What Are Buyer Personas? And Do I Really Need Them?
Published onAug 16, 2016byHolly Edwards
Stumble more than a few feet into the murky waters of marketing and you’ll hear all sorts of terminology being thrown around. Real time? ROI? Twitter?! What does it all mean?! Among the most confusing is ‘buyer personas’. What even is a buyer persona? And do you really need them? Really?
Buyer personas are, essentially, fictional characters in the story of your business. They’re a generalised assumption of who your audience is, distilled down into bitesize profile which we call – “a persona”. You’ll give them a name, age, job title, salary, even a little profile picture, and you’ll (hopefully) use them to inform your marketing efforts going forward.
They might be based on people you already know, or they might be completely made up. Whichever is easier to help you visualise these archetypes as real people. Because that’s absolutely crucial; buyer personas aren’t something to create and then file away in a drawer to never be looked again. Buyer personas should be an active and evolving part of your active and evolving marketing strategy. You’ll adjust them over time as your audience changes, and you’ll learn to incorporate them into every aspect of your business.
“But I’m my audience! I don’t need to create buyer personas.”
Erm, no, you’re not. You might have created the perfect business that you love and would love to buy from, but that’s the thing. You created it. Not only does that make you biased, it makes you fundamentally different to your customers; they didn’t! They aren’t the type to go out and create the business you’ve built; they want the service you provide instead.
If you’re lucky enough to have a lot in common with the majority of your audience, then great! You’ve got a head start when it comes to creating them. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re the same person.
“But my audience is everyone! How can I possibly create personas?”
Again – is that really true? Are Donald Trump and the Dalai Llama both equally likely to buy from you? I suspect not. Sure, you might offer a really broad ranging service that all sorts of people will need at some point – insurance, for example, or toilet paper – but what is it that makes your customers buy from you rather than the Insurance/Toilet Paper company down the road? What do you offer that they don’t?
There’s no limit to the amount of personas you can create, so if your audience consists of all sorts of people then make all sorts of buyer personas! In general we’d recommend at least 3, but we’ve known big successful companies to have around 20. Just make sure that it’s manageable for you and your team.
“I feel like I already know my personas really well. Do I need to write them down?”
Yes, you do. We all know how busy life can get, and how easy it is to forget even the most basic information when you’re stressed. So write down your persona’s information and file them away somewhere you won’t forget. Maybe you need to tape them to the company whiteboard; maybe you put framed photos of your personas on your desk; maybe you keep the information on your phone. Wherever, as long as you’ve taken your personas out of your head and into the world.
Plus, there’s something to be said for putting pen to paper. Making a physical reality out of personas inevitably makes them feel more real, so it’s easier to imagine how they’d react in certain situations. So, yes. Write them down!
“Okay, so I should have them. But I’m so busy! Do I really, really, reeeeally need them?”
As far as we’re concerned, buyer personas are an integral element of any successful marketing strategy. They’re absolutely non-negotiable. No matter how big or small your business may be, really knowing the inside out details of your audience is invaluable. Successful buyer personas should inform all decisions you make - from the colours of your branding to the platforms worth pursuing, and everything in between.
“You’ve convinced me, you clever monkey. Where do I begin?”
The very best place to start – the beginning. Think about what you already know about your audience – or who you would like your audience to be – and start from there! Over the next few months, we’re going to be waxing lyrical on all things Personae, so keep checking back here (or follow us on Twitter) for updates.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a Persona Template. This’ll help prompt you with the right sort of questions to ask about buyer personas, and guide you through the process. G'wan, have a little click...