each category.
The critical thing to remember about all buyer personas is that most people are fundamentally willing to become customers if they believe they’re getting a good deal. However, people reach that decision differently, and that’s what the personas help model.
Also, many personas may have elements of multiple decision-making processes. Don’t limit yourself to just one if the facts suggest your customers are complex. For example, analytics and skeptics often share many traits, as do consensus and relationship personas.
Socializing the Persona
Once you’ve created a persona, it’s time to socialize them. In many ways, this is the fun part.
Socializing a persona involves sharing it with others, especially people it may resemble, and using that to get feedback on its accuracy and the likelihood of it working. People often overlook important details when creating personas, and socializing allows correcting that.
Remember, buyer personas should never be offensive or a caricature of any group. Instead, they should be an honest assessment of the actual thoughts, values, priorities, and problems that your customers experience. Once you know how a buyer thinks, you can determine how to market your products.
You may need to socialize personas several times. Take care to maintain focus when collecting feedback, but make each persona feel like a complex and realistic individual.
Marketing persona research matters to businesses. With the proper research, you can make buyer personas that adequately represent your audience and serve as a way to guide decisions and help maximize your profits.
The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. Advertas is a comprehensive digital branding and marketing agency, and we have experience providing advice and creating buyer personas for companies of many different sizes. Having personas will help you improve your overall performance, so contact us today for more information.
Copyright 2023. All rights reserved.
Hal H. Green is a marketing executive and entrepreneur in the energy industry with more than 20 years of experience in starting and managing technology companies. His particular focus is business strategy, effective selling practices, and field marketing. He has a diverse portfolio of achievements, which span all areas of the hydrocarbon supply chain – from upstream exploration through downstream refining & petrochemical.
Mr. Green attended Texas A&M University, where he received a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. He later earned an MBA in Information Management from the University of Houston. As Director of Manufacturing Systems for Setpoint, an advanced process control firm in Houston, Mr. Green effectively managed the P&L of this consulting practice. After Aspen Technology acquired Setpoint in January 1996, he continued as Director of Business Development for the Information Management and Polymer Business Units. Throughout his career, Mr. Green has been a proven thought leader, publishing articles in major industry journals.
In 2004, Mr. Green founded Advertas, a full-service marketing and public relations firm serving clients in energy and technology across the energy supply chain – upstream, midstream, downstream and power. In 2009, Geophysical Insights retained Advertas to be their outsourced marketing and business development functions. Dr. Tom Smith, President/CEO of Geophysical Insights, appointed Mr. Green as Director of Marketing and Business Development, in which capacity he still serves today.
Chief Marketing Officer
Laura A. Cuttill is a strategic and operational leader with a demonstrated ability to fuse business, financial, and technology interests into streamlined, profitable operations. Armed with a degree in marketing from Texas A&M University, Ms. Cuttill began her career in the Schlumberger Information Solutions department, working on identity management roll-out projects for Chevron and ExxonMobil.
In 2004 she joined Hal Green as a co-founder of Advertas, adding her organizational, analytical, and creative problem-solving skills to the team. In 2010 she left Advertas to co-found the identity management software company, 2FA, Inc. As COO / CMO for 2FA, she helped lead the company from concept to a 75% market share in target verticals for two factor authentication in four short years. After selling the business to Identity Automation in 2016, she returned to Advertas, continuing to support clients in the energy and process industries. She serves her clients with a unique vision of using cutting-edge software and marketing practices as a foundation to drive business growth.