Understanding who you’re talking to is what makes the difference between creating, a successful marketing campaign that really speaks to your customer, and the one that gets completely ignored.
And as I mentioned in my article about building a successful sales funnel – it’s not about selling to everyone, as much as it’s about strategically getting the right information to the right people.
If you asked a business owner who their target market is and who their ideal customers are, a surprising number of them won’t have any idea how to respond.
Well, it’s not that surprising. I get it.
You didn’t come into owning your business with a marketing background. You’re good at what you do, but marketing isn’t your thing.
But what I’m talking about is a basic fundamental activity that every business should be doing.
You can hire someone with experience in marketing or you can outsource your marketing efforts to a third party company – but nobody knows your business better than you
It doesn’t really matter how it gets done, so long that it does actually get done.
Gaining a deep understanding of your target audience and the different personas within your audience will change the way you make decisions in your business – for the better!
Step 1: Your Target Market
In order to sell your services or products effectively, you have to know who you are marketing to.
Your target market is a broad, almost a generalization, of the ideal customer for your business. The kind of person that is most likely to buy your services.
For example, if you ran a roofing business, your target market would be much different than a business that ran a video game arcade.
They would be home or property owners, for one. They would be a bit older – old enough to afford roofing services. They would have disposable income. They would be concerned about protecting their investment.
To determine your target market you have to understand the exact problem that you solve. This helps you to paint a picture of your ideal customer.
Who will find value in what you offer? Who has the problems that you solve? Who finds those problems to be the most troublesome?
These are the types of individuals that might make up your target market.
Actually write down who your ideal customer would be. For a roofing company, it might look something like this;
“25-50 year old married man, home-owner, with a household income over $100,000 per year.”
“25-50 year old married man, home-owner, with a household income over $100,000 per year.”
Once you know who your target market is, then you can focus on finding ways to reach that target market and also breakdown your audience in different segments (which we’ll be discussing in our next Step).
Factors that make up your target market.
Pinpointing your target market can be difficult if you have no understanding of all of the different aspects that can make up the demographics within your target market.
When outlining your own, consider the following;1. Numbered List
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- Subitem level 1
- Subitem level 2
- Subitem level 1
If your business only provides its services to within a certain area (a city, county, or state/province) then that drastically lessens your target market, and alters your marketing strategies. You wouldn’t want to waste advertising dollars showing ads to people that live in Florida, when your business only operates in Ontario. Stick to your targets.
2. How old are the individuals that you are targeting?
When Taylor Swift releases a new album, she isn’t targeting 55-year-old men with her advertisements. They aren’t interested in the product that she produces. Who is interested in the product that you produce?
3. Is Your Targer market generally male, female or either?
Limiting yourself to a single sex can be dangerous if you haven’t done the proper product research. For instance, on the surface a makeup company might only assume they are targeting women. But, with a little prying they may find innovative ways to market their product to men, who purchase it for their partners. Don’t limit yourself unnecessarily – be open to opportunities but honest about who buys your product.
4. What is your target market interested in?
Just because someone plays soccer and is interested in sports, doesn’t mean that they are going to want to purchase products from your Baseball supply company. When outlining target markets remember to focus on the ideal customer, not fringe demographics that might be interested in small doses.
5. Is the individual in the right situation to be interested in what you have to offer?
A roofing company wouldn’t want to waste time talking to someone that rents an apartment, and therefore is not responsible for maintaining or replacing the roof. However – they would be interested in talking to the management company in charge of those decisions.
These are all examples of individual aspects of a target market.
The truth is that any target market should be a combination of these factors.
Your target market isn’t just women. It’s “18-35 year old women, in Southern Quebec, with an interest in knee boarding.”
Outlining a target market doesn’t mean that you won’t accept customers outside of that market, it just gives you a point of reference for every marketing choice you make moving forward.
“Is this appealing to my target market?” should be a question before obligating any large sum of money to a marketing campaign.
Once you understand who your target market, it’s time to breakdown that audience into different buyer personas which will help you narrow down different groups within your target demographic.
Step 2: Build Buyer Personas
So, now you understand who your ideal customer is in general.
But that won’t be every customer.
Every business has many different types of customers. Sticking with our roofing company example – their clientele would include homeowners, business owners, apartment complexes, office buildings and generally anyone that had a roofing need.
That includes a huge number of different people – and they all are different. They have different wants, needs, and budgets. Sure, both Tommy Homeowner and Billy CommercialProperty need roofing services, but they have completely different problems that need solving, with very different budgets.
