Buyer Persona Development 101

It bears repeating: online marketing does NOT negate the traditional principles of marketing. Understanding your ideal buyer is the fundamental first step to properly positioning (and pricing, and selling) your products.

In other words, before you master Google Ads or schedule a year’s worth of Facebook and Instagram posts, you should know whose eyeballs you want to attract, and how to get them to buy.

Nurture Marketing Tip: Get out a legal pad and a pen. Developing buyer personas for each of your top customer segments is best performed as a low-tech exercise.

What is a Buyer Persona?

Think of a buyer persona as a composite sketch of some of your best customers. What makes them tick? What ticks them off? Why do they need your products or services? How do they find out about your products and services?

The more you know about your customers, the better. Collecting sales data is easier than ever. But when you’re launching a new product or service, or simply don’t have much sales and marketing data to work with, you need to create the composite profile of your best customers. The good news is that you can do a very good job, fairly easily, when you take the time to thoughtfully consider what you know about your customers, your product(s), your competition, and the general market.

Complete the questions below as best you can, based on what you know about your customers.

Note that there’s just one set of questions below, and only one buyer persona example.

Ideally, you’ll repeat the exercise for different types of customers, e.g., fleet buyers, repeat buyers, referral buyers… You’ll also need to consider the various products you sell, and your typical sales cycle. Any way you slice it, the resulting buyer profiles are useful in tailoring your marketing and sales messaging. Get started with the questions below!

Persona Development Lite

Think about your best customers – the customers you’d like to clone – and answer the following questions about them. This is, in large part, a psychological exercise, so give yourself permission to imagine these people in rich detail. It’s like creating imaginary friends, only better – you’re dreaming up your picture-perfect customers.

Now, picturing one of your favorite customers, complete these questions to the best of your ability:

  1. What industry or industries they work in?
  2. Describe their basic demographic make-up, include –
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Education
    • Geographic location
    • Marital status
    • Income
    • Kids?
    • Pets?
    • Hobbies?
  3. What are their work days like?
  4. What is/are their work/career goals? (getting promoted? getting a different job?)
  5. Describe their most common complaints. < This is very important. Remember, people buy solutions to problems.
  6. Who are the people, places, and resources they rely on to help solve problems?
  7. How do they relax and have fun?
  8. What is/are their greatest source(s) of pride?

If you’re marketing consumer products or services, or selling a product with a clear advantage in a mature market, answering these questions will probably give you enough to get started.

If you’re selling to B2B customers, your product or the need it addresses is very new or has a long sales cycle, you’ll need to answer more questions to develop buyer personas. (We have those questions – contact us if you’d like a copy.)

But Wait, There’s More

You’re not done yet. Hang in there! Understanding your customers is vital to increasing sales and repeat business.

After answering the initial questions with a particular customer in mind, repeat the process for your top three customer types – or even more, if your product offerings or customer segments dictate.

Then, flesh out descriptions for each of those prospects or customers. Your goal is to make the descriptions sound like introductions to real, live people. Think of the persona as an in-depth dating profile or a report on a candidate after an initial job interview. (Obviously most of these questions aren’t allowed in a job interview!)

Your first buyer persona might look something like this:

Lacy Labradoodle-Owner is 36. She is a married (or divorced) middle-manager working outside the home, with a fairly long commute. She has at least two children in day care/elementary school and her parents live out of town or are engrossed in their careers. She’s busy! Time is more precious than money. Taking care of “everything” is hard, but she and her neighbors and friends try. They want to drive nice, clean, shiny cars to their kids’ weekend and evening activities. They follow a variety of influencers and humor channels on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, post ‘humble-brags’ about food, exercise, and their kids’ accomplishments. They’re also active on LinkedIn and while they’d really like to get promoted (or launch a lucrative consulting business) they’re also longing for a vacation. The family dog is part of the family, but Lacy sometimes resents the care and feeding it requires.

You can probably see the value in this exercise pretty clearly.

Whether you’re selling pet insurance services, a new dog food, or a cleaning product, a profile like this gives you great insight into how to appeal to Lacy, where to reach her, and you understand some of her problems and priorities. All of that helps you move her through the buying cycle effectively – and just as importantly, helps ensure your relationship with Lacy gets off to a solid start. You don’t want to just make sales – you want customers for the long haul! Develop the right relationship with those customers and they’ll sell for you.

