Most marketers and sales reps know they need a clear understanding of their prospective customers. It’s critical for creating messages and marketing campaigns that resonate with them and figuring out which sales tactics will close deals.
That’s why marketers go through the difficult and time-consuming process of developing consumer personas or profiles.
The issue: Most marketers aren’t sure what buyer personas are and how to create good ones. Good personas are invaluable. Bad ones could be very destructive to the future of your business.
So what are personas? They’re composite pictures of the actual people who might buy your products and services. They should be based on what you learn through direct interviews with real buyers or by doing in-depth research about them. They should NOT be based on unfounded ideas or internal perspectives about who your customers might be.
Here are four DON’Ts and one DO that will help avoid making mistakes when creating buyer profiles.
1. DON’T make things up about your purchasers.
Do you learn about your buyers by talking to sales reps, meeting with product managers or conducting online research? BIG mistake!
These sources don’t have the information marketers need to really understand prospective purchasers. Sales reps often have preconceived notions about who they should be selling to and how, which may or may not be based on fact. Product experts know how to build solutions for current customers, but have little time to think about the people your firm is not already doing business with — or how client attitudes are changing. When it comes to online research, anyone who spends time on the internet knows how much the stuff found there is actually worth.
If you want to develop solid buyer personas, you must uncover insights that are genuine, unbiased and based on fact. This will give you the background necessary to create collateral and develop a sales process that will get buyers to choose your products and services over those of your competitors.
What you can do: Regularly have conversations with consumers and do real research about them.
Interview recent buyers along with people who chose not to do business with you. Take time to get to know them. Learn about their motivations and decision-making processes. Start with the moment they decided to look for a solution to their problems. Don’t stop until you fully understand how they responded to your marketing and sales cycles and those of your competitors. Learn why they made their final decisions.
When it comes to research, don’t go it alone. Partner with a marketing agency that has experience in developing personas, brand assets and sales processes. You’ll rest assured knowing your buyer profiles are based on actual information and not questionable internet “facts”.
Take it to the NEXT level: Use a sales enablement system like the one offered by Mobile Locker to gain additional buyer insights and identify changes in their attitudes over time.
2. Don’t get sidetracked.
Many marketers get bogged down in irrelevant details when developing buyer profiles, missing what’s truly important.
- Does it matter if your customers are male or female? Maybe or maybe not.
- Do you need to know where they shop? For B2B companies, probably not.
- Is a “perfect” profile photo necessary? Unlikely.
What you can do: Stay focused. Here are the five things marketers should include in personas so they feel confident that they understand their buyers:
- Issues: What are the top problems your prospective clients want to solve? What would make their lives — and doing their jobs — better? What can you sell them to improve things? Answering these questions is the first step toward understanding what motivates your customers and how to connect with them.
- Success: What does success look and feel like for your consumers? Are there metrics or rewards buyers associate with a satisfying purchase? This includes things like “increasing revenue by a percentage” or “building efficiency” or “feeling less stress at work.”
- Barriers: What would make prospective buyers question doing business with you? Are there issues with your products or services that could prevent them from achieving success? Figure out what you need to do to overcome doubts, objections and barriers to sales.
- Buying process: Document every interaction people have with your business during the marketing and sales cycles. Include what they’re thinking and feeling for every step, the things they need to know and understand about your business and what you want them to do next.
- Decision-making process: Figure out what features of your products and services prospective purchasers consider before they decide to buy. Take into account how your competitors’ offerings compare.
Understanding these five things will allow you to build personas that will help close more deals.
3. Don’t develop too many personas.
Do you need a separate profile for each customer segment you market and sell to? Probably not.
Many marketers make the mistake of thinking they need a persona for every consumer segment. This is usually not the case. Individual segments are often based on relatively small demographic differences, such as age, income or job title, not things that impact buying attitudes. This often leads to an overwhelming number of personas that aren’t significantly different.
What you can do: As you interview consumers and conduct research, organize the data you collect around the five factors covered in the section above. Look for commonalities and differences among groups. Use this to decide how many personas you need. You may add and cut some during the development process. Just make sure you don’t have too many for them to be meaningful and usable.
4. Don’t stop listening.
Interviewers often shut down and stop listening when they conduct too many interviews in a row, handle them impersonally over the phone or use inflexible scripts.
While it’s important to get answers to defined questions, it’s much more critical to spend time listening and understanding the people in your customer base.
What you can do: Use an outline to guide your conversations with buyers and non-buyers instead of a script. It will help you stay on track, while preventing you from becoming too robotic or inattentive. If someone says something you find intriguing, feel free to pursue it. Conduct interviews in-person when possible so you are able to read facial expressions and body language. Never schedule too many sessions back-to-back. You owe it to your subjects to be fresh, attentive and fully engaged.
5. DO invest in a sales enablement system.
Once you complete your personas and update your marketing materials and sales process based on them, you owe it to yourself to invest in a sales enablement system. It will supply the data and information needed to ensure your personas are accurate. It will also help you figure out when your buyer’s motivations and needs are changing and your personas require updating.