How to Define Buyer Personas For Your Marketing Plan

by Katie

Have you reached a point where your marketing feels “stuck?”

You know you could be seeing better results than what you are right now, but where should you begin?

It’s possible you may be making a mistake that is all too common – the old “spray and pray” marketing. If you’re throwing out marketing messages across different channels just hoping that someone picks up on it, then you’re embroiled in that mistake. The likely result is – not much really.

You can’t “do marketing” without knowing who you’re marketing to.

The very first step of any marketing plan should be to define your audience. Identifying who your target buyer personas are and where to find them flows into everything else you devise in your marketing plan and makes it possible to successfully execute.

This is part 1 in our 90-Day Marketing Plan. Download the entire eBook here. Or dive into specific sections:

Why you need to develop buyer personas

A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer that you build based on a mix of real data and educated speculation of what they look like. This includes information like demographics, goals, motivations and behaviors.

Your business may have multiple target buyer personas (most will have 3 – 5), and these will provide you with information that can guide your overall marketing strategy. For example, based on demographic information on a customer profile, you can determine the most likely online channels they will be using.

The short answer of why you need to develop buyer personas is that they will help you target your messaging across all stages of the buyer journey. Hubspot provides a useful outline of what this journey looks like below:

Your buyer personas help you understand the specific goals and needs of your target audience at any stage. It’s about delivering clear, tailored messaging that resonates with your audience while avoiding a “spray and pray” approach.

Buyer personas help you to deliver clear messaging to key target segments Click To Tweet

How to define target customer personas

Spending a little time on outlining buyer personas can pay off in terms of seeing better targeted results from your marketing. So, where can you begin with building these? Here are some steps to take:

1. Gather data

The strongest buyer personas are those that you create from real data and research. As Adele Revella says in a piece for Content Marketing Institute, “making stuff up” is a key mistake to avoid. You may be creating fictional characters, such as Consultant Christie or Manager Max, but these personas that you create need to be representative, basically like a composite sketch, of key segments of your audience.

Where can you gather the data you need? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Look for trends in your contacts database.
  • Check your site analytics; where have visitors come from? What keywords are they using to search? Which pages do they spend the most time on?
  • Talk to your current customers. From Adele Revella: “Ask buyers to walk you through their decision, starting with the moment they decided to solve this problem.” If you aren’t able to do this for many customers, try surveys sent by email, or using forms on your website to gather information.
  • Who interacts with your customers? Talk to team members to get their input.
  • Try social listening. This means observing and participating in conversations in social media groups or forums to discover the problems, questions and priorities people have.

A point to note here is that talking to customers is usually your best source of information. This means including customers who have been unhappy too – it’s important to understand exactly why they weren’t satisfied and whether it’s possible that they belong to a market segment that is just not a good fit for your product.

Further, “negative” personas actually are a valid tool to have. It’s equally important to know who your product or service is not for. For example, you might have a software product targeted at small business owners. Perhaps it’s not suited for larger businesses with more complex needs or for businesses that are so small that certain features aren’t relevant to them. You can identify who you should exclude from your marketing.

2. Build out profiles

Once you have gathered your customer (or market) data, it’s time to take that information and build out your buyer personas. We suggest sticking to no more than 3 – 5 profiles – any more is a lot to manage, and often unnecessary. You’ll find for example, that there will be job roles whose priorities overlap or who have similar problems.

The key when you’re developing your personas is to be strict about only focusing on data that is relevant. If you’re selling B2B software and arguing about whether a persona should be male or female for example, you’re getting bogged down on a pointless detail.

Here’s a look at our actual buyer persona planning doc that we used when building our marketing plan for our Ops Calendar product. This was based off our buyer persona planner, which you can grab and use yourself here.

We follow a very simple template to build out buyer personas and stick to 4 key groups of data. Using a template as a guide can help you to filter out any unnecessary information. In a nutshell, each persona will include:

  • Name – Usually related to their overall role and persona, such as “Founder Fred.”
  • Demographic information – This might include location, job role, age group, gender and interests. Pick out only demographic data that is actually relevant to their need for your product or service (as mentioned earlier, software tends to be gender-neutral).
  • Goals, challenges, values and fears – Get an idea of what motivates them and what their priorities are.
  • Description of job and business – Understand the specific they role they’re responsible for within the business they work for.
  • Where to find them – This might include what they read, watch or listen to, groups they belong to, social channels they use or forums where they hang out.
Get our simple buyer persona planner here

3. Prioritize profiles where needed

You might have a few different buyer personas identified, but are all of them a priority for you right now? How do they align with what your current goals are as a company?

We have often had clients say, “My clients tend to be X, Y or Z, but I’d really like to focus on speaking to the X’s right now.”

This is an important consideration as part of your 90-day marketing plan. Do you create campaigns targeted at every persona you have, or do you target just one or two?

How to use your target customer personas

Now that you’ve created your customer profiles, you have a ready-made way to go about market segmentation. This means you can proactively seek out conversations with those who fit within your personas.

Begin with your current networks, leads and customers, and then begin crafting messages that will resonate with them. This can come right down to the vernacular you use – what style of pitch is likely to get their attention?

You can also use your personas to guide any cold outreach. You should now have an idea of where to find your target segments, so join them in the communities, forums, groups or conferences where they like to hang out.

Write any marketing site copy with your persona in mind. What sort of headline will grab their attention? Which topics do they really want to hear about?

A key takeaway here is that all marketing activities should be clearly defined with your target customers in mind. Reach them where they are and take a narrow focus – say goodbye to the “spray and pray” approach and welcome targeted results.

Create your customer personas – get our planner here

Ready to develop your buyer personas?

Well-defined buyer personas will help you to better identify who you need to be talking to and to direct your marketing activities toward them. It’s about finding the people for whom you can solve real problems for, without wasting too much time and money sifting through the rest.

If you’ve reached an impasse with your marketing, it may be time to sit down and develop buyer personas, or reassess any you already have.

Kick-start your 90-Day Marketing Plan by knowing exactly who you’re going to be talking to. Once you’ve created your personas, move onto Mapping Out Your Customer Journey.