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How to create buyer personas that’ll drive more sales

7 months ago by Jade Rowlatt

You’re in front of your laptop. You’re trying to write a killer piece of content. But you’re struggling to find the right angle. The words aren’t coming and you’ve lost all sense of direction. Hello frustration.

Sound familiar?

When you don’t know who you’re writing for, it makes it almost impossible to create a good piece of content. Believe us, we’ve been there. And when your marketing targets everyone, your message gets lost. It’s like casting a line with no bait. It’s never going to bite.

But by truly understanding your customers and finding out what makes them tick, you can deliver relevant, targeted and more personalised marketing that turns window shoppers into buyers.

In fact, 91% of consumers say they’re more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them. Whilst 72% of consumers say they only engage with personalised messaging.

Luckily, buyer personas are your ticket to giving your customers what they actually want, not what you think they want.

Get your free buyer personas template

We’re not going to explain what buyer personas are. You might already have them. But it might have been something you did years ago and never actually used, only to get lost in a black hole of folders. Or it simply fell to the bottom of the list and never resurfaced.

Thing is, we need to bump it to the top of your priority list if you want a better return on your marketing.

Creating buyer personas may feel like a mammoth task (or a waste of time, your call), but it’s actually a lot less complicated than you think. A lot of the information you need is already out there, you just need to do a little digging. And ultimately it’ll help you fully understand who you’re selling to and what they want from you - leading to more conversions and more repeat customers.

70% of consumers say a company’s understanding of their personal needs influences their loyalty - Salesforce

Only when you know your customers inside and out - so much that you can predict their next move - will you be able to come up with ideas, messages and strategies that’ll change the growth trajectory of your business.

Buyer personas will dictate the type of content you should be creating and where you should promote it. They’re the driving force behind all your strategies.

It also means you should have less team meetings spent twiddling your thumbs about what to promote next month, taking ‘hopeful’ shots in the dark.

So let us shed some light on the matter.

Here’s a breakdown of what this article includes:

  • How to gather valuable data to help build your personas
    • Google Analytics
    • CRM system
    • Talk to your customers
    • Speak to your sales team
    • Social media
  • The template we use to create personas for our own clients
  • How to actually use your personas to target your marketing

Now let’s get started.

Gathering the data to build your personas

Buyer personas don’t just appear from nowhere. You need to find the data to turn Customer A into Bernie the Budget-Conscious Buyer. And here’s where to get all your information.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics collects a shed load of information from your website about visitor demographics, location and interests. Go into your reports to leverage all this data to better understand who your target audience is.

The key areas to look at are:

  • Age - determine your best-performing age group
  • Gender - determine your best-performing gender
  • Location - see the hierarchy of countries/cities your visitors are from
  • Interests - understand your visitors’ lifestyle and what they like
  • Technology preferences - see what device they’re using (mobile, tablet, desktop)

Here’s an example of a Demographics > Overview report.

A quick analysis shows visitors aged 45-54 are responsible for the most traffic (23.44%), and a majority (51%) of the traffic is generated by women.

Boom. You’ve already got a basic idea of who your target audience is.

Now if we compare this with data of visitors who made a purchase (orange), it tells us even more.

In this case, the data doesn’t change dramatically. But it does tell us that visitors aged 18-24 and those aged 45-54 and above all had a better conversion rate.

And whilst the majority of visitors were female, males actually converted better at 52.4%.

Drill down even further into their interests and you can see what your customers’ top ranking interests are. In the image below, we’re comparing site visitors (blue) with visitors who made a purchase (orange).

The Affinity Categories (the start of the purchase process and best used for raising brand awareness) weigh heavily in the food and entertainment sectors.

Whilst the In-Market Segments (users who are showing purchase intent and best used to reach those who are in the consideration phase) show more interest in travel and home decor/improvements.

This gives you an idea of your audience’s interests on a surface level. But for even more clarity, compare it with your demographics data. For example, if the majority of your visitors are female, see how different age ranges of women compare with their interests.

Test which audience combinations work best for your business and consider excluding those that don’t. Then adjust your personas accordingly.

Good to know: you’ll need to have clean data, so make sure you’ve excluded your own IP address and your office’s so you don’t skew the results.

CRM system

All hail the mighty CRM data. Depending on your system, your CRM can reveal the demographics and digital behaviours of all your leads and customers with just a few clicks.

