Invention or innovation? The difference between those two concepts may be subtle, but it is one that will ultimately determine the success of any new business startup. There’s no denying the fundamental importance of invention, but it is innovation that takes that invention and makes it useful and, hopefully, changes behaviour. Your ability to change behaviour relies on your ability to reach customers who need your product.
Take a look at successful innovators and you will see they have a deep understanding of their customers on a personal level (think, Apple). The better an organisation is able to understand its target market’s pains, frustrations and motivations, the more likely it is to turn them into customers.
The question is… how do you get to know someone well enough to understand their problems?
This is where the buyer persona comes in. By carrying out deep-level customer profiling, you are able to match your business focus and direction with the expectations of your customers.
The Buyer Persona
In short, a buyer persona defines your ideal customer and everything about them. By defining the pain points, needs and motivations of your customer, you can clearly define what solution your business offers in response.
You may already have defined a target market by demographic. And you may have made some assumptions about this market. But the process of creating a buyer persona goes deeper than demographics, and forces you to prove or disprove any assumptions you may be tempted to make.
Establishing buyer personas will not only ensure your marketing spend is accurately targeted it will also ensure that your message to those market segments meets what that segment is expecting to hear. This increases the likelihood of them purchasing or reacting to your messages. Buyer personas should determine what type of messages your customers like to hear and how frequently, where do they hang out, and what channels can you use to reach them? Over time buyer personas can even help you identify opportunities for new products or markets.
Digging deeper than demographics A buyer persona gives your target customer a name and establishes their job, income, hobbies, social status and mindset towards things like use of technology. A buyer persona defines needs, wants, desires, pain points, and motivation. Research what blogs they read, what businesses they employ and what products they use to improve their life.
Sample buyer persona of someone who might use South Inc. services:
Identifying the behaviour headings for your persona is often the hardest part. Like visiting a foreign country, you may be learning about people or behaviours you’re not familiar with. Take time to learn the local language, customs and needs.
The addition of a profile picture or similar, is key to creating successful buyer personas. This helps ensure that everyone in the organisation has the customer in mind for any communication, marketing or product development activity. It also helps for visual people who learn from “seeing” information to understand your customer segments
In the buyer personas we do at South Inc. we like to add a few more information sections that cover the marketing message. These include how the product or service can help the customer segment, the common objections they might have to buying our product, and also information on the segment size.
Once we have established four or five personas, we summarise them in one single persona view to make it easier to see and understand the whole market.
Researching your personas
A detailed (and useful) buyer persona takes time and effort to build. You will need to get out and talk, research, interview and discover everything there is to know about your potential customers.
Think about the best channels to reach your customers. You might use your website analytics, surveys, in-person discussions or focus groups.. Map out the customer journey and define where your ideal customer sits in the sales funnel. Research and understand your customer’s “information consumption”. This covers TV, blogs, print, social media, radio and smartphone apps.
Go big! Interviewing 3 or 4 people in your office usually isn’t going to give an accurate cross-section of your ideal customer. And worse, it could end up steering you in the wrong direction. So think a little bigger, and take a little more time to ‘get out of the building’ and get the valuable insights. (Get out of the building is a phrase coined by Steve Blank, founder of the Lean Startup Movement, to describe getting accurate customer intel)
Creating buyer personas can radically change the approach of any business, regardless of size and maturity. While most businesses think they understand all their different customers the reality is most of the time they don’t. Creating clear buyer personas shapes both product design and the marketing message.