Knowing your marketing audience is one of the first and most crucial steps your company will make towards success. When you invest in buyer persona development, you’re investing in your content marketing, your brand identity, and your company’s ability to reach the right people at the right time. Here are 5 tips you can use to define and target your ideal customers.
There are few things more fundamental to your company’s success than its buyer personas. These fictionalized, but well-researched, personas not only represent your ideal customers but also act as a sort of “roadmap” for all your marketing efforts. They give you a face to the person you’re marketing your brand toward, and in doing so, empower you to create content specifically for that person.
Like HubSpot says, buyer personas help people in marketing, sales, product, and services work together to “internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans.”
Whereas the outbound marketing methodologies of the past usually treated customers purely as a source of ROI, the inbound marketing methodologies of today are committed to the reality that buyers (and sellers) are people with their own identities, preferences, and habits. But if you don’t invest the proper time in developing your buyer personas, then your marketing audience will be ill-defined. And if your marketing audience is ill-defined, they might as well not exist at all.
To help you ensure that your marketing efforts are reaching the right kinds of people, we’ve put together a handful of tips for you.
1) Don’t Skimp on Market Research!
Developing buyer personas is a process. As convenient as it might be to have a neat, well-researched stack of buyer personas manifest themselves on your desktop, that’s not quite how it looks. Instead, you’ve got to start asking questions.
Thankfully, you’re not the only one asking questions. As you start to flesh out who your marketing audience is, you might want to take some time and look into what your competitors are doing. What kind of language do they use on their home page? What questions do they use on their forms? Do they put more effort into content marketing or social media?
Don’t let the competition dictate what you do, of course. You should observe what others are doing and use that as a springboard for your buyer persona development.
That development can take a myriad of forms, too. You could reach out to other departments in your company and hear who they think your ideal customer is. You could explore the various social networks and see who’s talking about you (or the services you offer).
Or, according to Entrepreneur, you could try conducting both large and small scale qualitative surveys. Larger surveys allow you to hear from as many people as possible, giving you a solid framework to build off of. Smaller surveys, meanwhile, will add dimension to that framework by helping you ask more targeted questions.
Before you start any target audience marketing campaigns, make sure that you have buyer personas who can be viewed “as real people rather than as faceless statistics.”
2) Get Specific with Your Marketing Audience Profiles
Having a solid backbone of research will be crucial in your buyer persona development. But your job doesn’t start and end with research. To paint a clear and compelling portrait of your marketing audience, you need to get specific.
“To avoid stereotypes in the work you create,” Forbes advises, “move past the superficial view of a basic buyer persona.” While a basic buyer persona (which usually includes things like gender, age, and income) is an excellent place to start, you’ve got to go deeper. Those are demographic traits that will help point your marketing in the right direction, but it won’t offer any guarantee that your efforts reach the people it’s supposed to.
In order to get to the heart of who your ideal customer is, you should also be considering where they get “their news, what hobbies they enjoy in their free time and where they are most likely to spend their next vacation.” The more details you can find, the better equipped you’ll be to market to the right people, in the right place, with the right types of content.
3) Test New Features and Tools Against Your Buyer Personas
“Once you create personas,” SearchEngineJournal explains, “you should regularly refer back to them when you are working on any facet of digital marketing, including SEO, content development, and social media marketing.” This way you’ll always know whether you’re reaching your target market audience or not.
You can have the most meticulously detailed buyer personas of all time, but if you’re not regularly testing them, then their ability to help your marketing will grow dull. Forbes says it like this: “Depending on who you’re targeting or the medium you are using, your messaging may change slightly.” If you were to launch a new Google ad strategy, for example, then you’d want to test how well your buyer personas respond to it.
4) Recognize the Value of Negative Personas
The buyer persona definition, in HubSpot’s words, says that it’s “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” However, that’s only part of the picture.
Knowing who you want to do business with is great, but so is knowing who you don’t want to do business with. Econsultancy explains it like this: “identifying what you are not can also help to better define what you are.” By defining the kinds of people you do (and don’t) want to pursue, you’ll be able to improve your brand’s transparency, fine-tune your product or service, and “hone in on the people who will benefit the most.”
Developing negative personas is pretty straightforward, too. Simply take a look at negative reviews (for your company or your competitors) and identify the kinds of complaints and frustrations people in your marketing audience experience. This data will give you a pretty solid idea of who you don’t want to be marketing to.
“If you take the time to also create negative personas,” HubSpot says, “you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the ‘bad apples’ from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer — and see higher sales productivity.”
5) Listen to What Your Audience Has to Say
In the end, the best thing you can do to get to know your marketing is simple: listen to them. As valuable as market research, specificity, and measurements are, they can all be condensed into a single action: listening.
And believe us when we say that your marketing audience probably has a lot to say. But don’t wait for them to tell you what they think; go to them first! When you initiate a conversation with your audience, you’re showing them that you not only want to hear their thoughts but that you want to engage with those thoughts as well.
“Do personas need to be 100% based on factual evidence or extensive research?” Forbes asks. No, they don’t. What they do need to be is honest and real. When you’ve got some thoughtful buyer personas on your side, you’ll be able to get to know your marketing audience in a meaningful way and provide them with the right services at the right time.