Creating the right buyer persona for your business has never been more difficult. In part, that’s because the U.S. population has never been larger. At around 330 million, the population wavers between resisting labels and contradictory urges for community and independence. Yet businesses know they must create personas. Without a well-defined buyer persona, marketers create messages based on vague guidelines rather than tangible research. Imagine trying to create a campaign for a 30-year-old you know nothing about versus one who drives a Volkswagen, shops at Trader Joe’s, and has two children under five-years-old.
Nearly every brand has a buyer persona. One of the first was Seventeen magazine, which organized itself around “Teena,” a high-school girl who struggled with being too plump and too shy. The magazine used that description as a template on which to organize its content. Despite such examples, most buyer personae are unknown to the general public. But many marketers have one in mind when they create campaigns.
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Humans are complex. Reducing them to a single persona is laughably reductionist. For instance, if all you know about someone is their age and where they live, then you know nothing about what moves them, what their greatest hopes are, and what they find troubling. A marketer’s job also requires finding out how customers feel about your product. For example, if you sell ice cream, you may want to know that much of your target audience is struggling with their weight. They love eating your delicious dessert, but hate what it does to their figures.
The goal of a persona is to move beyond these broad-brush strokes and identify how your customers, as human beings, reconcile both impulses. In fact, many people experience this effect, which is why new players in the ice cream market are vegan and gluten-free. A target buyer persona would address these urges and find an authentic way to reconcile them. In this instance, the buyer persona may be a 34-year-old mother of two in Connecticut. How do you understand her? The best way is to glean data from women of similar ages and backgrounds.
Make it Relevant
The most important factor, however, isn’t the amount of research you do about this consumer. It’s how to provide relevant messaging. For instance, when a consumer is doing her grocery shopping online, she probably doesn’t want to hear about the benefits of different insurance plans, but she might be up for a message about an add-on purchase.
In today’s fast-moving environment, marketers must vary their pitch based on what the consumer is doing at the time. If your target consumer is a male over 50, you will need a very different pitch from one aimed at the general public. You need to understand the target buyer’s challenges and frustrations.
Walk in Their Footsteps
One way marketers often use buyer personas is as a vehicle for tracing steps in the buying journey. If the persona’s mission is to buy and prepare dinner for tonight, you might imagine a trip to a supermarket, your supermarket. What are the obstacles a visitor might encounter there? If your model is Kate, a 33-year-old mother, then a few additional details will help you imagine the scene. Kate is taking her 3-year-old son Kyle to Whole Foods to get a nice dinner for tonight.
Beginning with the parking, Kate might face a few obstacles that threaten to take up her limited time. From there, she has a vague idea of what she wants for dinner, but could use more explicit directions since she’s a novice cook. Maybe the store got some fresh shrimp. It could then put them on display to beckon shoppers, along with a recipe card.
Other personas require more research. A new car purchase requires figuring out which segment you belong to or want to belong to. For instance, your friend impresses you by buying a Tesla. Pretty soon he’s talking up the car and taking you for spins and you too begin becoming a fan of the brand.
And that’s the thing about brand personae: They are constantly evolving. One day you’re a Honda fan and the next you’re excited about Tesla.