The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.Peter F. Drucker (2009). “Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices”, p.97, Harper Collins
Certain marketing messages will be effective with either, but they don’t overlap all that much. Tommy Homeowner probably won’t respond to well to marketing that focuses on CommercialProperties.
Tommy Homeowner might be concerned about keeping his family safe, while Billy CommercialProperties might be more concerned about legal liability. You see – different problems, similar solutions.
Buyer personas are important for understanding your customer base, and creating marketing messages that are specific to their needs. Writing down buyer personas of your typical types of customer helps to give you an understanding of what you’re doing right and what could be improved upon.
Once you understand the different buyer personas that you are dealing with, then you can custom-craft sales funnels and marketing materials specifically for them.
Every buyer persona has a different experience when working with your company – you just need to make sure it’s as positive an experience as possible!
Digging deep into the buyer personas.
With a basic understanding of buyer personas, you can then begin to flesh out the personas of your buyers in greater detail.
It isn’t as simple as giving them cute little names like “Billy CommercialProperties” and “Tommy Homeowner.” You have to actually understand who each persona is, what each persona wants, and the potential barriers to winning their business.
The Buyer Persona Institute has some real badass information if you are willing to go through it.
But here’s a summary of some of the questions you will need to ask when creating your personas. Read the following list carefully and really think about each question;
- Basic buyer persona profile. Who are they? Where do they work? What kind of responsibilities do they hold? How are they going to evaluate the product you deliver?
- Priority initiative. What conditions trigger the buyer’s decision to look for a solution that you offer? Why are they interested in your product?
- Success factors. After purchasing your product, what kind of outcomes is this persona expecting? Can you reach or exceed those expectations? What are the problems that your product actually solves?
- Why might this person have concerns about your product or service? What might prevent them from purchasing from you? Essentially, these are the doubts that might run through a buyer’s head before purchasing your product, or during the time when you are attempting to close the sale. This helps you to outline well thought out answers to common questions.
- Customer journey map. What is the process that the customer actually goes through when purchasing your product? More on this in a bit.
- Think back to previous experiences that you’ve had with buyers in this persona. What kind of questions did they ask? What answers were successful? Take notes and use previous experience to your advantage.
This is the real meat and bones of the buyer persona outlining process. This is where you nail down the facts about who they are, what they want, and how you should deal with them as a customer.
You’d be surprised how much you can learn about people by sitting down and fleshing these ideas out. A lot of your pre-conceived notions about particular buyers might vanish before your eyes.
An awesomely fleshed-out buyer persona list can be a starting point for every marketing project that you take on moving forward, and an excellent point of reference when working with marketing companies.
Are you showing the same message to every customer?
I guarantee that your top competitors are NOT.
The old wisdom, “repeat, repeat, repeat,” used to be a definitive rule of advertising – but in today’s customer-centric universe, that old rule says exactly the opposite of what you should be doing.
To keep ahead of your competitors, you need to redesign the ways you approach your audience.
Instead of grouping everyone together into some massive indiscriminate melting pot, you need to break down your audience into different groups and recognizing different segments of your audience for their unique needs and expectations.
And once you understand your audience segments, you need to tailor your messages to the specific stage of the Buyer’s Journey that each of those individual people has reached.
This means not only tailoring your message based on the different channels (email, social media, paid ads, blogs etc..) where you communicate with your audience, but also based on the specific actions your customers have taken – actions that tell you where they are in their journey from initial curiosity to cash on the table.
The ROI is simple: The better you communicate with your audience on their terms, the more conversions you get.
Today we’ll show you our 5-Step process for gaining a deep understanding of your audience that will lay the foundation for all of your marketing strategies.
STEP 1: ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Creating a persona is a little like creating a character – except that it’s based on hard facts instead of imagination.
The only way to get those hard facts, and make sure you’re getting a clear picture of your customer, is to ask the right questions.
Every business is unique, and the types of questions you ask need to be relevant to your business, your industry, and your audience.
To get you started, you can view questions my team and I think about when we’re gathering data to build customer personas for our clients.
STEP 2: GATHER DATA IN THE RIGHT PLACES
Once you’ve got your list of questions, the next step is to find the right people to answer them.
First-person data is a great place to start. This data comes from customer behaviour patterns on your website, survey responses, verbatim quotes, and other self-reported sources.
Here are some of the top first-person data sources my team and I use when we’re building customer personas for our clients.
Behaviour patterns on your website can provide deep insight into the needs and interests of your audience.
Data points like traffic source, page visits, page views, time on site and bounce rates can serve as solid starting points for understanding your audience’s consumption patterns.
