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Activate Your Data – buyer personas

Data Activation. Did I loose you? The word ‘data’ does that to some people. It makes us zone out because ugh.. Just ugh!

It is probably the one word that is mentioned the most within marketing. I mean how often are we not told that we should use our data/insights for this or that? My guess is every day – every goddamn day. 

The problem is that people rarely show you the ropes on how to actually do it. Even if they do, it is so poorly communicated that it is of absolutely no use. Ultimately, you just wind up with another PDF, you are too nervous to delete because ‘what if..’

And it’s actually too bad. Data is the only gateway we have to understand what is actually going on with our customers and our prospects. You know it and I know it! 

Even after years of focusing on the value of data, research shows that 54% of marketers use less than 50% of their data. Thus data activation was rightfully dubbed as the biggest overlooked gap in marketing by Forbes.

But that is exactly why we made this “Activate Your Data ”-series. We’ll focus on specific subjects, and share all the dirty details about how you incorporate data in your work. 

And this guide about Buyer Personas is the first in this series. 

We hope you’ll enjoy it and find it useful. 

What is a buyer persona? 

We have all met them – either in real life or through our work as semi-fictional avatars. They are usually called something like Mary the Marketing Manager, Sam the Salesman, or Annie the Accountant. They are known as buyer personas, and represent our ideal customers. The ones who we want to target with our marketing and communication efforts. 

Having fictional buyer personas means that we as marketers have a deeper understanding of our target audience. This makes it easier for us to tailor our content, messaging, product and service, to meet the specific needs of our target audience. Having a deeper understanding is thus a critical driver when it comes to anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

Creating personas is much like people-watching while sitting at a café with your friends. You know. When you start making up stories about the people around you. When we create our buyer personas we are also considering things like their needs, family, struggles, interests and much more. Once we have developed our personas, marketers like you and I are able to attract high-value leads, and customers to our businesses who we’ll be more likely to retain over time – and who wouldn’t want that? 

You could have as few as one or two personas for your business, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you’re new to personas, start small and work your way up as needed. 

But now the million dollar question is … how do we actually make one?

How to make a buyer persona

It is not as difficult as it sounds, but there are specific things to include. But don’t worry we’ll walk you through everything. 

As you might already have guessed, we build these characters ourselves or alongside an agency. 

Some do it through a brainstorming session, where they pitch their inputs based on experience. Others build them based on actual data from their databases. This could be surveys and interviews with a mix of current customers, prospects and others that look-a-like.

The quality and usefulness of your personas depend heavily on the quality of your market research and customer data. Brainstorming ideas is not a bad way to handle building personas, but they are a product of gut feeling, biases, and interpretations. Thus they do not represent the “real” truth, the same way actual trustworthy data about your customers does. 

And due to the title of this guide I guess it’s a no-brainer, which approach we’ll suggest you go with if you want to ace your buyer personas. 

Let’s move on to the first step. 

Their name

As I mentioned earlier, personas usually have names like Mary the Marketing Manager, but before I go any further with this, I think a disclaimer is due.

Their names do not have to match their position, it’s just easier to remember them that way. 

But whatever you call them always include an identifier in their name. Always. It could be anything like David the Dad, Maria the Mom or Bob the Builder – whatever floats your boat. 

Providing your persona with a name and an identifier provides them a more personal feel, and can help you visualizing them and create content for them.

How to use data

if you are having trouble finding a name that resonates well with the persona you are trying to create, I suggest you dive into either your

1) Customer Relationship Management system (CRM)

2) Customer Data Platform (CDP)

3) your social media followers. 

If you have access to a CRM system or a CDP, you’ll be able to browse entire customer segments that resemble that of your buyer persona. Here you should be able to find a profile that has similar traits like the persona you’re trying to create. That should help you find a name that represents the profile you are trying to make.

Their demographics

Demographic information about our buyer persona helps humanize the persona and form the core of our buyer. 

This is very important as it helps us identify relevant, specific traits in our audience. This can lead to deeper insights into their behaviours, interests, and where they are in their personal lifecycle. This will aid segmenting our potential market into more refined subcategories if needed. For B2B, you should consider the size of the businesses and who makes purchasing decisions. 

Without demographics, it’s very difficult to create a suitably complex persona or truly understand who our ideal customers really are.

Demographic information includes, but is not limited to …

  • age
  • location
  • gender
  • education
  • profession
  • location
  • family (married, kids, divorced etc.)
  • hobbies/sports etc.

How to use data 

If you use social media, I suggest you pop into your Facebook Business Suite to access data from Facebook/Instagram. 