That way you can pick up on common characteristics of groups within your customer base - pure gold for creating your buyer personas. And if used effectively, it can literally tell you who your customer is.

Brightpearl is just one example of a business management software that offers CRM as one of its many solutions for eCommerce businesses.

But sometimes businesses capture all this data and do nothing with it. Or they ask for data they don’t need. So keep it organised, up to date and make sure you’re gathering information you can actually act on to help drive your marketing strategies.

Image by Brightpearl via Brightpearl

Talk to your customers

What better way than to get it straight from the horse’s mouth?

Like it or not, your customers will tell it how it is - good and bad. And whilst you don’t want to invite your customers to rant about everything that’s wrong with you, you do want to know what you could be doing better.

Talk to your customers via:

  • Interviews or focus groups
  • Phone calls
  • Online surveys
  • Emails
  • Online discussion forums
  • Facebook groups

(Often made easier with some kind of incentive).

First, use all the data you’ve collected from Google Analytics and your CRM to identify your ideal customer, not just any customer.

Ideally, you want to find a handful of customers who tick these 3 boxes:

  1. Have a high lifetime value (B2C) / Have a high contract value (B2B)
  2. Have made repeat purchases (B2C) / Had a short sales cycle (B2B)
  3. Use your products or services most frequently (B2C) / Have stayed with the company a long time (B2B)

The outcome?

For B2C, you’ve got a selection of ideal customers who are happy to pay for your products or services, more inclined to become loyal customers, make repeat purchases, recommend you to their friends and delighted to have found you.

Whilst for B2B, you’ve got a selection of customers who are easier to convert, fun to work with, pay the most and churn the least.

And these are the ones to prioritise.

You then need to find out everything you can about their pain points. What challenges do they face? What stops them from doing something? Where else do they shop and why?

It may take a little time to find these people, but once you do it’s SO worth it. Even if you think you already know your customers. (Trust us, you don’t until you’ve spoken to them).

So here’s how to talk to them.

Online discussion forums and Facebook groups are great for finding out what people really think. After all, people are much more honest behind a computer. Tap into these groups and get involved in the conversation by asking questions - you’ll be surprised by how much you find out.

Online surveys and emails are a convenient way to reach out to your customers, but be prepared for answers that might not give you all the information you need. Or to just be ignored completely. People are more likely to take time over writing their reply (editing this, tweaking that) and you don’t really want that.

You want a raw, unedited response.

If you’re pushed for time or have limited resources, they’re a great (and free) way to go. Otherwise, it’s better to go face-to-face.

That’s why focus groups, interviews and phone calls are probably the best way to talk to your customers.

When you’re speaking directly to someone, you can go back and forth on one question until you’ve got the answer you want, then move on to the next one - something that can’t always be achieved through online surveys and emails.

You want to turn it into more of a conversation and get to the crux of the challenges your customers face. Angle for what they’re craving from you. What you can improve. What their biggest obstacles are. What you can do differently to help solve their problems. What would make them more inclined to buy from you than someone else.

Want to make sure you’re asking the right questions? Take a look at Grow and Convert’s customer research questions to get going!

Speak to your sales team

Talk to the members of your team who speak to your customers the most. Funnily enough, this isn’t usually your marketing team. Speak with your sales guys to find out what questions come up the most in their conversations. Are there any products or services customers often switch from? Who typically buys your products? What are the most used features?

Need some questions? Grow and Convert also include questions to ask your sales team!

Instagram

Instagram’s the gateway to getting to know your customers on a more personal level.

To find your audience data on Instagram, you need to find your industry-related accounts (ones that are doing particularly well) and briefly analyse their content to get a feel for who their customers are.

Look at your competitors and industry-leading accounts and see who’s following them. Also take a look at who’s liking their posts and commenting. As you dive in and out follower accounts, are there any similarities between these people? What’s the ratio of men to women? What sort of things do they post on their own account?

It’s also useful to look at who your competitors are following to seek out valuable influencers - then see who’s following them. Often social media users have more love for people than brands.

YouTube

Use YouTube in the same way as Instagram. Seek out big competitors and industry-leading accounts, look through their video content and get a feel for the type of people following their videos.

