Introduction to Buyer Personas
As a digital solutions organization that's been traditionally known as a web design and development shop, we get a lot of requests from organizations that would like an intuitive, engaging, easy-to-use, and/or pretty.
The thing about this whole intuitive, engaging, and easy-to-use thing is that it:
#1 depends on what you want people to do on your website and why ...
#2 is fairly subjective and dependent on your target audience.
- Perhaps you would like to connect with your target audience and get them excited about what you are doing so that they will register for an event or donate to your cause?
- Maybe you would like your target audience to quickly and easily find answers to their questions on ………………...so that they begin to view you as an expert on the topic and refer you to others?
In order to achieve the seemingly elusive website, you need to first determine the answers to these questions, and then make sure you know who your audience is, and what makes them tick, so to speak. Hint - to learn more about how to do this, download our guide to planning a website.
To help someone with a problem or sell them an experience, you need to first understand who that person is and how they make decisions.
In our experience, the best way to do this is by conducting user researching and testing what works. In this blog, I will introduce you to the process we use to learn more about our target market.
Our process is based on Adele Revella's book Buyer Personas, and all page references and quotations from this point forward will be to that resource.
In Buyer Persona's, Revella explains that marketers often use buyer personas as a way to build a profile of the people who are their intended customers.
Her methodology, however, lays out a different, and, in my opinion, more meaningful approach:
When buyer personas evolve from authentic stories related by actual buyers - in the form of one-on-one interviews - the methodology and presentation allows you to capture the buyer’s expectations and factors that influence them (xxi).
Thus, in order to create a solid understanding of your target audience, you need to know more than their social and demographic situations, you actually need to talk to them.
At Cheeky Monkey, we break down the process as follows:
Find individuals in your target audience to interview. This can include your current customers, prospective customers who choose another organization, and people you would like to be your customers.
Do a little bit of preliminary research on these people. Check out their social media accounts, and get a sense of their current position, interests, and the resources they look at.
Reach out to them and ask if they would be willing to chat with you for 20min - 45min. Assure them that it will only be you on this call, and that there will be no sales team involved. *A lot of people will say yes to your request, but some will not. Make sure you have enough potential people to contact that you can conduct at least 6-10 interviews.
Once you sit down with the individual, ask them to walk you through their journey, from the point when they decided to look for “a solution like the on your organization offers” (pg. 25) - the priority initiative - to the point when they make their decision. Here you are looking for what Revella calls “The 5 Rings of Buying Insight” (25-27):
- The Priority Initiative
- Success Factors
- Perceived Barriers
- The Buyer’s Journey
- Decision Criteria
Following the interview, you will need to go through the interview (ideally the individual you are speaking with allowed you to record the conversation) and mark down (or highlight) each of the five insights. I suggest highlighting each initiative in a different color, but making notes is effective as well.
The following 3 steps are a very simple outline, and are discussed in much greater detail in Buyer Personas, Chapter 6 - “Mine Your Interviews for Buying Insights” (pg. 97 - 110) and Chapter 7 - “Determine How Many Buyer Personas You Need” (pg. 111- 130).
Compile your information in a spreadsheet. *At this point, you will only have the buyer’s words and the source.
Each insight should have its own tab.
Each tab should include the insight, the buyer’s words, the source, they key insight, and the type of buyer.
Categorize each line based on the key insight.
Group your buyers based on the key insights they share, rather than similarities in age or position. Why?
When we group people together who are like minded with respect to their expectations when doing business with us, we get the most actionable guidance about how we can match our solutions to their needs (pg. 114).
And that’s it. True this process is a bit time-consuming, and it can be slightly uncomfortable, especially when you are calling up strangers, but it is well worth the effort and initial discomfort.
Instead of spending 100+ hours creating content and sharing it where you think your audience will look for it, only to have no one read it, or even find it, you may spend 10-30 hours getting the information you need to make clear and educated decisions about where to put your efforts.
If you don’t think you have the time or expertise to tackle this sort of research, or need to bounce ideas off of someone, feel free to let us know about your project and ask us how buyer personas might work for you. To learn more about the different ways we can help you with your marketing, communications, or website strategy, visit our Web Development & Design and Marketing pages.
If you’re thinking of trying this methodology out for yourself, I highly recommend getting and reading Revella’s Buyer Personas. My own copy has creased edges, coffee stains, and is littered with notes, highlights, and sticky notes.
Want to get moving on those buyer personas, but not 100% sure you should be focusing your efforts there? Have us do a website audit. We'll be able to show you exactly what's working and what isn't so that you can make an informed decision about what to tackle first.