Buyer Personas: What They Are, Why They Matter and How to Best Build One

Fictional representations of customers can help you get a deeper understanding of who's purchasing your products.

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By Jennifer Spencer

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If you've spent time around any marketers, you might have heard the phrase buyer persona thrown around, but having a thorough understanding of what a buyer persona is and how to build one is one of the most important aspects of building a successful brand, period. So what do people mean when they talk about buyer personas?

Personas Are Characters

Best-selling authors have nothing on marketers when it comes to creating characters. Buyer personas are fictional people created to represent certain groups of customers that allow companies to get a deeper understanding of the people buying their products. They're commonly used in marketing departments, but they help the entire company. As Raphi Mahgereft, founder and CEO of jewelry retailer Allurez, recently explained via email, "The key is to understand your customer on a deeper level. For example, we understand that some of our clients want jewelry that's sentimental in value and unique to them, so we created customized options. All our choices are based on customer needs."

Related: All About Buyer Personas

Market Smarter, Not Harder

Creating characters to represent your customers will give you valuable insights about their wants and needs and help you avoid wasting resources on ineffective marketing campaigns and unpopular products.

Email marketing is a valuable tool, but many companies spend massive amounts of time figuring out how to increase open rates. Research shows that using buyer personas to target groups of customers increases open rates by 16 percent.

The reason personas are so effective is they help you see the human side of customers. Too often, businesses develop the bad habit of viewing customers as data points. Unfortunately, it's difficult to connect to a data point.

When you see customers as the complex humans that they are, its easier to provide them with what they're looking for. After creating buyer personas, Skytap, a cloud-based software company, implemented a content-marketing strategy tailored to specific customers. They were able to increase sales leads by 124 percent, online leads by 97 percent and organic search traffic by 55 percent.

Buyer Personas Are Fact-Based

The most important aspect of creating a buyer persona is to base your character on real data. A persona is not useful if it doesn't accurately represent the real people buying your product. Start with describing what you already know about your customer, but be sure to leave out assumptions. Only use details with solid evidence.

Next, you'll want to do research to get more data. Your research could be in the form of interviews, observations, surveys or a combination thereof. The more information you collect, the more fully realized your personas will turn out.

The next step is to group your customers. If you're just starting out, choose the largest group to create a persona for. Do parents make up the majority of people buying your product, or is your brand most popular among college students or teenagers?

Whichever group you choose to create a persona around, it's important to get specific. If most of your customers are parents, determine what type of parents they are. What do their day-to-day lives look like? What are their hobbies, fears and goals? Details like this could help anticipate aspects of customer behavior.

Not All Details Are Relevant

Although you want a highly detailed profile for your buyer persona, you shouldn't waste time on minutiaie. Adele Revella, CEO of Buyer Persona Institute, recently wrote for Content Marketing Institute, "Marketers sometimes make the mistake of gathering buyer information that doesn't really help them deliver more effective content or campaigns. If you are bogged down with finding just the right stock image of your persona, then you're focusing on the wrong things."

Once you know which specifics are important, you can write up a profile for your fictional customer that looks a lot like the real ones. Congratulations, you have a buyer persona!

Related: The Science of Building Buyer Personas

Beat the Competition

Although many people have heard of buyer personas, too many businesses don't spend the proper time and energy needed to create them. The businesses that spend the time quickly become customer favorites.

Businesses in the B2B space are especially known to skip the buyer persona process. In fact, only 44 percent of B2B marketers use personas, so you'll be able to shine in comparison when you build detailed and data-driven buyer personas. They are, without a doubt, one of the quickest ways to gain the upper hand.

Jennifer Spencer

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

CEO of Energent Media

Jennifer Spencer is the founder of Energent Media, a digital marketing firm for tech startups. She is passionate about helping brands leverage content to share their stories with the world.

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