Buyer Personas: What They Are and Why You Need Them

Buyer Personas

If your company is just getting into this whole inbound marketing thing, chances are you’ve heard the phrase “buyer personas” tossed around.

It sounds good, right? Like something your business should have? Of course it does. But what are they, really?

Here’s a quick and—we hope—useful guide to buyer personas. Feel free to bookmark this page for later when you’re explaining the concept to your colleagues (and looking really smart doing it, you clever devil you).

In fact, here’s a link where you can download a fancy buyer persona template in Keynote or PPT so you can create polished, professional personas to share with your marketing, sales, or executive team.

Download Your Free Buyer Persona Template

So What is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer Persona Definition
[bahy·er per·so·nuh] noun, singular

A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and what you already know about your existing customers. 

Buyer Persona Definition

Basically, your buyer personas are your target audience, but rather than just existing as an amorphous conglomeration of ideas and demographics that sort of describe the kind of person you’re trying to market to, a buyer persona defines that person according to demographic information and–most importantly–what information they are looking for.

This helps your marketing and sales teams create content (and service solutions) that are useful for your target customers. They also help your organization understand that a first step in inbound marketing is providing value to real people who are, at this very moment, Googling real questions to their real challenges at work.

“Having good buyer personas benefits your entire organization even beyond inbound marketing. Honest buyer personas improve your sales pitch, your customer service, and even your product development.” – Raka Director of Inbound Marketing Brian DeKoning

According to HubSpot, using marketing personas can make your website two to five times more effective.

Why is that, you ask? Read on.

Buyer Personas Help You Connect With Customers

Let’s say your company sells toothbrushes (just go with it), one of your target buyers is dentists’ offices, and you want to create content to help your sales team sell more toothbrushes.

A traditional marketing approach might lead you to create a sales brochure to explain how awesome your toothbrushes are because they’re made of green material or have the longest-lasting bristles, or that your customer service is the best in the industry. This is all important information at some point in the sales process. But it’s just a small part of what you need for inbound marketing.

For inbound, you really need to create content (blog posts, white papers, e-guides, infographics, webinars, and more) that answers the questions and challenges that your buyer personas have. This content is useful to them and talks about their challenges, instead of just selling your company’s stuff. The way to create this content is to understand the details about the people who are your buyer personas.

To do this, you might create a buyer persona of  “Dentist Derrick, DDS.” to help you give Derrick content he finds useful to help him run his business, be a better dentist, keep up with trends, manage his employees, or do whatever he needs to do as a dentist.

So what do we know about Dentist Derrick that makes him so much more useful when it comes to creating content? Well, after doing some research and talking to your current customers, you will learn that Derrick is not just a dentist. He’s a family man, probably between the ages of 35 and 55, who works in a private practice at least 30 hours per week. He makes about $160,000 each year and gives trick-or-treaters apples and boxes of raisins on Halloween.

These details help you understand Derrick’s mindset and develop a plan to reach him. His demographic information, for example, may indicate he’s not a big Facebook guy, but that LinkedIn ads or guest posts in top dentist trade websites could help you connect with him. These details also help you understand how to talk to Derrick. Would he appreciate a familiar tone or is he expecting a more clinical conversation?

Buyer Personas Help You Develop Content

Even more important than demographic information that helps you understand how to connect with your personas is understanding what Derrick’s key challenges, pain points and questions are. In short, this information tells you what Derrick may Google in order to do his job or solve his challenges at work.

As part of your buyer persona development, you should work with your sales team to list at least 10 questions (for each buyer persona) that your prospects and customers ask during the sales process or after they become customers. These questions are the blog posts your organization should plan to publish because the answers you provide are exactly what your target audiences are searching for.

If you do not feel like your sales and marketing team has a comprehensive understanding of the questions prospects ask, you should conduct some market research to gather this business intelligence. Three common approaches to learning more about what your buyer personas want to know include:

  1. Running an online survey
  2. Interviewing a few existing customers on the phone or in person
  3. Having a marketing team member sit in on the sales process with a sales representative

Your research should give you insights into your persona’s average day, their responsibilities, and their professional needs and frustrations—which you can solve for them (see how this works?). All this information gives you a more complete look at your persona’s motivations and how you can position yourself to meet them in their comfort zone.

So let’s say one of Derrick’s main pain points is finding brushes that are effective, but comfortable enough that patients will actually use them. You might plan a blog post titled, “The Best Toothbrushes for Balancing Clean and Comfort,” with a call to action that leads the visitor to download a printable infographic about brushing that can be put up in a dentist’s office.

Still with us? Good.

Remember, inbound marketing is about reaching the customers where they live and bringing them back to your product or service through conversion. Creating buyer personas will help you understand your customer and create a buying experience they are more likely to respond to.

Buyer Personas Help You Define Your Audience

Another great thing about buyer personas is that they help you define and segment your audience.

What does that mean? Well think about it: You’re not going to market to just one person, right? And you’re not marketing to everyone on the planet.

Creating buyer personas helps you focus in on your real potential customers, and creating a separate buyer persona for each segment of your larger audience can help you develop targeted content.

You can also segment your contacts based on those buyer personas and target email campaigns or other initiatives. Did you know that personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14%, increase conversion rates by 10%, and drive 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails?

You know what helps with personalized emails? Buyer personas.

So there you have it: A quick run-down of what a buyer persona is and why it’s important to your inbound marketing efforts. Ready to start defining yours? Look no further.