What Do You Know About Your Customers?

[caption id="attachment_2898" align="alignleft" width="281"]Do you know why your customers buy from you? Do you know why your customers buy from you? Creating buyer personas can give you insight on what influences your customers to make a purchase.[/caption]

The Importance of Buyer Personas

Getting to know and understand your customers is an ongoing process and one that is ideally never completed. In other words, you can never know too much about your customers, and you can never know everything about them.

It pays to try out different strategies and tactics in your quest to get inside the hearts and minds of the ever-evolving consumer. One particularly interesting tool is the buyer persona which, according to marketer Adele Revella’s Buyer Persona Manifesto, is “an archetype (or typical example), composite picture of the real people who buy, or might buy, products like the ones you sell.”

The idea here is to create very real and detailed, three-dimensional personality types from a wide range of data sources, to enable you to see the world through their eyes. Revella cautions that buyer personas shouldn’t be constructed from your base of long-time customers. Instead, they should be fashioned from your most recent customers, competitor customers and those who could potentially buy but haven’t, for any number of reasons.

Here’s why buyer personas are important to businesses, large and small: You may only think you know your customers! Revella says buyer personas will give you invaluable information in key areas she calls “the five rings of insight,” including priority initiatives; success factors; perceived barriers; buying process; and decision criteria. These categories, Revella says, provide a framework for sorting and analyzing the data gathered in the buyer persona process.

Buyer personas are intended to help you shape and target your efforts in virtually every area of your business, from product offerings to customer service to marketing. In fact, a recent blog post on intuit.com addresses some of the ways that building buyer personas can improve your marketing strategies. Contributor Kathryn Hawkins writes that one of the primary goals of developing buyer personas is understanding how different types of customers approach decision making. For example, do they consult family and friends? Online reviews? Authority or expert sources? Most have a complex set of psychological triggers and use a combination of techniques to make buying decisions. Understanding these enables you to develop messaging, content and offers that directly that are informed by these characteristics and behaviors.

Before you dive into developing your own buyer personas, take a little time to review Tony Zambito’s must-read 10 rules for buyer persona development. Zambito, president & CEO of Goal Centric (goalcentric.com), offers what he says is the foundation of buyer persona creation:

    1. You can’t make them up. Real insights come from authenticity, which comes from face-to-face interviewing and on-the-ground learning.


    1. Don’t confuse a buyer persona with a customer profile. A common mistake, Zambito says. Buyer personas should provide much deeper insights than profiles.


    1. Get the right people with the right attributes and skills. No shortcuts, however tempting, Zambito cautions.


    1. Buyer personas are a translation of goals. This can be tougher than it looks because buyers can’t always articulate their goals.


    1. Buyer personals offer insight into the unarticulated and the not-so-obvious. You’re looking for hidden gems which, Zambito emphasizes, takes time, effort and specialized talent and tools.


    1. Buyer personas are not a quantitative process. You’re going for insights, not reams of research. However, Zambito points out that the insights gained can help point the way to valid research projects.


    1. Avoid building a wire mesh of data points. Layers of data lead to trying to put buyers into neat little boxes. Instead, you’re developing deep insights that inform your customer strategies.


    1. Qualitative and experiential analysis is the foundation. Truly meaningful personas are built on a foundation developed through a clear methodology with distinct stages.


    1. The purpose is to inform goal-centered customer strategies. Informing and exploratory, the process should help develop strategies that meet customer goals and meet them where they are.


    1. Buyer persona development serves as a way to tell stories about customers. Personas will deepen and enrich the stories you tell about how the organization will serve buyers’ needs.

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Has your business developed buyer personas—and if so, did they uncover insights that helped guide your customer strategies?

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