Again and again I ask the question about Buyer Personas during consulting sessions or lectures. Almost everyone has heard of them, some have already dealt with them more intensively and even have concepts in their drawers. In practice, however, buyer personas have been received by very few. This is a worrying phenomenon, because all these companies run the risk of wasting valuable resources by producing content that is guaranteed to miss its target because it lacks one crucial ingredient: relevance. The way to get there is via the buyer persona. But why is this so?
The Buyer Persona as the key to relevance
When we speak of content (production), our context is content marketing. Not the pure creation of “just so” content, so that a blog post is “out there” or a channel can be fed. No, here we are concerned with the creation of content in order to reach a clearly defined target group, to keep it, to engage it, and ultimately to get it to do something we want it to do. This is the common definition of content marketing. And there you see that you don’t get too far with classic target group definitions such as male, broad, 20 – 45, for example. The key lies in understanding the people behind it. This is the only way to create relevance. And in doing so, we break through the content noise in a world saturated with content. In this context I like to use the image of talking to someone. If you don’t know your counterpart, it is difficult to have a deeper conversation. It’s just superficial small talk and there is already enough of that in this world.
It doesn’t always have to be complicated
So why do so many companies fail to create and use Buyer Personas? The surprising answer: Very often people simply think too big. The creation of Buyer Personas is then cast into a project framework, external agencies are commissioned (briefings, meetings, coordination processes included) and the results are available several weeks later. Even then the uncertainty is still great. How do we use them? What do they tell us? Often, the process alone is already daunting. What is often overlooked is that a lot of information is already available in the companies themselves. In addition, one should think very carefully about what one wants to use the personas for. To put it bluntly: If you only publish on the company’s own blog on the company website, you don’t need 20 pages of buyer persona definitions including all socio-demographic characteristics and media usage. Note: This is not to say that there are no use cases for this, such as complex media planning or distribution strategies. Ultimately, facts such as age or gender naturally also provide indications of tonality.
Raise unexpected treasures
In order to overcome these mentioned hurdles, we recommend that you first concentrate on the information that is already available in the company. This creates a rather intuitive persona, which can still be very effective for content production. Data gaps can and should still be added regularly later. You are never finished anyway, in a time when consumer preferences change faster and faster and adapt to new circumstances (keyword: corona). Interview those people in your company who are in contact with customers and who know the market. Do not forget to include different perspectives. One example: While doctors perceive their patients mainly from a medical perspective, nursing staff also registers the “human” side. The respective conversation between the car salesperson and the mechanic with customers is certainly also about different topics. The rule of thumb is: Every piece of information is valid, because it comes from practice. You can confidently leave the assessment of relevance to the employees. With time you will get a good feeling for your persona. Round it all off with research in the social media team and customer service and you will get a clear picture of how your customers think, what moves them, what excites them and what they are happy about.
The Buyer Persona – step by step
Name and picture
What should the persona cover? First of all, we give our persona a face and a name. Here the opinions differ a bit. With the name alone and even more with a picture, you naturally trigger certain ideas that can serve clichés and stereotypes. But in our opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages if you approach the matter with a little bit of tact – which, by the way, is a must anyway, if you proceed anecdotally as described in the previous paragraph. A critical look, whether prejudices are not (unintentionally) spread here, does not harm in any case.
Names like ” Agency Anna” or “Client Klaus” should definitely be avoided. This puts our personas into a pigeonhole and it is hard to establish a real connection to the persona if it has a ridiculous, clichéd name.
If you do not have time to create a complete persona, then at least one question should be answered: “What keeps the persona awake at night?” or “What gives the persona pleasure? The whole thing, of course, in relation to your product, service or support. Even with a complete persona, this is the starting point. All further details always refer to this starting point. Describe how the problem affects the persona and what causes it.
We also try to classify the persona very roughly in demographic terms. More than gender, age and marital status (if relevant) is not necessary here. In addition to these details we create a short backstory. In it we outline how the persona came to its current position/situation, how it developed and which factors influenced it. In this way we get to know the “path” of the persona better.
Secondary target groups
Ask yourself the question whether the persona alone decides, who it listens to and who exerts influence on it. The aim of this exercise is to find out if there is more than one target group worth addressing. The simplest example here is children for whom the parents decide, but who often have a say, depending on their age. But also think of the employee from the department who wants to convince his superior of the sense of a solution.
Emotions – wishes, needs, challenges
Especially from a content point of view, this is one of the most exciting parts of the Buyer Persona. Is the employee from the finance department of a company afraid of making mistakes in a critical area of the company? Or does he want to look good in front of his superiors and has his bonus or possibly a promotion in mind? Find out which wishes drive the persona and what the objectives are in terms of problem solving. What are the expectations and needs being met? Above all, systematically check possible emotions. This often results in many exciting content approaches.
Quotes and thoughts
Letting the persona speak directly creates additional closeness and an emotional connection. What is said often condenses information and literally gets to the point.
Where relevant, it helps to document the interests, activities and leisure pursuits of the persona. Content approaches can also be derived from this and ideas can be cross-checked.
What happens next?
The most important thing: Use the persona. Whenever content is created, the persona should be used as a starting point. Whether external or internal: Make the persona description a fixed part of every content briefing. If you are planning (strategic) content, start from the persona(s) and do not forget the customer journey. Coupled with a leitmotif and a central theme, this provides a rich basis from which the topics should bubble out. And finally: Update your persona regularly. Whenever there are new insights, add another piece of the puzzle.