It’s also worth looking at the comments to see what kind of questions people are asking - instant access to their pain points and what they want from you.
You can also look into your audience reports (depending on if there’s enough data to display), which covers: top countries, top subtitle/CC languages, age, gender, when your viewers are on YouTube and other videos your audience watched.

Facebook Audience Insights

Facebook Audience Insights is just as useful for creating buyer personas as it is targeting your ads. This handy analytics tool will serve you well.

It helps you answer questions like:

  • How many people in the UK (or any other country) are interested in X topic.
  • What’s their age range?
  • What pages do they like on Facebook?
  • What activities do they engage in?

Here’s where you can filter in people who meet your ‘best customer’ criteria, and filter out those that don’t match your target audience.

The basic filters cover:

  • Location
  • Age and gender
  • Interests (particularly useful)
  • Connections

Whereas the Advanced filter is where things get interesting (and kind of creepy). Discover more precise details about your audience with these filters:

  • Language
  • Relationship status
  • Education
  • Job title
  • Multicultural affinity
  • Parents
  • Politics
  • Life events

For example…

Say you sell cycling gear. In interests, you’d choose Sports and Outdoor, Outdoor Recreation and, perhaps more specifically, Mountain Biking.

This simple filtering will throw up data on the typical age range and gender of people who like mountain biking. Drill down further into their relationship status. Are they married? Single? Do they have kids? What age range do their kids fall under?

The more granular you go, the more complete your audience profile will be (and the more knowledgeable you’ll be about the things they pay attention to).

Creating your persona template

You don’t just want one buyer persona. Start small with around 2-4 personas and build as you see fit. It all depends on how big your business is.

Either way, they’ll help you to understand how to manipulate things like:

  • Content topics and tone
  • UX and website builds
  • Social networks to advertise on
  • Advertising copy and creative

Want a head start? Here’s the template we use for our own buyer personas.

Include as much detail as you like (enough to get a well-rounded picture of your customer) and give them a name. It makes referring to them much easier and more human - because, ultimately, they are human. They’re your customers!

Here’s what one of ours looks like…

Once you’ve filled in your template, ask yourself: does each persona tell a different story? Are my ideal customers represented here? Do I understand how to communicate with these customers? If the answer is yes, carry on.

Get your free buyer personas template

How to actually use your buyer personas

You’re not done yet. You need some practical ways to actually apply all this information you’ve gathered and put it to good use in your marketing. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Segment your email lists

With email segmentation, you can organise your email lists by persona and send content that’s targeted to each group’s interests. The more targeted you can make each email, the more likely your audience will engage with it.

Customise your ad copy

What attracts one person doesn’t always attract another. If you sell online garden furniture, a high-income individual isn’t likely to click on an ad for a budget folding sunbed. Similarly, a parent of two who’s in need of a cost-effective seating solution isn’t necessarily going to be interested in a high-end, luxury dining set. Tailor your content to each of your personas.

Another useful tip? Write how your customers speak. Use phrases and wording that your audience uses themselves - it’ll resonate with them a lot more. This doesn’t mean completely changing your brand’s tone of voice, but simply writing conversationally (and ditching the jargon).

Time your marketing campaigns

Each persona operates differently. Whilst Harry might check his emails first thing in the morning, Sophie might check hers at the end of the day. Google Analytics will identify peak engagement rates, so you can figure out what time (and day) your campaigns will reach the most buyers.

Choose the right channels

Not everyone hangs out in the same place. Certain personas will be more active on specific channels, and once you have this information, take advantage of it.

If Harry hangs out on Instagram, that’s where you want to hang out. Distribute personalised messages on his preferred channels to get his attention - and show him you ‘get him’.

Keep them in mind for all of your marketing

We came across this explanation which pretty much sums it up:

‘It’s like if you were going shopping for a birthday present for your mum; you know what kind of things she likes and the shops she visits most often.’

Essentially, this is what you’ll be doing with your buyer personas. Make them your first port of call when devising your marketing strategies and let them lead the way.

Share and distribute

Don’t just keep these personas all for yourself. Share them with your sales and marketing team (if you’ve got them) and give them a reference point moving forward. Better yet, get their input on them.

And keep in mind that customer personas aren’t ever truly finished. Just like real people, they’ll evolve with time. So revisit your personas as your company and customer base grow.

Scrolled all the way down just to get the free template?

Here you go, my friend.

Download our free buyer personas template