Do you want the leanest, most impactful marketing machine possible?

Develop buyer personas. The effectiveness of your marketing campaign is founded on a firm grasp of exactly who your buyer is.

Read on to learn how to develop and employ buyer personas in your marketing. You’ll also find free template tools I created to help you with this work.

I commonly encounter businesses that are revved up and rearing to start their content or email marketing, but haven’t yet clarified their buyer personas. These businesses almost immediately run into issues of how to talk about their products, with no easy answers in sight.

The only way to effectively talk about your product is to address the specific situation of a specific buyer. If you don’t know who the buyer is, everything you say is likely to fall flat or miss the mark.

Take the time up front to establish buyer personas. Your investment will more than pay for itself as every dollar spent on marketing results in more highly targeted and effective messages, multiplying your profit.

Read on to learn how to develop and use buyer personas in your content marketing endeavors. I’ve even created some downloadable templates, including a Buyer Personas Worksheet Template and a Content Editorial Calendar Template, to help you get started.

What is a Buyer Persona?

First of all, a little about what a buyer persona is not.

A buyer persona is not just a demographic (gender, age, race, etc.).

Demographics are basically imaginary. They’re groups of people arbitrarily classified as the same in some way, when actually, no two people are quite alike.

Nor is a buyer persona “the average [type of person].” The average person in any category essentially doesn’t exist.

That’s because averages aren’t real. They’re a mathematical construct – not a living, breathing person.

A buyer persona may include some of these categories, but personas are more about classifying people by their psychological or behavioral characteristics.

We start with questions of behavior and motivation, such as: What does he or she desire? Why do they do what they do? What are their objectives? What are their problems and concerns? What exactly is it they dowith their day, and why?

People with similar behaviors often span multiple demographic classifications and defy averages. Their common behaviors make them their own special group.

Essentially, when you start exploring buyer personas, you’re on the frontier discovering hidden new demographics or types of people based on common behaviors and motives. And what’s crucial is you’re discovering real people.

Why Develop Buyer Personas First?

Buyer personas are the foundation of effective marketing, saving money and time, and maximizing profit.

Clarifying buyer personas has a lot of solid benefits:

  • Helps determine whether your product even has a market
  • Aids in deciding which product is demanded by which type of customer
  • Ensures your marketing message is relevant (addresses the actual needs of buyers)
  • Clues you in on the language to use when addressing buyers
  • Points you toward the correct media and distribution channels for your content
  • Prevents the creation of unnecessary content
  • Helps prioritize marketing projects
  • Helps target multiple types of customers with the same content
  • Assists with planning the repurposing of content

In other words, developing customer personas does everything from making sure there’s even demand for your product to getting the most uses out of every piece of content.

Buyer personas are so fundamental that you might not even know how to proceed without them. You most certainly won’t be able to optimize the deployment of your resources.

How to Develop Buyer Personas?

Step one in developing buyer personas is to sit down and brainstorm various aspects of buyers’ behavior. Often, this is sufficient to paint a picture of your target customers.

But if you want even more resolution, or you aren’t sure about your buyers’ behavior, why they do what they do, or what their day looks like, the simple solution is to interview them.

That’s right. Just pick up the phone and call one of the buyers you think best fits a certain persona. Most people will be agreeable to talking about themselves for 10-15 minutes.

Listen to what they have to say. Even if you think you know your buyers, you might be surprised by some of the insights they provide into their own buying behavior.

As you brainstorm or interview your buyers, you’ll want to think about the aspects of their behavior listed below.

As you do so, feel free to fill in this Buyer Personas Worksheet Template I created for you. I kept it simple, although you can get as thorough with a buyer persona as you want!

Basic Aspects of a Buyer Persona

As you create your buyer personas, you’ll want to focus on the areas below.

1. Name of Persona

The most important thing about a persona: he or she is an actual person – not a type, category, or group of people. Each buyer persona will be a real person and will have a real person’s name. You should picture that person as you describe their behavior.

