How to Build Your Buyer’s Persona: The Difference Between Average and Awesome
Buyer’s Persona: a semi-fictitious profile of your ideal customer based on data and research of one or all of the following… 1) your existing customers, 2) your competitors’ audience(s), 3) the demographics of your niche or industry.
In my experience, most content marketing strategies fail because of a poorly or partially defined buyer’s persona. This failure is easy to misdiagnose because it doesn’t show up until later in your content marketing strategy. One of the most iron-clad rules of content marketing is that a failure in one stage of your strategy is almost always the result of a cause in an earlier stage.
High refund rates are often the result of a poor selling process. Low conversion rates are often the result of a poor (or non-existent) lead nurturing strategy. Poor lead capture KPIs are often the result of publishing your content in the wrong content marketing channels. All of these problems, however, can be either fully or partially caused by a failure to create a specific buyer’s persona.
This is why the second step of your content marketing strategy is to thoroughly define your buyer’s persona. The more thoroughly defined your buyer’s persona is, the more focus, clarity, and momentum you’ll build as you move through the other steps of your content marketing strategy.
Four Benefits of Building a Solid Buyer’s Persona
According to CMI, most B2C marketers create content for an average of four different audiences; 95% have more than one audience, and 54% have four or more. B2B content marketers create content for an average of three different audiences; 95% have more than one, and 45% have four or more audiences.
These companies have learned something that few digital marketers, besides myself and a handful of direct response copywriters, were even aware of back in 2010. They’ve learned the value of personalized, buyer persona-based content marketing. Here are a few statistics proving the value of this approach…
Source: boardview.io blog on buyer’s persona statistics.
These are just four benefits of defining and documenting your buyer’s persona. I share these as proof of why you should take the time to complete this step right. In my experience, many small businesses and startup entrepreneurs have a persistent habit of shortcutting their buyer’s persona with generic descriptions like…
- “Our target audience is anyone who needs our service.”
- “Our target audience is anyone who wants to ___.”
- “Our target audience is anyone with a ___ problem.”
A good content marketing expert will tell you that if your buyer’s persona starts with an abstract word like “anyone,” or “everyone” or “people who…” it’s not specific enough. They may press you to take your time with this step, and this will require a lot of patience and delayed gratification.
However, the above statistics prove that if you take your time with this step you’ll be rewarded with more leads, higher quality prospects, shorter sales cycles, and higher sales revenue. So, let’s unpack the VQ Success Buyer’s Persona Blueprint one step at a time. For the sake of this example, I’ll use traits relevant to B2C marketing. However, many of these checkpoints also apply to B2B content marketing…
Buyer’s Persona Trait #1: Their Generation
- EXAMPLE: Millennials born between 1985 and 1995.
Your first job is to define your buyer’s persona according to their age range and corresponding generation. If your buyer’s persona spans multiple generations, split it into separate personas, one for each generation, like this…
- PERSONA #1: Millennials born between 1985 and 1995.
- PERSONA #2: Generation X’ers born between 1970 and 1985.
This is important because Baby Boomers are drastically different than Millennials in their buying habits and their ideology. The same is true (although less drastically) when comparing Generation X to Generation Z.
So, splitting up your buyer’s personas by their generation will make it much easier for you to match your content marketing messages to their values and vernacular. It will also help in defining some of the other buyer’s persona traits, which we’ll cover soon.
Buyer’s Persona Trait #2: Their Social Status
- EXAMPLE: Single with no children and living with a fiancé or long-term romantic partner.
Your second job is to define your buyer’s persona according to their relationship status and living arrangements. This is not as simple as it was in the late 20th Century. Today, we have more mixed families and more adults living in multi-family households or with their parents or relatives. This is why it’s important to define your buyer’s persona beyond their marital status.
Defining your audience’s relationship status and living arrangements will help you determine their interests, shopping habits, and purchasing power. If you’re unclear on this trait yet, just start with your best guess. The good thing about working from a buyer’s persona is that you can refine it as you learn more about your audience.
Buyer’s Persona Trait #3: Their Economic Status
- EXAMPLE: $30k to $45k yearly income – $2,000 to $2,500 monthly expenses – $10k in debt – $10k net worth.
There’s more to this step than just defining your audience’s average yearly income. Yearly income doesn’t tell you enough about your audience’s purchasing power or their buying habits. Other factors to consider are their monthly expenses, debt (not including their mortgage), net worth, and whether they’re likely to be renting, paying a mortgage, living with relatives, or living in a paid-off home.
Buyer’s Persona Trait #4: Their Gender Group
- EXAMPLE: Traditionally masculine men.
This is a controversial topic, but essential for marketing to modern consumers. If you prefer to think of this in terms of right and left brain traits, that’s fine. The idea is to go beyond defining your buyer’s persona strictly according to the assumed traits of their biological sex.
Thanks to the research of Psychologists like Steven Pinker, we know that humans aren’t simply blank slates. We have intrinsic biological traits, and no amount of cultural influence can blot that out. However, some men are more traditionally masculine than others, and some women are more traditionally feminine than others.
Sure, you can try to market to a man in skinny jeans and a man bun the same way you market to a man who literally splits his own firewood. Likewise, you can try to market to a conservative housewife the same way you market to the single feminist entrepreneur owner who works 14-hour days building her own personal empire.
But, you’ll get a clearer picture of your audience by defining their biological sex as either male or female and their gender in terms of masculine or feminine. In my experience, the more clarity you have on this point, the easier it will be to customize your content to match your buyer’s persona(s).