If you’re ready, go! And if you’d like some help, let us know. We can help you flesh out your buyer personas, or to develop marketing plans based on what you already know about them.

Buyer personas lay a lot of groundwork needed to craft quality content, social and other online advertising campaigns, as well as developing new products, from branding and pricing to product launches and promotions.

The Bottom Line on Developing Buyer Personas

Oodles of resources online describe the nuances of persona development. If the questions above don’t seem to fit your customer base or product – or your just aren’t feeling it – you might want to look at other questions. That said, beware of distracting yourself from the work at hand.

Different guides to persona development range from a basic worksheet at to a much more comprehensive template at Hubspot. Which method is best for you? The one you actually use!

The point of this exercise is to develop a deeper understanding of your customers based on assumptions. However well-informed those assumptions, you might feel a little uneasy about essentially “making up” a target customer base.

 An outside viewpoint can help. If you’d like to work through this together, contact us.

Do You Need Third-Party Apps to Manage Your Social Media Channels?

With near-continuous updates to Facebook’s Business Suite, YouTube’s ever-expanding functionality, and LinkedIn’s ongoing (baby) steps toward making its native tools more useful and user-friendly, it’s tempting to say, who needs a social media app or dashboard to manage social media?

Well, you might.

While there are good reasons to post natively (within the app, e.g., create a Facebook post in Facebook, or a LinkedIn update on your LI Company Page) there are at least as many good reasons to consider a third-party app to help you out.

Do Your Social Media Management App Homework

Here are a few thoughts to inform your decision-making process:

  • Many apps add functionality that make your posts look better, enhancing brand image. Photo editors that boast cool filters or make it easy to create post templates, for example, can go a long way to making your company social media messaging look more professional.
  • Apps make it quicker and easier to compare channel activity, which can be very valuable – especially if you’re managing a small social media advertising budget. When you’re really watching your pennies, it’s important to know that your Twitter followers are only interested in your clearance items, while your Instagram followers share new products as well as sale items (or, that they don’t).
  • Got help with your social posts? You’ll need to do your homework. Social tools like Sprout, Buffer, CoSchedule, HootSuite, Later, etc., etc. vary tremendously in terms of feature lists, pricing, and general user-friendliness. It’s nice to be able to see who-posted-what-when, it’s not so nice to have a hefty pay-per-user fee (unless you’re selling enough per channel/user to warrant the cost). Of course…
  • It’s nice to be able to “turn off” work-related social and just be, well, social. While app integration varies and some give more respite from work-related posting than others, this definitely belongs in the “pro” column.

Nurture Marketing & Communications consultants can help you determine the best way to manage your social media channels, and messaging, now and as your business grows.

How Long Should Your Social Media Posts Be?

File under: loaded questions.

Generally, we advise clients to keep their posts brief. Unless, of course, a long post is warranted. When is a long post warranted? Well 😉 when it’s important enough that your followers will probably read it.

Social Media management tool Sprout Social wrote a definitive guide to social media post lengths (you can find it here) and reading it is worth your time if you’re focused on a new or growing social media following.

Here’s why shorter is better:

  1. We’re all scanning, nobody’s really reading, and
  2. That’s it.

And here’s when longer is better:

  1. When it’s really important and
  2. You’re pretty sure at least some of your followers will read it, or
  3. Your customers and/or prospects really NEED to read it, because (refer to #1).

As an example, a locally-owned restaurant with a dedicated clientele had to close on the spur-of-the-moment. In 2020, it could be COVID-related, but in this case, it was water damage. It was either close the restaurant, or convince every customer to bring their own mops.

As soon as the water main was shut off, the doors had been locked, and the plumber had been called, it was time to post on Facebook. In this case, the restaurant rarely updated its website, using Facebook and Instagram as its primary tools to communicate with customers. (Which is OK, but not for very long and only when you accept the terrible trade-offs. More on that later.)

The restaurant posted a quick “we’re closed due to a maintenance emergency” update and followed up (within an hour) with a more detailed post. That post was long. It included a video of their temporary interior waterfall (unintentionally) created by their upstairs neighbor. The video drew eyeballs so they were pretty sure the message would be read by a lot of their followers.

In that case, they had a lot of information to include, like what they’d do about already-placed catering orders (refund them, but not right away, since the computer and records were also waterlogged) and when they planned to reopen (as soon as possible, but stay tuned…).

That is one of the few situations that really, truly, warrants a long and detailed post. Read on for one more.

