Rule 1 of business: it’s not enough to be providing a good service. You need to attract customers through engaging content and marketing activities. However, this is easier said than done as customers’ needs and attention can be difficult to get a grasp of. Luckily, audience research tools like buyer persona and customer needs analysis provide a wealth of valuable information.
In this article, we’ll be looking at some of these crucial methods of analysis and how they inform decision-making, particularly when it comes to online marketing. These techniques aid research and reveal the hidden potential within market segments. Moreover, they are great for simulating sales figures and consumer behaviour.
Why create a Buyer Persona?
Buyer persona definition: “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers“.
Put simply, a buyer persona is a simulation of a potential customer that helps companies predict reactions to their products. Many companies create a fictional buyer as a sample and try to forecast reactions based on their age, gender, income, etc. Such personas can not only help predict sales but also attachment, loyalty, and customer needs.
These sorts of customer analysis tools are a helpful guide in determining how to position the 4Ps of marketing: Price, Place, Product, and Promotion. The exercise helps deliver a better grasp of who a company is selling to and how to access their specific head-space. Some companies go as far as to produce physical cut-outs of potential target customers and conduct trial sales pitches.
Buyer personas are useful in helping companies think from the customer perspective. They allow companies to try and position products to fit into other people’s lives and thus push for markets with precision.
Building a Buyer Persona from Scratch
When building a customer profile using a buyer persona, the starting point can vary. Some companies approach the exercise from a customer-first perspective, i.e. the product is geared towards very particular people. For example, if you’re selling vegan food, your primary audience will be vegans (though a new persona would be necessary when expanding).
With this approach, a company has a primary characteristic they wish to target and an aim the product has to fulfil. On the other hand, if a product is entirely new and no real market has been set in stone, the situation plays differently. The product-first approach requires more rigorous audience finding. This is the case with a lot of multi-functional technologies like the iPad, where an audience is hard to pin-point beforehand.
With the customer-first approach, targeting is a bit easier since you have an idea of who the customer is. With the product-first approach, you are matching the characteristics of the product to a possible customer. Buyer personas can help in both cases but are absolutely crucial in the product-first approach.
You can also conduct focus groups with a target and control audience to test any hypotheses you might have about potential buyers. From the research subjects, you can derive a singular persona with an approximation of all their necessary characteristics. Similarly, A/B testing can help determine whether content engagement with a chosen group is optimised or not.
How to find your target audience
Building up a buyer persona requires extensive customer data and market insights. Building up an accurate picture of your target audience requires an understanding of different types of customer segmentation:
- Demographic characteristics: Age, gender, location, etc.
- Psychographic characteristics: how they behave and what they aspire towards
- Economic characteristics: spending patters, social strata, financial stability, etc.
Early on, it would be best to send out psychographic or demographic questionnaires for research. These help build a customer segmentation strategy.
If your product has competitors, you can look into how they target their customers. From this, you deduce whether you want to target a similar audience or find a counter-niche. Similarly, your preferred customer can also give you insight into what needs your potential competition is not fulfilling.
B2C vs B2B Buyer Persona
While B2C companies are dealing with regular consumers, B2B buyer personas can be different in many ways. B2B buyers tend to have more functional needs as they want products that help them run their business. This involves more cognitive marketing techniques and economic argumentation.
B2C buyers are difficult to generalise and can vary based on the product. However they tend to appeal more to emotional messages than B2B buyers in terms of decision-making. Creating a B2C customer profile requires broader sample sizes as well.
To define your target audience, it may be best to rely on social media analytics like the Facebook audience insights tool. In general, social media sites and apps have very robust consumer behaviour models, so it’s best to utilise them. The best B2C buyer persona examples draw from a range of sources to form a fuller picture.
Audience Insights & Customer Segmentation
Customer segmentation models provide crucial insights into the workings of the average audience member. With a sufficient cross-section of data, you can can infer many aspects of consumer psychology and test for other characteristics. Furthermore, your customer engagement strategy should centre around your audience’s core demographic and psychographic characteristics.
For example, if your audience has an interest in similar products but have a lower average income, you can test for discounts. Your online strategy and social media strategy may benefit from A/B testing for offers and messages accordingly. Time your campaigns with special occasions (Christmas, Valentine’s, Black Friday, etc.).
Social listening is an important asset that can give you a cheap and easy means of customer interaction. It can be a great source of customer feedback, generating customer value, engagement, and brand-building. You can also use it to test out hashtags and their responsiveness, test ads or slogans, and make communications adjustments.
Buyer Persona Examples Made Simple
To show you a functional example of a buyer persona, we’re going to work you through the process step-by-step. You might have some basic characteristics in mind based on what you will be selling (i.e. male, 18-30, working professional). Start off with whatever you can do to humanise this hypothetical buyer. Give them a name, pick a stock photo that matches the basic characteristics, and let’s get started.
Imagine you’re trying to create a market for sustainable running shoes. You’re in competition with the big-wigs at Adidas and Nike but you’re a start-up with an extremely comfortable, customisable fitting shoe. You started off by selling to males interested in athletics on a professional level. Now, you’re branching out to males in a lower income bracket, who are less likely to engage in heavy athletics (self-described hobbyists).
Based on some of these simple characteristics, either conduct research or look through existing data. You need to identify the pain points, attitudes, and psychological motivations they have. While you should try to get as many aspects from the marketing research process as possible, there are other aspects you will have to infer and make value judgments about.
You arrive at something like the example below. This is John:
Now, let’s analyse the buyer.
Buyer Persona Analysis
From what we can gather, John has a lower income than most who generally buy branded sportswear. His interest in soccer gives us a possible point of connection and his intent with running is primarily stress release, which indicates an emotional angle as well. His main concerns are with comfort and buying shoes that won’t give out too easily.
It isn’t enough to make casual guesses. The next step is to find data that corresponds with these interests. For example, studies indicate the extensive benefits of sponsored advertising and increases in brand loyalty through endorsements. Getting an endorsement from a soccer player would be immensely helpful (if one can afford it).
From this data alone, you can picture an ad that focuses on running shoes that gears itself towards soccer enthusiasts. The campaign should promise lower prices and durability without compromising quality. It should also use the emotional hook of stress relief through sports.
This was a simplistic version of what to do and a real buyer persona has a lot more data-points, but hopefully, it was instructive nonetheless. Deriving a consumer behaviour model requires a fair bit of guesswork, but it can be a fruitful exercise. Hopefully this article has helped you get a better grasp of this unique form of market analysis and its many benefits.