‘Buyer personas’ is one of those phrases that everybody in business will encounter if they haven’t done so already. The definition of that phrase however is one that is often contested. Many people will have different perspectives on what the phrase means, but there is of course the very clear marketing application of buyer personas.

Before we go into too much depth then, let’s define the phrase. Let’s revisit a definition stated back in 2002 by Tony Zambito:

Personas-1 Buyer Personas and your Ideal Customer

“Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modelled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.”

It seems then that buyer personas have very little to do with profiling and instead a lot to do with the behaviour surrounding the buying. It may also be worth adding one extra thing to the above definition – where and when the buyers decide to buy.

The reason why some words are highlighted in the above quote is to emphasise the journey that a buyer makes, both physically and psychologically. It effectively places the buyer within a narrative and uses the fundamental basics of qualitative storytelling. Understanding your buyers will ensure that you’re targeting them well, but it will also make sure that brands understand the three dimensional world and lives that its buyers inhabit.

Better Your Understanding

There is a reason to use buyer personas and a good purpose to identify them. Any research into this buzzword has the outcome of increasing an understanding of buyers and their buying behaviours. This can only influence a business’ understanding of its audience positively. Understanding this sphere of the marketing world ensures that businesses target audiences better, and its decisions on marketing and sales strategies are better informed by the users of its products.

A business that learns about its users can adopt a new language, and one that its audience understands innately. Effectively, buyer personas allow a business to devise and develop products that reflect what its audience type wants and how they go about getting what they want. The new vocabulary learnt has to be effectively implemented with clear language and succinct articulation.

Reconsider the Definition of Buyer Personas

Now that we’ve got a singular definition of what a buyer persona is, we’re all hopefully on the same page. With all of the above in mind let’s reconsider the initial definition and discover the elements that still matter in this new, increasingly technological, digital age.

Research, research, research

The key thing to bear in mind when developing buyer personas is research. A business must understand the buying behaviours of its customers, and conducting basic profiling can only aid in that pursuit. Remember, most research into buyer personas also encompasses a basic grasp of the social sciences. Research into your brand’s buyers should involve a number of specific research based approaches. Namely:

  • Qualitative research
  • Ethnographic research
  • Business anthropology
  • Digital anthropology

The basic premise here then is that without research a brand cannot devise a bespoke buyer persona. Your brand is being accessed, considered, and purchased by an audience and without a good understanding of why, your brand cannot effectively capitalise and target that audience.

Buyer Personas are Archetypes

When devising a clear buyer persona remember that you’re collating information to create an archetype. An archetype is a model of people and behaviours, not a specific person. Your research is in the understanding and modelling of existing buyers into a clear profile that your brand can target. The main thing that you’re researching is the way that your buyers behave.

Keep in mind then that you’re not creating buyer personas, but modelling your research on the archetypes of buyers already engaging and purchasing your product. Use the audience that you’ve already got, but understand it better and utilise that understanding to increase your brand exposure and tweak your marketing efforts to a specific, pre-existing audience that already has clearly defined buying habits.

Identify who Your Buyers are

Once you’ve established some buyer archetypes, it’s important to start communicating with them. No one knows what he or she wants from your business more than those using its services. Find out what works and what doesn’t and start to tweak your approach accordingly. Perhaps the best thing to bear in mind is that your initial idea of who your target buyer is may not be that accurate. In fact, many brands find that they were actually very far off the mark in their original assumption of who’s interacting with them and purchasing their products.

Work on understanding your audience better and figure out the desires of that audience. You want to focus on what buyers are trying to accomplish through their responsibilities, areas of focus, key initiatives, and strategies.

Determine the goals that drive your audiences’ behaviour. Doing this will help you to meet the targets they’ve set for themselves, effectively establishing your business as a viable answer to whatever problem they’re facing. Qualitative research is important at this point as your audience’s goals aren’t always as clear as they seem.

Also, a focus on understanding how your buyers think can help hugely – this process is often referred to as mental models. The goal at this stage is to identify a collective pattern of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, motivations, and guiding principles. But the area that will be most illuminating to your marketing efforts is determining the reason why they don’t buy. This is known as profound buyer insight and it cannot be underestimated.

The basic premise then is to research and understand the things that make your audience tick (and the things that don’t). Good research will aid you and the devising of a clear buyer persona, and their wants and needs, will greatly aid your business in both marketing and selling environments.