Combine this quantitative data with qualitative data – such as, for example, heat mapping software, which visually maps where people are clicking on a page; and scroll mapping software, which maps how far people are scrolling down the page – and you’ve already got some basic vital stats on where your users are spending their time.
Find out if your page is hot, hot, hot! Or not.
Social media discussions
People love to talk about themselves.
Discussions with your sales team
Your employees are on the front lines, which means they can bring you detailed insights about how your leads are behaving, how your buyers get talked into converting, and why your returning customers come back.
Make sure your people are dialoguing openly with every lead, whether they convert or not.
Interviews with customers
It doesn’t get more first-person than this.
Talk with your customers about how they found you, what their problem was, what made them hesitate before buying, and why they changed their minds.
STEP 3: SEGMENT YOUR AUDIENCE
Once you’ve gathered as much data as possible from the sources above, it’s time to start assembling those quantitative and qualitative points into unified customer personas.
How many personas do you create?
The answer to this question depends on the number of distinct audiences you’re trying to target.
Just because someone holds a different job or position within an organization, that doesn’t necessarily mean their needs or buying requirements are different.
Remember, personas are descriptions of behaviours, and of the reasons for those behaviours. That means the number of distinct audiences you’re targeting – and the number of personas you should create – equals the number of distinct customer behaviour patterns you see in your data.
For each buyer segment, try and give as complete a picture as you can.
Use the questions you created in Step 1 and the answers you collected in Step 2 to create your personas. Feel free to answer in bullet points wherever you find it helpful. And don’t be afraid to ramble – there’s no such thing as too much information!
At the end, each of your buyer segments should look something like this:
Note: This is a fictional Buyer Segment based on a B2B SaaS company that sells lead management software to law firms.
Hi, I’m George.
Sample Buyer Segment
Position: Business Development Manager
Company: ABC Law Firm
- Increase business for the form
- Improve the form position against the competition
- Demonstrate his value to form owners
- Gain more recognition, respect and responsibility at the firm
- Make more money
Goals that affect buying behaviour:
- Looking to increase business for the firm – so he’s looking at what his competitors are doing
- Better position against the competition – so he’s looking for latest trends/hacks/within his industry
- Demonstrate value to firm owners – so he needs to be confident about the results/potential before presenting something to his team
- Gain more recognition, responsibility, respect at the firm – so he’s actively looking for opportunities to prove himself
- Know they need help managing new accounts and leads
- Have a specific budget in mind
- Understand custom software costs money
- Have a vision for what they want
- Satisfied with the status quo
- Online software is complicated
- Older staff resistant to adopt new technology
- How much it’s going to cost
- What is their level of involvement
- How much control do they have over the software
- What is going to be the return – how much value are they going to get
- How much of their business is going to be affected
- Ability to “test” software before committing long-term
- Too expensive
- Need to consider alternatives
- Need to discuss with other stakeholders
Potential reasons they DON’T choose you:
- Went with lower cost option
- Want to do it, but can’t afford it
- Decided that it’s not critical for the business today and will continue with the status quo
- Onboarding would be complex
Unspoken reasons that impact their decisions:
- Don’t trust what you’re saying
- Don’t understand what you’re saying – too technical
- They don’t like/connect with our company on a personal level
- Industry blogs, forums, professional communities, LinkedIn
- Networking events
- Firm partners
- Industry standards
Information requirements throughout buying journey:
- Interest – They want to know industry-related trends, tips, news, updates
- Evaluation – They want to read more about your company and what you do
- Consideration – They want proof and examples of success with businesses in their industry
- Commitment – They want to see a clear plan, budget, timeline for the project
- Conversion – They want clear communication and transparency of progress. Hard numbers and verifiable results.
- Satisfaction – They want to maintain relationship and communication, ability to reach out for help if required, continued advice and engagement for improving business after project is complete.
Once again, this is a sample of what information you could include in a Buyer Persona analysis. Remember that every business is unique, and the types of questions you ask need to be relevant to your business, industry, and audience.
STEP 4: MAP OUT YOUR BUYER’S JOURNEY
By now you should have a clear (or at least clearer) picture of your buyer’s goals, mindsets, buying requirements, and informational needs – as well as a sense of who they are, character-wise.
Now it’s time to map out the Buyer’s Journey of each of your buyer segments, and discover the best way to communicate with them at different stages in that Journey.
The message and calls-to-action you put in front of your audiences need to reflect their needs at the stages of the Buyer’s Journey they’ve reached.