Buyer’s Persona Trait #5: Their Education Level
- EXAMPLE: Four-year college degree in science or business.
This is probably the most important factor for content marketers to define. It determines where your readability scores should be and how simple, or sophisticated, your content should be in terms of vocabulary and concept development.
As someone who has decades of experience writing sales scripts and advertising copy, I can tell you that the marketing industry is full of overgeneralized assumptions about this. The common dogma is that your readability scores should be between the 4th and 7th-grade level.
This makes sense for certain education levels. For others, it’s a quick way to make your content look low-budget and unsophisticated. Your readability scores, lexicon, and content should depend on how well-educated your customer persona is.
Buyer’s Persona Trait #6: Their Lifestyle
- EXAMPLE: American Born, Libertarian, Christian, Outdoorsman, History Buff.
This is absolutely the most important trait of your buyer’s persona. It’s also a trait many marketers shy away from defining for fear of “alienating” people who don’t fit the profile. However, the clearer you are about your audience’s cultural background, ideology, hobbies, and interests, the more authentic and compelling your content will be.
It’s easy to spot an “outsider” who is trying to relate with a group of people they don’t understand. Their lack of understanding shows up in their speech and makes them sound awkward and inauthentic. Modern consumers have too many choices about where to get their content. Why should they read articles or watch videos published by a company that can’t relate with them in an authentic way? This is especially important today since more people are choosing to do business with companies that share their beliefs and values.
This is why it’s so important to define your audience’s cultural background, ideology, hobbies, and interests. Remember, also, that you can create multiple buyer’s personas and create customized content marketing strategies for each of them. Here’s a summary of the checkpoints for creating your buyer’s persona, first for a B2B persona, and then for a B2C persona…
B2C Buyer’s Persona Checklist
B2B Buyer’s Persona Checklist
Once you’ve completed the primary checkpoints for your buyer’s persona(s), there’s one more very important step we recommend.
This step will help tremendously when it comes time to create compelling content marketing messages and to choose your distribution channels.
Walk a Day in The Shoes of Your Buyer’s Persona
The final step in defining your buyer’s persona is to clearly and vividly define what a typical day in their life might look like. There’s a quote that’s been popular in direct response advertising circles for decades and which explains why this final step is so important…
Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.
This is the most powerful and practical principle in marketing, and I’m 100% certain this will never change. I don’t care what new trends, technologies, marketing platforms, and content distribution channels come or go. This principle will always be the bedrock of effective marketing and persuasion. Before I explain how this relates to defining your buyer’s persona, let me give you my shorter version of the above quote…
Become the voice inside their head.
Content marketing psychology is all about getting inside your buyer’s head. The more consistent your content marketing messages are with your audience’s internal conversations, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your marketing messages will be.
This is why it’s so important for you to define the typical day of your ideal customer—as defined by the first six traits above. Imagine, for example, someone who wakes up every morning with a slight stabbing pain in their lower heel. The pain is typically worse on cold mornings, but it gets better as the day wears on. After a few weeks, the pain starts to get worse. Then, one day they find one of your articles, and the article opens like this…
Notice how this message is a near-perfect match with the internal conversation my reader is having every day. Moreover, it ends with a suggestion that if the problem gets worse, they won’t be able to walk without crutches.
Do you think that person would want to keep reading? You bet they would. The article is dead on relevant with something they experience on a typical day. It also warns them of a coming danger, thus creating the desire and urgency for them to keep reading.
From there, I could educate them about the cause of this condition, its risks, and, more importantly, what they can do about it. If I’m selling a product or service that solves this problem, I’ve now made a compelling case for why they need to learn more about the problem, and its solutions. That’s how you write good marketing content. It all comes back to this quote…
Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.
Again, content marketing psychology is all about getting inside your buyer’s head. The more consistent your content is with your audience’s internal dialog, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your content will be. And the secret to defining these internal conversations is to define your buyer’s persona using the six traits we just covered, and using that knowledge to define their typical day—from the moment their eyes open in the morning, to the moment they fall asleep at night.
Picture your buyer persona’s typical day as a filmed documentary. If you could plant hidden cameras and microphones to capture every single experience of their day, what would it look like? More importantly, what internal conversations would they have in response to the events of their day? What emotions might they experience as a result?
The more clearly and vividly you define these things, the more relevant, interesting, and authentic your content marketing messages will be. Don’t worry about getting this perfect. Just write it out step by step as if you were writing a story about a typical day in the life of your buyer’s persona.
Remember, you can always add to this story and refine it as you learn more about your buyer’s persona. Just remember that this is where most content marketing strategies fail. Writing bad content, choosing the wrong content marketing channels, failing to define, track, and measure KPIs or pushing products too soon, are all factors.
All of these problems are either fully or partially caused by a failure to thoroughly define your buyer’s persona. The better defined your buyer’s personas are, the more focus, clarity, and momentum you’ll build as you move through the other eight steps of your content marketing strategy.
One final word on buyer’s personas before we move to step three of your content marketing strategy. The examples above are based on a B2C Content Marketing Strategy. For a B2B content marketing strategy, you would need a few more details, including the person’s role with the company you’re marketing to, company size, company culture. However, no matter who you’re marketing to, this universal rule of content marketing psychology will never changes…
Join the conversation that’s happening in your customer’s head.
To do this, you have to know who you’re talking to. If you take your time in clearly defining them, and their typical day you’ll be rewarded with more leads, higher quality leads, shorter sales cycles, and higher sales revenue. The next question is, how do you get your message in front of them?