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Targeting the Right Customers with Buyer Personas

So you've accumulated data about your customers and their purchasing habits. Now what do you do with that information?

For a growing number of businesses, the answer is simple: create one or more buyer personas.

What is a Buyer Persona?

With buyer personas, company's channel the personalities of their average customer and the consumers that would naturally be drawn to their products. But buyer personas are more than just an amalgam of charts and graphs that shed a little light on a company's clientele. Instead, they take these statistics and breathe life into them, creating model purchasers who, although they can't actually talk, tell companies a great deal about:

  • How they should market their products to ensure more sales,
  • How they should modify their products to keep the public interested, and
  • How to grow the business to suit the wants and needs of consumers.

In short, buyer personas are the marketing wave of the future for companies that want to get to the top and stay there.

How do I create a buyer persona?

Different businesses will take different approaches and use different information in creating their buyer personas. The specific approach that's right for you, and the information that will be relevant to shaping your buyer persona, will depend on the nature of your company and your industry.

Some of the basic information that businesses use as a starting point include:

  • Age (are we dealing with young hipsters or senior citizens?)
  • Sex (is a particular gender generally drawn to the product?)
  • Socio-economic status (are we hocking bargain items or luxury goods?)
  • Buying habits (are our clients seasonal buyers or shopaholics?)
  • Marital status (spouse or no spouse?)
  • Family situation (do they have kids?)

By focusing on all this general information, and then by adding into the mix other traits that are unique to your clientele and your brand, a persona will start to take shape. It may take some time to flesh out the details, but in the end you'll likely see an accurate picture of your target customer.

Is one buyer persona enough?

One of the biggest mistakes some companies make is ignoring the inherent diversity that exists within their customer base. If you rely exclusively on a single buyer persona, chances are you'll miss out on another segment of the population that might be interested in your products. As a result, businesses should consider utilizing a variety of buyer personas.

How can our buyer persona(s) help our business?

When it comes to marketing your brand, fads and gimmicks are usually a poor choice. While they may draw in a few customers initially, they don't have staying power. Buyer personas, however, will educate you on what kinds of marketing messages your customers find compelling. They will also direct you to the right medium for communicating those messages, thus ensuring that, for example, you don't waste advertising dollars on television commercials for a customer base that doesn't watch television.

How much work is involved with using a buyer persona?

It would be foolish to think that a buyer persona is an easy answer or a quick fix. Creating comprehensive buyer personas often takes time, research, and a great deal of effort. And smart business owners will constantly reassess the information that went in to creating their buyer personas to make sure that they are current and accurately reflect the realities of the consumer and the marketplace.

In short, a buyer persona is not a magical antidote for a flawed marketing strategy or a struggling business that has failed to attract the attention of consumers. However, with some hard work, buyer personas can be an integral part of a sound business plan.

Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom promotional pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.