Buyer personas have been a hugely important solution to the problem of targeting in marketing.
In today’s business world, there are two major types of marketing- inbound and outbound. With inbound marketing, businesses create content and messaging that attract their target audience; with outbound marketing, they send messaging and content to a wide audience, hoping that some would show interest in their products.
Successful inbound marketing requires a clear understanding of your target audience so that your messaging and content aligns with them.
Outbound marketing tactics like paid ads (think Google or Facebook Ads) also require accurate targeting for good results (low CPA, high CTR, and high conversation rate). Though you are casting the net into a wider area, you still want to do it strategically.
Therefore, whether with inbound or outbound marketing, an accurate and clear understanding of your target audience is essential. Without it, you waste thousands of dollars on marketing, branding, and product development without any commensurate results.
For financial advisors who don’t like money going down the drain (shouldn’t that be all financial advisors?), understanding their target audience is important.
Creating buyer personas is the best way to gain this accurate and clear understanding of your target audience for inbound and outbound purposes.
Let’s start with a definition
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional, detailed description of an ideal customer that represents your target audience.
Your target audience consists of your potential customers. If a financial advisor in California serves doctors and dentists (a good example of niche marketing), its target audiences are the doctors and dentists in California.
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional description of someone that represents that target audience. The description is semi-fictional because your buyer persona, though created from data about your target audience, is not an actual person in the real world; rather, he represents the basic features that characterize your target audience.
For the financial advisory firm above (let’s call it XXX Financial Advisory), there are two target audiences – doctors in California and dentists in California. XXX will create a buyer persona representing the doctors (one target audience) and the dentists (the other target audience).
Consequently, a business can have more than one buyer persona. Indeed, they can have as many buyer personas as target audiences.
A buyer persona will include background, demographics, personality, goals, challenges/pain points, solutions you provide, and common objections. But more on that later.
Why are buyer personas important?
So why are buyer personas important?
As said in the introduction, buyer personas help you get targeting right. It gives you a clear vision of your ideal customer, thereby giving direction to your inbound and outbound marketing efforts. What follows are the effects that this sense of direction produce:
Drives content creation and messaging
The first effect of this direction is that your content and messaging (for inbound purposes) are streamlined to meet your target audience’s actual needs.
Inbound marketing depends on getting the right content and messaging to the right audience. To do this, you must have a thorough understanding of your audience- who they are, what they want, what is hindering them, what their emotional triggers are.
Buyer personas are especially important if you use storytelling as a content strategy. With storytelling, you create your content to generate customers by showing how your brand (with its products and services) helps the audience overcome their challenges and arrive at the “promised land.”
You can’t do this (storytelling) without understanding the goal of the readers (“promised land”) and the hindrances on the way.
Therefore, creating buyer personas will help you align your content and messaging to your target audience’s actual challenges and goals.
Drives product development
The profitability of the product you create depends on how well it meets your target audience’s needs. Consequently, the more you understand that audience, the better you can develop products that meet their needs.
In the product concept of marketing, the product is all that matters since supply creates its own demand. But we have moved past that. Now, the customers are the king; and the businesses that prosper know how to design and develop products that meet their needs.
With accurate buyer personas, you can better develop the right products for your audience. Should you create a product on estate planning or tax efficiency? What does your buyer persona want?
Brand loyalty may make customers buy your product rather than the competitor’s (even when it is more expensive), but it won’t make them (in most cases) buy a product that is irrelevant to their needs and goals.
Focused and cheaper marketing
With a buyer persona, your marketing (inbound and outbound) become focused. You are spending time on people who have similar characteristics as your buyer persona. When you create ads (Google or social media), focused targeting helps drive down costs.
As you focus your time on people with characteristics similar to your buyer persona, you spend less time nurturing irrelevant leads or measuring vanity metrics that contribute nothing to your bottom line.
One of the benefits of storytelling as a content strategy is its ability to generate customers directly from content rather than expending time on lead nurturing, lead qualifications, and vanity metrics.
Information for buyer personas
Remember that a buyer persona is a detailed (though semi-fictional) description of an ideal customer representing your target audience.
To create a representation of your target audience, you need to start by understanding that target audience. The goal, as you do this research, is to identify patterns and common features.
If a large part of your target audience is in Sacramento, then your buyer persona is someone in Sacramento. If like XXX Financial Advisory, your target audience consists of doctors, your buyer persona is a Sacramento doctor. (And the details continue to add up)
Where do you find the data?
Begin with what you have. If your advisory business has a CRM (and why won’t you), look into the data you have there to identify common patterns.
Get feedback from your sales team on the trends and patterns they notice about your target audience.
You can also use your Google Analytics or social media analytics data to uncover insights about the people who engage with your website and social channels.
