Buyer Personas: why and how to model them?

A Persona is a valuable tool to refine your digital strategy, your marketing efforts, as well as your entire growth strategy. If you think it is useless to understand your customers, then there's nothing I can do for you. However, if you want to put the customer at the heart of your strategy, you've come to the right place.

Personas, why should you model them?

Buyer Persona: definition

The Buyer Persona is the representation of a fictional character that describes a coherent set of potential buyers and their common characteristics.

You can find many different definitions of personas and just as many variations in the way they work. Furthermore, the relative importance of each of the characteristics varies depending on your market (BtoB or BtoC for example).

Among the characteristics that are generally found in personas you will find:

Identifier son persona et son parcours

  • Demographic characteristics: age, gender, location, level of education.
  • Social characteristics: occupation, income, interests, family situation.
  • Psychological characteristics: major character traits.
  • Behavioral characteristics: communication channels (social networks, email, telephone), communication tools (computer, tablet, mobile).

Sometimes you'll find lists of extremely precise customer information or quotations that are supposed to represent their state of mind. We advise you not to give in to the illusion of depth by adding insignificant or rather irrelevant details.

Common sense is your ally, the goal of a buyer persona is to understand your client in order to implement appropriate responses, not to fill out a template at all costs.

An essential tool for your inbound marketing strategy

Modeling Personas was originally for user experience experts. To understand who the users were and how they used the product or service that the company offered.

Créer et rédiger un contenu de qualité

Gradually many teams found value in Personas, especially marketing teams. Indeed, the inbound marketing approach, which has become essential in BtoB, implies a detailed understanding of the problems of the target audience.

For your content to be relevant, it must be written with the person who needs it in mind. What are they trying to accomplish? Nowadays it is inconceivable to initiate a relevant digital marketing strategy without deep customer understanding. It is paramount when you want to implement content marketing and marketing automation.

If you are interested in creating content for your audience, you should read about how to write good articles for your Content Marketing Strategy.

Buyer Personas are not just for marketing teams

What is less widespread, however, is their use within sales teams. However, more than ever before, sales prospecting and the b-to-b sales process are based on the continuous delivery of value to the customer. This value contribution is impossible without a real consideration of their issues and the questions they ask during the sales process.

Les personas pour aligner vos équipes marketing et commerciales

On top of that using personas can fuel synergy between the product, marketing and sales teams. You should involve everyone for optimal outcomes. In the end, the whole organization will be focused in the same direction: serving your customers before, during and after the use of your products or services.

Beyond helping you sell and grow your business, it's your ability to innovate that's at stake. Indeed, if you understand your customers and their context, the "why" behind the "what", they will show you the way.

Buyer Personas: how to properly model them?

Establish Customer Profiles

Etablir le profil type de vos personas

Contrary to popular belief, defining buyer personas is not a creative exercise. It is not about fantasizing about an ideal target.

Start with what you know, based on what you sold:

  • Who buys your products or services?
  • Why do you buy them?
  • What questions arise during the sales process?
  • What do they type into search engines?

This is important because we can all picture a target. The important thing is to find a relevant one, the one that will really play an important role in your growth. Grouping your current customers into target groups with common characteristics will give you a much clearer vision of the strategy to adopt.

Some of you are probably going to tell me that when you're starting out or pivoting it's impossible. In that case, you can make educated assumptions, but you have to update continuously. But remember that thanks to Search Engines and Social Media there are always way to get in touch with what customers are looking for. Analyze Trends & Keywords, follow influencers & thought leaders, join groups. 

Personas are not a "set it and forget it" type of proposition. Each new sale should lead you to challenge your personas to refine them in relation to the real thing.

Finally, don't overdo it, exhaustiveness can become useless and counterproductive when it comes to Personas. Do you need to know what would your persona's favorite cereal brand was in kindergarten? I don't think so. 

Just focus on what matters to them, that's what should matter to you.  

Detail their motivations and their goals

The descriptive elements traditionally studied in personas are important but largely insufficient if you want to build a solid strategy. Furthermore, adding a "box" to describe the client's need is questionable. The notion of need or objective does not seem to us sufficient to really understand your clients.

The real issue is understanding the "why" of your clients. Whatever I demonstrate, it will never be as powerful as Simon Sinek's demonstration at his now-famous TEDx conference: Start with why.

To go one step further, you need to understand how to better understand your client's "why". There is a very effective method to get to the bottom of your people's real motivations. The Job to be done method.

Its principle is simple, it comes from a quote by Theodore Levitt :

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Theodore Levitt

Based on this "philosophy", Clayton Christensen developed the jobs to be done, literally "work to be done".

Working in this way makes it possible to describe, in a precise manner, the functional, social, and emotional motivations of a client vis-à-vis an offer. It is, in a way, about understanding which better version of himself wishes to become your customer by using your products or services.

We believe you should go even one step further. To elaborate on Theodore Levitt's quote, they don't really want the hole either, they want what the hole he is going to enable them to do.

Map their Customer Journey

Bear with me, there's only one thing left for you to do to better understand your customers: reconstruct the "Buyer Journey".

Indeed, at this point you know:

  • Who your client is
  • What are its real stakes and objectives

But you also need to understand the journey your customer goes through, from the identification of their problem to its resolution.

This is very important because it allows you to adapt your marketing campaigns to the stages of the journey. It also allows you to identify and respect your customer's time frame.

B2B Buyer's Journey simplified US

For example. there is no use in trying to sell a marketing content management tool to someone who doesn't have a digital strategy yet. It's counterproductive: How could he understand that he needs a content management tool when he has no content and no visitors on his website?

I hope that you have a better understanding of Personas and their value. 

Never forget that this is an iterative work, you must constantly challenge your personas and deepen them. 

Just start with 2 or 3 personas and get as much information as you can on them.

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