Buyer personas

The buyer persona is a fictitious prototype of the target group of buyers. Based on statistical data, a buyer persona profile provides insights into the wishes, backgrounds, and requirements of the target group. This makes profiles like these efficient marketing tools. The buyer persona is a subcategory of the broader topic personas.

What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas are fictitious personalities that are examples of potential customers. They are often referred to as prototypes of certain user groups. These exemplarily-defined persons represent a company’s target group. The persons are fictitious, but the background information is based on real data on socio-demographic characteristics, user behaviour, purchasing behaviour, interests, and patterns of action.

In online marketing, buyer personas are now an integral part of the conceptual and strategic planning of many kinds of marketing measures. Buyer personas help to keep an eye on the customer. It helps you to understand the user better and to adapt all measures optimally to them.

Creating a buyer persona

Using personas only makes sense if you create the most detailed personality profiles possible for the fictitious representatives of the target group. You need to extensively define the target group in advance for this to work. On the basis of empirical data, collected with the help of a web analysis and tracking, individual fictitious characters are then created later on. Both demographic and socio-economic information should flow into these personality profiles.

Social media also offers good insight into the target group. Many users have publicly accessible profiles. These provide precise insight into the interests and lifestyles of the various buyers.

Note

When collecting information about buyers, you have to keep data protection and the GDPR in mind.

The following information on the target group is essential:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Place of residence
  • Level of education
  • Occupation
  • Income level

Usually, several personas are created per target group. The average is two to four, but for a very broad target group it can also be useful to create even more personas. The number of buyer personas also depends on the complexity of the product or the scope of the product range.

The starting point for the design of fictitious customer profiles are real people. In addition to gathering general information on the target group, personal contact with selected people also plays a role. You conduct interviews with existing customers, initiate surveys, or rely on market research reports. Detailed profiles that are as realistic as possible are then created based on these findings, as well as data obtained from analyses. A buyer persona contains the following elements:

  • (Realistic) name
  • (Realistic) photo
  • Demographic data
  • Interests and hobbies
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Preferences, especially buying preferences
  • Needs
  • Wishes and expectations towards the store or the company
  • User behaviour
  • Search history

All this information and details are written down in the form of a continuous text like a kind of curriculum vitae spanning one or two pages. It’s important for it to be written in a narrative way: the profile becomes more memorable, captivating, and arouses emotions this way rather than being just a list of key points. Photos make buyer personas look more lifelike. Using quotations from customer interviews make the people even more credible and tangible. There are tools to help create a buyer persona, e.g. Xtensio. With the help of this free program you can create a kind of set card for each persona, which contains the most important information.

Tip

It is also helpful to develop buyer personas that serve as negative examples, i.e. are more likely not to be considered as buyers. This creates a kind of boundary and enables marketing measures to be even more goal-orientated.

Advantages of a buyer persona

If correctly created, the buyer persona allows a more intimate peek into the target audience than just pure data collection. Potential buyers are not a vague, homogeneous group in which each individual corresponds to the average. They are, in fact, individuals who share only certain characteristics. Therefore, the buyer persona enables a better assessment of the individual buyers – even if they are only fictitious prototypes.

Not every customer sees the same advantages in a product or feels the same when they see a certain offer. For this reason, not every member of a target group goes through the same buyer's journey. The proverbial journey a person goes through from initial interest to actual purchase decision is not the same for every potential customer. Buyer personas try to reflect this diversity as much as possible.

This has an impact on marketing. If you are aware of the different interests, values, and motivations of potential customers, you can tailor your advertising measures accordingly. Instead of a standard solution that is a little bit tailored to everyone, but not to anyone in particular, this profile is a lot sharper and more defined. Because of this, most companies are more likely to achieve greater success, since customers will then also feel more strongly addressed by the marketing.

In addition, working with buyer personas often leads to a greater interest in the customers. Thanks to them, marketers don’t just work with bare figures, they also use their creativity when drawing up a profile. When designing the buyer persona, you deal intensively with the various personalities within the target group. This often results in a boost.