You can also look beyond what you have. One approach is to add certain fields to your website’s forms that can uncover insights about your target audience. Instead of only email address and name, consider including fields like job title, industry, educational achievements, etc. (Ensure those additional fields are optional).
Often, the best way to gather information to create buyer personas is through surveys and interviews. You can create a survey on Survey Monkey or Google Forms and invite your target audience to fill them. Using an incentive (as small as an Amazon gift card or as big as a free consultation) to encourage them to participate in the survey can help.
An interview is even better than a survey. You can conduct phone, face-to-face, or Skype (zoom) interviews with your target audience.
When you pull all of these together (what you initially have and what you went out to get), you will have enough data to analyze. Careful analysis of the data will help you uncover the information you need to create your buyer persona(s).
What information are you looking for?
Components of a great buyer persona
You will need information that helps you fill in the major categories of a buyer persona: background, demographics, personality, goals, challenges, what you offer, and common objections.
The background covers details like educational background, current job, career, and family.
Suppose Amy is the name of a buyer persona for XXX Financial Advisory. Amy holds an MBBS degree and is currently a doctor at UC Davis Medical Center. She has been a surgeon for two years and is the wife of Barrett, with whom she has two kids, Amy and Lindsay.
Demographic details include sex, age, location, and income.
Amy is a female, 35 years old, lives in Sacramento, and earns $80,000.
Here you want to describe your buyer persona’s personal and psychological features that are relevant to your business. For a financial advisor, this will include investment approach (philosophy), risk tolerance, information sources, and preferred communication methods.
Amy is a conservative investor, risk-averse, reads Market Watch and DaveRamsey.com, and prefers email communications.
What are the goals of your buyer persona? What is her “promised land?” Of course, the goals you emphasize must relate to your business. If you are a financial advisor, every goal that will have a huge impact on her finance is important.
Amy wants to retire well in Idaho, start a charity, send missionaries to China, and leave an estate for her children.
The goals represent the destination and the challenges, the hindrances. Your persona is on the way to glory/stardom (goals), but some impediments threaten to thwart her journey. What are they?
Amy ends up picking bad stocks that make her lose money. She spends more than she earns 50% of the time, and her debt liability is now going through the roof.
How we come in
How does your product or service overcome the challenges and lead to the achievement of the goals? How can you be the one that helps her become the hero of the story, the protagonist that ends up in the “promised land?”
XXX Financial Advisory has a budgeting system that doctors over the years have found helpful. They also have a risk-proof investing strategy for risk-averse people like Amy. Their estate planning program has also produced many positive effects.
Why would your buyer persona object to using your product or service even though it solves her problems? Anticipate possible objections so you can align your content and messaging to answer those objections.
Amy believes that financial advisors are too expensive. Moreso, she believes they are only out there for their profits and can’t offer the personal touch she needs.
Creating your buyer personas
It’s important to emphasize that the information you put in these categories are not from your head; instead, they are from the data you gathered. Buyer personas are semi-fictional, not fictional. The person does not exist, but you are creating him or her from data that do exist.
To create your buyer personas, start by identifying your target audience(s). Your target audience will determine how many buyer personas you need. For example, XXX Financial Advisory needed two personas because they serve doctors and dentists in California.
Examine your business structure and identify the number of target audiences you have.
Once you have done that, collect data about each target audience (from CRMs, sales teams, Google and social media analytics, interviews, and surveys).
Analyze those data and pull out information across the seven categories above. Your buyer persona is representative of your target audience. Ensure all the information about your persona truly reflect your target audience.
Why is a buyer persona necessary if it is a representation of your target audience? Why is having a target audience insufficient?
It’s easier to create content for Amy (with Amy at the back of your mind) than for “people aged 30-59, living in Sacramento and Los Angeles, with income ranging from $50,000 – $100,000…” Having a particular image in mind (or in front of your desk) gives direction to your content creation efforts. Writing for Amy is easier than writing for nameless mumbo-jumbo of people in your head.
The same goes for Ads creation, product development, and brand messaging. Creating an ad, product, or brand message for Amy is easier and better than doing all those for an abstract or vague target audience.
So while it is important you have a target audience, for marketing and product development purposes, delve deeper and create buyer personas.
Marketing, branding, and product development are essential to any business. But many financial advisors waste money on these business activities because they don’t understand their target market.
If you want to succeed with marketing, branding, and product development, an accurate and clear understanding of your target audience is crucial.
A good way to get that clarity is creating buyer personas. They help you understand, concretize, and visualize your target audience in a way that helps you produce content, messaging, ads, and products/services that meet their needs.
By researching your audience, gathering relevant information, and creating buyer personas out of those information, your advisory business will be on the path to success and growth.
If you need help creating a buyer persona, use HubSpot’s “Make My Persona” tool. Contact me if you want to create content and brand messaging that emotionally connect with your personas, solve their challenges, and help them achieve their goals.