Buyer personas. Creating potential customer profiles is often enough to make even the best marketer freeze in their tracks – and realize how little they really know about their prospects.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry. And even if you’ve never created a buyer persona in your life, today’s article will help make sense of the process by giving you a sort of “map” to follow. Let’s take a closer look.
Starting Fresh: Getting the Basics
The very first step in your map is going to be the core information about your customer. Things like:
- Age range
- Job title
- Job responsibilities
You can likely get that much from the data stored in your CRM.
I’d also recommend “humanizing” the persona with a name and image. Doing so tends to bring out more of our emotional, empathetic side rather than looking at the potential customer as a number to slot somewhere into a sales funnel like a puzzle piece.
Learning from Example
For our example here, we’ve chosen to work with “Lucy”, a marketing director in her late 40s. Her job primarily entails lead generation, sales management, and gathering competitive intelligence. She organizes and prioritizes campaigns. She’s a pro at gathering competitive intelligence and using it wisely to help reinforce the brand and cement customer loyalty in a very competitive marketplace.
Because of the huge growth in social media, Lucy’s looking for a way to streamline the interaction process on social media without losing the “personability” of the brand. She’s in the market for a system/solution and wants to make a confident decision quickly.
So with this in mind, our persona map is going to look something like this so far:
Now, to liken this back to a map concept, we’ve got our starting point. Next, it’s time to look at the journey.
Our first stop along the map is the buyer’s needs. She has the basic research to know what’s out there. If we were looking at this from a traditional sales funnel point of view, she’s at the “comparison shopping” stage. She’ll be looking to make a decision soon.
Understanding the Buyer’s Needs
Buyers are eager to tell you what they need. All you have to do is ask. Basic lead follow-up and nurturing questions can reveal quite a bit. Simple polls and surveys can often reveal a great deal about where the buyer actually is in the process (and whether they have an urgent need for your product or service versus basic curiosity). Even if we don’t know specifically what they need, we can make some blanket statements to apply them to our persona. What would someone in this job typically need from our solution?
For starters, the buyer likely needs the product to be well documented. She’ll be managing dozens, perhaps hundreds of staff members – some of whom (based on age) may be more technically savvy than she is. Some of the staff may pick it up quickly, others may need more time. We’ll add the needs and the persona’s place in the decision-making process (one persona can have multiple roles in the decision process — they can be a user and initiator, for example)
There’s also the fact that whatever solution needs to be adaptive and flexible to accommodate existing platforms and tools. The company itself likely has certain procedures and requirements of its own that need to be added to the mix, like cloud-based access and certain security protocols. These kinds of factors can influence and even conflict with what the primary buyer wants. Never mind that decisions like these are often made by committee, which lengthens the time needed and the requested features.
Dealing with Common Objections
Like all maps, there are roadblocks that are likely preventing your customer from taking action. There are constraints and concerns, frustrations and issues that affect their decision. You can brainstorm these obstacles and add them to the map to ensure that sales knows how to address the most common objections before they become major pain points.
You also have to decide where this buyer falls on the scale of decision-making. Will they be using the product? Influencing the decision-maker? Initiating contact with the company? A mix of all of these? Make a note of these objections and the buyer persona’s place in the decision-making cycle on your map.
Following our example, we end up with something like this:
Here, we’ve managed to discover (and brainstorm) the buyer’s potential:
- Urgency/Timeframe to Buy
- Place in the buying cycle
All the kinds of sales-propelling information needed to acknowledge objections, concerns and frustrations while concentrating on needs, requirements and urgency. We’ve not only learned core demographics about our buyer, but key information that may be preventing them from action, or details that could move a sale into the next stage.
Our buyer persona map is less of a neatly-organized, bulleted list and more like a mind-map that’s always being added to and revised. It may not be as tidy, but our map is more authentic, and closer to the actual customer experience.
Think about the last time your company made a major purchase. It’s seldom a “beginning to end” one-time shot, isn’t it? There’s lots of details to hammer out, lots of presentations to sit through, lots of suggestions and sign-offs to gather. It’s a big process and a fancy list of bullets just doesn’t cut it anymore – not in today’s two-way communication world.
The Bottom Line on Understanding Buyer Behavior
It might seem counter-intuitive to go through this entire process with every type of buyer your company encounters. After all, you’ve likely got a lot more than just one type of customer. And if you’re in retail, you’ve got suppliers, wholesalers, resellers, and a whole avalanche of personas out there. Don’t panic, prioritize. Focus on your best customers and find the unifying threads that tie them together, and then build on that persona.
And remember that buyers are multi-faceted human beings. Sometimes they make decisions that go against the grain of even the best, most well-developed persona. It happens. But here, it pays to remember that the journey is just as important as the destination, and the easier you make that journey, the more receptive the buyer will be to taking the action you want them to take.
About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!