Once the profile has been created, you have a clear document at hand. Since the newly created profile has both a picture and a fictitious name, the appropriate marketing is dealt with in a different – more personal – way. You find yourself addressing a (albeit imagined) person and not an unknown mass of buyers. As a result, the relevant marketing measures are usually more lively and appealing.

Five mistakes to avoid at all costs

Buyer personas support marketing tremendously – as long as the profiles are created properly. However, if you don’t have any experience in creating buyer personas, you might end up making some typical mistakes. This not only loses any potential effects, but also runs the risk of provoking negative reactions. So instead of going about it the right way, you end up using the buyer personas incorrectly, addressing the wrong target group, and possibly repelling potential customers.

Research and data collection are too one-sided

Before a company starts to develop buyer personas, data must first be collected. This costs time and effort – and does not only work via one channel. Those less experienced opt for the easy route and evaluate, for example, only information from the web analysis – and ignore the direct contact with buyers. Others use too small a sample, conduct interviews with only a handful of people, and then base their profiling on these not-very-extensive experiences and data. It is not possible to create meaningful buyer personas this way.

Profile generation is too strongly orientated around average values

Collecting as much data as possible is important, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of being too strongly influenced by statistical surveys. Buyer personas should be based on real people and should not end up encompassing average people. If you only calculate mean values and create different profiles from them, you can theoretically save yourself a lot of work, but that means that behind the alleged buyer personas, there is actually only a target group analysis with average values, which has been enriched with some photos and invented names.

Buyer personas are too creatively embellished

It is not helpful to orientate yourself too much on average values, but, on the contrary, you should not get carried away and let your creativity completely run free. It can happen that you quickly get lost when creating the new persona since new biographical details are being developed, and stories about the fictitious person have nothing to do with the information collected. In cases like this, the created profile is interesting and descriptive, but the data is often missing. Worst case scenario, all measures tailored to buyer personas like these end up going in the wrong direction, meaning the marketing measures completely miss the real interested parties, because the profile created hardly has anything in common with them.

Sample profiles are too superficially designed

In day-to-day business, it can be difficult to deal intensively with a project such as buyer personas – especially because these only indirectly increase sales. However, since you still want to get as much out of the buyer personas as possible, you sometimes create profiles that can be quickly finished, but offer hardly any information value. However, a buyer persona is only a helpful tool if the profile also contains extensive information. If the profile remains superficial, then it’s not possible to precisely adapt the marketing to the persona. You gamble away the chances of a good persona.

Too many or too few buyer personas created

Analysing individual representatives of the target group can also go too far: when you don’t stop making buyer personas. You might think that creating lots means that you won’t forget any types of customers and will therefore cover as much as possible. But by doing this, you don’t develop a detailed marketing strategy, but end up achieving the opposite: a profile-less campaign, which does not fit anybody and therefore nobody ends up feeling addressed.

However, if you have created too few profiles – for example only one – you run the risk of not reaching many potential buyers. In such a case, the marketing strategy is often too specific: you gain a very limited customer base, which could have been a lot larger. As far as the number is concerned, however, it is generally better to start small, e.g. with three personas, and build on this when more capacity is available.

Buyer personas in practice

The profiles are created, but then what? Buyer personas are a tool for developing a customer-orientated marketing strategy. The buyer persona should be thought of as the direct contact person when creating the strategy – the marketing measures should focus on the person portrayed, they should be persuaded to buy. When developing a strategy you should therefore always ask yourself the question: Where’s the buyer persona right now? And how can you get it to move forward and encourage customers to take advantage of the offer?

With these basic considerations in mind, it is easier to set the right impulses. If, for example, interested parties are supplied with the full amount of information straightaway, they will probably be overwhelmed and lose interest in buying. However, if you introduce them to the offer gradually, you will almost certainly end up with a happy customer.

And the buyer persona also helps with the addressing itself. When you have a tangible (though imaginary) person in mind, it is easier to choose the right tone. If you can put yourself in the shoes of prototype buyers, you’ll be able to adapt messages better. All marketing measures benefit from this.

Summary

With buyer personas, you can tailor your advertising efforts, marketing strategies, and content creation directly to specific types of buyers. If you have a person in mind instead of just an unknown crowd, strategy and tonality can be better adapted to them.


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