Longer Posts Sometimes Get Engagement, But Rarely Get Read

We’ve argued (um, disagreed) with some clients about long posts. Some businesses, particularly in the professional services arena, appropriately maintain a formal tone in all of their marketing communications material, and that may include social media messaging.

We say “may” because we think there are better ways…like short formal posts directing readers to a link with the whole story. But we digress.

As a(hypothetical) example, let’s say a company provides safety services, so its social media messages are primarily safety tips and other important information. In order to share useful information beyond “hey, be careful!” some of those posts may be pretty long. But do they need to be? For the most part, no. This is where a little experience writing headlines comes in handy. Posting a good one-sentence summary and a link to the original, complete post (on your website, for example) probably makes more sense than including a couple of paragraphs in the body of your (Facebook or Instagram) post.

Watching your engagement analytics will tell you what you need to know. Just know that a lot of “Likes” on a longer post probably don’t translate into a lot of actual reading. More likely a lot of the Likes were courtesy clicks (especially if a lot of your followers are employees or partners). If the post was really meaty, and packed with information your followers really should read and/or care about, monitoring the comments will provide the best indication of true engagement.

So How Long Should a Blog Post Be?

On a topic like “How long is too long for a social media post,” for example, this one is probably a little too long. Wink, wink.

A Quarter For Your Thoughts on Inconveniencing Your Customers

Disclosure: We’re big fans of ALDI.

The German-based grocer sells mostly private-branded food items in clean, no-frills stores. Shoppers bring their own bags or pay for paper or plastic bags at checkout. The shopping carts are locked up, outside the store entrance. To unlock a cart costs a quarter –it’s just a deposit, fully refunded when you return the cart, but honestly, it’s kind of a hassle.

And ALDI shoppers don’t seem to mind.

Yes, we’re talking about shopping in the 21st century, when convenience is king. When online grocery orders are delivered to your door, and boxes from meal-prep companies are popping up on porches in even middle-class neighborhoods. When standing outside to unlock a grocery cart seems more than quaint. In fact, it’s a bit of a hassle.  

It’s pretty obvious that ALDI isn’t competing with convenience-crazy, SKU-heavy superstores or even large regional grocers. It’s also clear ALDI has a very loyal following.

In 2018, ALDI started using the tagline “Shop Differentli.” Maybe it was a blatant steal from the classic VW “get a box” ad campaign, or maybe it’s just good marketing – because it’s good communication.

There’s no butcher on site at ALDI. You can’t get a custom cake or helium balloon or even a cup of coffee. But the prices are pretty darned good, and the so is the service. And that seems to be what ALDI shoppers want. Knowing what your customers want, and explaining that you offer it – in a clear, honest and engaging way – that’s a good start on good marketing.

Do you know what your customers want? Do you know what they love about the way you do business? That’s what your marketing should communicate; that’s the way to attract more of the customers who will nurture your business.

Coins image from Pixabay

Business Specialties

The people behind Nurture Marketing & Communications know and love plants – including manufacturing plants – and a lot of other kinds of business, too.

In fact, we know more about B-to-B and B-to-C business marketing than we do about biology. Don’t let the images of plants and flowers, birds and bees, dirt and county roads fool you. We’re about good, home-grown, organic communication and customer service programs, and we’ve worked with businesses in the accounting, engineering, manufacturing and med/tech and public service sectors.

Companies and Organizations We’ve Worked With

Our B-to-B customers are in aerospace, engineering, chemical manufacturing, robotics, transportation, the automotive aftermarket, and other not-very-flowery fields.

We have also worked with companies (and a few not-for-profit organizations) who provide accounting, housing, legal, beauty, and other services.

No matter what kind of business you operate, if you’re interested in growing your business in a sustainable way based on good communication and business practices based in good customer service practices, we’d love to work with you. Please get in touch.

Good Communication is Good Marketing

Marketing is supposed to deepen customer relationships. Unfortunately, much marketing fails because it is not helpful to customers.

Some marketing programs fail because they are convoluted and complicated from an operational standpoint. In other words, they’re a pain in the …neck for employees and customers.

When marketing programs and strategies are built on the business backbones of customer service and operations, good things happen:

Your employees get behind the programs because they make sense

 Your customers understand and appreciate the programs because they offer clear (not contrived) benefits and value

Your business grows, based on good communication

Make sense? Want to develop marketing programs that serve both your business and your customers? That’s what Nurture Marketing is all about. Get in touch.