Here’s a quick summary of the 6 stages of your Buyer’s Journey:
|Interest||Raise curiosity. Give your customers a reason to get in touch with you.|
|Evaluation||Provide valuable information that connects with your audience’s needs.|
|Consideration||Nurture your audience. Gain their trust and confidence.|
|Commitment||Manage expectations and set up for 100% satisfaction.|
|Conversion||Make them happy! Get the sale and deliver 110%.|
|Satisfaction||Get referrals, reviews, and upsells.|
For each stage of your Buyer’s Journey, you need to list out your customers goals, desires, and expectations – as well as the channels where you can find those specific customers.
NOTE: If you’re thinking, “Awww, come on, Sina! This seems like a ton of work!”… It is. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it.
But your buyer persona documents are going to turn out to be some of the most vital, useful resources you have in your marketing arsenal.
Here’s an example of how to organize your Buyer Journey Map document:
It’s hard work – but it’s all worth it.
STEP 5: TRACK. EXECUTE. ADJUST.
Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, then you’ve got actionable descriptions of the way each audience segment behaves, and what they each want during different stages of their buying journey.
Now it’s time to start implementing your plan.
Before you pull the trigger on any of your marketing investments, here are some important considerations.
Plan the order in which you’ll implement your investments.
Would you drive to the airport without knowing where you’re flying to? Probably not (unless you’re super adventurous!)
And my guess is you don’t want to be super adventurous with your marketing spend. Before you invest a single dollar, create a flowchart of the connections between each of your marketing activities, and plan out the order in which you’re going to implement them. This will also help you make sure you’re prioritizing critical marketing activities first.
Sometimes you have to choose which marketing activity you’ll prioritize. When this happens to me and my team, we evaluate each investment based on 3 criteria:
- Potential: How big is the potential return on investment (ROI) and how much does it cost?
- Importance: Is this a critical activity that needs to be completed before moving on to anything else?
- Ease: How easy and quickly can we implement the changes?
With the answers to those questions in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to put your priorities in order.
Create an analytics tracking plan
A detailed analytics plan will help you keep track of what’s working and what’s not. This plan should explain what information you need to capture, why it’s valuable, and how it’s going to help in future decision making.
Many good blog posts have been written on this subject over the years (one definitely worth reading is Avinash Kaushik’s post). Google also provides a number of good resources on the subject, for example here, or at the Analytics Academy.
Focus on continuous improvement
The only way to push your marketing in the right direction is by continuously evaluating, testing, and tracking your results and assumptions – and making every improvement you can think of.
Those are the basics of creating customer personas for each stage of your Buyer’s Journey.
QUESTIONS, COMMENTS, STORY?
Do you have any questions or an interesting customer story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it! Go into the comments and share your story.
If you ever need help, we’re ready. Get in touch today >>
We promise not to bite. Hard.
The following is a list of sample questions you can use to create Buyer Personas for your business. Each business is different so feel free to adjust or add questions that make sense with your unique situation.
In order to get the deepest understanding of your audience, make sure to ask the same questions for each segment of your target audience.
The objective is to understand the needs of your customers at different stages in their buying journey, so that you can coordinate marketing and sales activities accordingly.
- What industry does your buyer work in?
- What positions they hold within the organization?
- What is their age?
- What is their gender?
- What is their annual income?
- What is their level of education?
- Where do they live?
GOALS & MINDSET
- What are the business goals of your buyer?
- What are 5 life goals or life outcomes they desire?
- What are their interests?
- What are their regrets in life?
- What are their BIGGEST REAL FEARS?
- What are the goals (business or personal) that may affect their buying behaviour?
- What is a typical mindset of your buyer that may be good/bad for your company?
- What are some of the attitudes or preconceived notions of your buyers?
- How does your buyer’s mindset affect their buying decisions?
- What are some risks buyers consider before making a decision?
- How do your buyers balance the risks and rewards of their decision?
- What kind of products/services have your buyers bought in the past?
- What kind of products/services do they buy regularly?
- What are some of their favourite businesses/brands they connect with?
- What kind of sites do they visit online?
- Where do your buyers hangout socially?
- What are some common objections buyers will raise during the sales process?
- Why would a buyer decide that you are not their best option?
- Are there any unspoken/indirect reasons that could influence their decisions?
- What are the seasonal patterns within your buyers?
- What is the average buying cycle from start to finish? How long does it take?
- How many people take part in the decision-making process? Who are they? At what stages are they present?
- What other internal/external influencers are there?
- Who are the key stakeholders that will be impacted by the decision?
INFORMATION CHANNELS & REQUIREMENTS
- What data/information do buyers use to make decisions?
- How do buyers use this information?
- Who is the information shared with? How is it shared?
- Where do your buyers search for information?
- What are types of information that will affect buying decisions?
- How do buyers obtain and receive information?
- What are some external/offline resources they seek?