You know your target audience. Your inbound marketing seems to be tracking well. Why bother with buyer personas? The reasoning is similar to why you need web content writers (see what we did there?): To really optimize your content marketing.
Let’s agree on a couple of definitions:
- Target audience: The general set of attributes for your ideal customer base.
- Buyer persona: Detailed fictional profile of an ideal individual customer.
Data-driven segmentation of the target audience is already part of established business best practice. Defining a buyer persona simply digs deeper into a segmented target audience’s habits and behaviours: A specific persona is a highly detailed customer profile representing a specific audience segment. For example, the difference between a target audience and buyer persona for a Canadian organic skincare products company could look something like this:
- Target audience: Women, aged 30–50, income 50K+/year, tech savvy, environmentally and socially aware, living in Western Canada.
- Buyer persona: Yoga Yolanda is a fitness maven in her mid-thirties, on the senior management track; unmarried, has a mortgage on a condo; shops online and on her mobile, buys local, sustainable, and organic; is diet- and health-conscious, and donates to charities.
It’s easier to craft impactful messaging directly to “Yolanda the Fitness Maven,” addressing her concerns and playing to her preferences, than to “women aged 30–50.” Messaging that markets a broad value proposition (even if unique!) to the wider target audience ignores most of the potential diversity within that audience, which could mean missing out on engagement and conversion opportunities.
By the numbers: What’s the ROI on taking the time and effort to research, create, and implement buyer personas as part of a cross-channel, multi-platform content strategy, vs. the potential cost of not using them?
A content strategy that includes persona-based messaging yields two times the average sales pipeline by engaging potential buyers earlier and more effectively, whereas an average 60%–70% of non-persona based content goes unused — translating to financial losses ranging from $.2M annually in small companies under $100M; $2.1M annually for mid-sized companies under $1B; and $3.3M annually for companies over $1B (as quoted in this piece from Cintell).
The Bottom Line
Targeting an audience (group), is different than targeting a persona (individual). Simply targeting an audience will not get a brand far enough, any more than just using traditional marketing will. What are some of the key advantages of using a buyer persona vs. (just) a target audience for online and digital content marketing?
Customers demand authenticity: Customers can go through the entire online buying journey without speaking with a single person, but they need to know you care — and today they demand that the brands they support must be reflective of their values and goals. Marketing today must be personal, transparent and authentic. Marketing to the target persona introduces the human element back into the buyer’s journey.
“Everyone is not your customer” (attributed to Seth Godin): You can’t please everyone, all the time — not even your target audience. Selling to audience segments by targeting buyer personas, shifts the focus to the needs of individual customers.
Influencer marketing works: Word of mouth is often a significant factor when people make buying decisions, on any platform. Targeting the right customers (buyer personas) allows them to be your brand ambassadors and sales advocates.
The marketplace is global: For geo targeting, buyer personas help you drill down to understand the diversity of the global market’s cultural makeup and sell better in specific locations.
Target your “real” buyer: Using buyer personas creates a customer-centric scenario, where the customer is the protagonist of the story of their own buyer journey. You can’t target why customers should care about your product and buy from you, without understanding their motives and intent through creating buyer personas.
The Crystal Ball
A clearly defined persona is one of the most tactically useful tools in your digital and content marketing kit. Effective messaging relies on discovering customers’ pain points and preferences, and why they buy, when they buy — then providing targeted solutions, information, and incentive in an engaging, persuasive way. With a buyer persona, you’re able to hone in on a specific type of customer, so that your messaging resonates directly with that audience segment.
How many personas are enough, and how many are too much of a good thing? According to ITSMA, most of its members and clients can sell more effectively with only three or fewer distinct personas — and the 80–20 rule applies: If one or two personas cover 80% of the buyers, those are the ones you should address.
Finally, before you jump onto the persona bandwagon, remember that more isn’t necessarily more. Don’t include buyer information that is irrelevant to your main reason for having a persona: Getting the customer to buy from you instead of from anyone else. The most important reason for crafting a persona is to understand the attitudes, decision-making criteria, and actions that influence buying behaviour.
Have you worked with buyer personas? Can you really have too many? What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered? Share your insights here — or contact us for a web content writer’s perspective on optimizing your next online content marketing campaign. For the record, this writer is caffeine crazy, gets hangry, likes playing guitar, lives in a condo and supports cool charities, like Kiva.