The target insights that you will be able to see in the Business Suite include …

  • Page likes (Facebook only)
  • Followers
  • age
  • gender
  • most relevant countries and cities
  • location
  • interests. 

If you have an Instagram business account, you can also go to your control panel in the app. Here you’ll see all insights related to your Instagram, i.e data about your target group/followers, such as ..

  • number of followers
  • gender
  • likes
  • saves

However, this requires that you have +100 followers before you can access this data. 

Most if not all social media platforms have an analytic account that can be attached to your social account, and they all allow you to explore the interests, locations, and demographics of your followers, so get cracking! 

If you are fortunate enough to have a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) or a Customer Data Platform (CDP) then you can find much of this information in your Single Customer View. Here you can see the name, age, gender, geographic location, preferred media channels, purchase habits etc., of one specific customer at a time.

Depending on your system, we can also find demographic information under specific customer segments such as the distribution of age and gender within that customer segment. 

If you have access to a Customer Data Platform, your Single Customer Profile could look something like this …

Their personal traits

Considering whether or not our customers are introverted, extroverted, curious to try new things, open minded, withdrawn, likes certainty and consistency, prefer brands they trust etc., has a lot to say when it comes to how they want to be approached.  

However, it is no secret that our buyer persona holds a broad spectrum of personality traits, but the mission here is to consider if our buyer persona is more likely to display certain personality traits more than others like openness over introvertedness.

For example, would a CEO of a tech start-u be more likely to display personality traits like openness as they are likely to be innovative and curious by nature?

If that’s the case then our content that should help attract them and guide them through the buying process, should reflect that through the choice of words and graphics in order to help convert them. 

How to use data

Although personal traits are a bit more difficult to base on hard cold facts, it is not impossible as we still have our actual experience/interaction with our actual customers, which will be a key component to access this data. 

You can either include your sales team in the making of these personas and enjoy the wealth of insider info they possess. You can also use your CRM and ask the sales team to make notes to summarize their observations, interactions, and outcomes on the specific customer/prospect. 

Another way to use data is by looking at the results of any A/B split tests from e-mails, social media ads etc. that have been done, and evaluate how they performed, and who they converted and analyse how the content reflect on them and their traits – did they buy when they saw the crazy colorful, innovative video? Or when they saw the static post of a loving family? 

It’s kind of a ‘flipping the barrel’ – approach. 

Their identifiers

Now that we have established their name, age, location, personality traits – it’s time to take a look at their identifiers. 

But didn’t we do that already? Well… In this instance, identifiers are considered to be things like their communication preferences, communication dislikes, social media preferences, do they rely more on personal relations than customer reviews etc. Where personal traits affect how we approach them, this will have an affect on where we approach them. 

We are, in other words, identifying their communicative preferences in order to understand where and how we can ‘meet’ them the best.

How to use data

Here I’ll suggest you take a look at your specific customer segments or your Single Customer View in your system to get a grasp of where they prefer to interact with you. 

If you take a look at the pictures down below you’ll notice in the upper left corner in the first picture, we choose the customer segment ‘Most Valuable Customers’, and in the bottom of the middle, you’ll see ‘Most Popular Customer Sources’ within this customer segment. If you look at the Single Customer View, then you’ll see the name and age of the specific customer, and in the bottom middle you’ll see their most recent activity. 

Specific customer segment

Single Customer View

Their goals and challenges

This last section focuses on our buyer personas professional goals, personal goals, motivations, what they would like to be perceived as, their struggles, roadblocks, sore spots etc. 

Understanding their challenges and goals helps you understand how you can help them the best. 

If you work in a B2B company, your buyer persona could be an e-commerce manager for a B2C company, then maybe their challenge or struggle could be that they have a hard time getting the most out of their data or waste too much time on finding useful data. Or maybe it is a marketing manager for an ice cream shop, who has the goal to increase sales during the summer, but doesn’t know how.

If you are working in a B2C business, your buyer persona will most likely have more personal goals and struggles. Let’s say your customer typically buys shoes for narrow feet, then their struggle could be “not able to filter away shoes by width”. Or maybe you work at a B2C food-company, then your persona could have the goal of “want to cook healthier food for the family” or a struggle that goes a little something like this “have a hard time finding the time to good healthy food”. 

How to use data

Here you can gather data by sending out surveys to your audience asking about their pain-points – maybe through a pop-up on your website, or via your e-mail system after a purchase. You could also team up with the sales team and find a way to have them help you gather some insights – either by interviews, handing/sending out questionnaires or have them write in a shared docs/excel the pain point they have observed among the customers. 

The last resort is to hire a 3rd party to handle the interviews for you, although it can be costly.

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