Originally published on March 30, 2015. Updated on April 14, 2020.
Most of us have been asked at one point or another to describe our target market. Usually, we rattle off a series of demographics, casting some wide nets in the hope of landing a good catch. “Middle-aged women,” we say. “Men aged 40-50 with kids,” we guess. “High-income homeowners in this ZIP code,” we tell our marketing agencies.
Historically, these demographics shaped the way marketers constructed their message to potential buyers. However, the advent of social media has significantly changed the way we market, because now we can deliver extremely targeted messaging directly into the pockets of those most likely to buy from our clients.
This dynamic shift requires that we go deeper than just identifying our target market. We need to find out who is buying from us and why. Thankfully, there are many tools at our disposal. We can ask our customers why they chose us. We can find out what search terms are trending on Google. We can find out what are the most popular kinds of tutorial videos. We can see what’s popular on social media and analyze the strategies of our competitors to see what works.
Once we’ve done that, we can create a buyer persona.
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What are buyer personas?
According to leading inbound marketing company HubSpot, they are “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.” In short, they are who you are trying to reach.
Look at it this way: instead of trying to attract and engage some 3 billion people on the internet, focus on those most likely to become the type of clients that excitedly promote you to their connections.
Dave, for example, could be a 45-year-old man who owns his own home and has a wife, two kids and a hairy pet dog. He probably needs his ducts cleaned. Great! How can your HVAC business connect with him?
Or take Jessica, a 42-year-old who works part-time in an office job, who has one child in kindergarten and one in elementary school. She needs to go to the dentist and figures she’ll bring the kids along for their first check-ups. Awesome! What’s going to make her choose your clinic over a competitor?
They’re both about the same age, living in the same area, with young families, but they have different needs so they’ll respond to different messaging. That’s why it’s so important do to your research. The more you know about your ideal customer, the better you can find out how you can best add value to their lives.
Dave, for example, might want to know exactly what a duct cleaning entails and what nasties are lurking in his air vents. Jessica might want a dentist that specializes in kids. Once you’ve identified their need, you can create a marketing campaign to cater to their interests and help solve their problems.
Read more: Is marketing the new sales?
How to create a buyer persona
The most effective buyer personas are always centered on the question of “why?” Why will someone need to buy your products or enlist your services? Focusing on their motives will help you create a marketing campaign centered around the content they’re likely to search for and consume before making a decision to purchase.
Alternatively, you can think of it this way: What is their problem? How will you solve it?
“When you intimately know your player personas and communicate to them in a personal way, you skyrocket your changes of turning them from just a contact in your database into a lifelong customer,” Hatchbuck Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Jonathan Herrick, explained in an interview with Inc. Magazine.
Personas will help your business become more competitive, so it’s important to give them some thought and make sure they’re well-crafted. They will help you focus on sending the right message to the right customer, which will lead to more leads and a higher conversion rate. Ultimately, it’s about boosting your bottom line and making your marketing budget go as far as possible.
Read more: 10 tips for optimizing your social presence
Focusing your sales funnel
Modern customers are very well-informed. Social media and search engines mean they can find exactly what they need, when they need it. Inbound marketing is a philosophy centered around the idea of making yourself as easy-t0-find as possible. In the communication age, when people are hungry for content, you need to be searchable. You need to provide people with the value you’re looking for and make the path to purchase smooth.
The first step is awareness. Unless you have the right content, people will not stick around long enough to engage with your company, your products and services. Personas are key because they help you create the right content, which will attract visitors. Find out what your customers like to consume, what questions they need answered and what information they’re looking for. Use that as a starting point and create content accordingly.
Once the customer has landed in your digital eco-system, provide what they need, and do it quickly. Don’t play games or waste their time. It’s important that your website is up-to-date, well-organized and fast-loading with strong calls to action that encourage the website visitor to take the next step, whether that’s scheduling a free quote or booking an appointment. Education is critical in this phase – make it clear why they should choose you.
As soon as the customer engages with you, respond in kind. If they ask for more information, call them within 24 hours. If they reply so a post on social media, give a positive response. If they schedule an appointment, send an auto-generated email thanking them for their booking and confirming the details. Engage, engage, engage.
The final step is conversion. When you sell the product or deliver the service, ensure the customer’s needs are fully met. Seamless and high-quality service will significantly increase the chance of them becoming a repeat customer – and better yet, recommending you to their friends, family, and neighbors.
After all, word of mouth is still the most powerful tool in any marketing plan.
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