Example: Sue, the office manager at the Bayer & Petrovsky law firm. You spoke with her once about some of the IT problems at the law firm.

2. Persona’s Objectives

What is the itch your buyer needs scratched? Why do they have this need?

The deeper and more specific you go with your answer, the more useful this information will be for content creation.

Example: Sue wants to have 100% network uptime at the law office so that operations go smoothly.

3. The Persona’s Problem/Obstacles in the Way of Objectives

You need to be clear on your buyer’s problem in order to develop a solution for them!

Example: The server crashes because Brad the intern keeps opening spam and infecting all systems on the network.

4. The Products You Offer That Solve the Problem

Here’s where you get to be the hero. What can you offer to resolve the buyer’s pernicious and expensive problem?

Example: Spam filtering software that weeds out anything harmful Brad could open, while still allowing relevant communications to go through.

5. Persona Questions/Concerns/Hangups/Obstacles When Buying

Most buyers will hesitate before spending a big chunk of change. Knowing these snags will help you create content that puts them at ease every step of the way.

Example: Sue says, “I don’t want to pay for the software subscription. Can’t you just fix the problem when Brad does his occasional shenanigans?”

6. How You’ll Address Their Concerns and Obstacles

How would you remove the obstacles preventing a sale? Make sure you explain the features of the product and weigh the costs and benefits of the persona’s choices to help manage their concerns.

Example: Explain to Sue, “If you have a system image backup, we can get you back on your feet in no time. If not, we may or may not be able to restore your system, but it’ll cost you almost as much for an occasional repair as it would to just subscribe to our basic monthly Managed IT Services package. With the package, you get tons of additional benefits. That includes the spam filter that prevents infection and system image backup that quickly restores your system even if the spam filter fails.”

7. Persona’s Content Preferences

Different personas consume different content in different ways. Which format and channels do they prefer? Blog posts? Emails? Ebooks? Social media?

Example: Sue is likely to consume monthly email newsletters, blog posts, PDF ebook downloads, and physical brochures.

8. Way the Persona is Most Likely to Find You

Know the persona’s path to discovering you, then drop breadcrumbs and hooks in the appropriate places.

Are they a referral you’ll meet or contact in person? Content that you can attach or link to from an email will give them something to consider as you arrange a meeting.

On the other hand, if you obtain clients through attraction marketing, make sure your podcasts, blog content, downloadable digital assets, etc. are all in place.

Example: Sue might find you by web search or by referral. She’ll contact you by phone or email.

9. Search Terms Persona Might Use to Find Your Products Online

Help the persona find a solution to their problem by making sure your content comes up when they do a search. Plant keywords and phrases throughout your content to make sure it’s findable in relevant searches.

Alternately, if your content isn’t something people generally search for, make sure you do have content keyworded to the persona’s searches, then have that content link to the solution that will ACTUALLY solve the persona’s problems.

In our example, not many people search for managed IT services, but rather for someone to fix their computer on the occasion that it’s infected. You can fix their computer, then offer them an antivirus solution that will prevent it from happening again.

Example: Sue needs a virus cleaned up after Brad’s latest fiasco, so she searches for “computer repair birmingham va”. You’ll offer repair services, but also use the opportunity to market preventative services to her.

10. Engagement Scenarios

Put it all together: what are the steps that are likely to occur in the buyer’s journey?

Example: Sue does a web search to find someone local in Birmingham, VA to fix the computers.

–> As she clicks through your computer repair page, links to a blog post with a case study help her realize that they could prevent Brad’s infections with managed IT services.

–> She emails for info on repairs, and your reply includes an ebook attachment on how the monthly service package includes system backups and antivirus protection, and how it’s more affordable in the long run.

–> From there, you can set up a meeting or phone call with Sue or other decision makers.

11. …and More

You can even add more categories of behavior and flesh out a “day in the life of” picture of the persona, but the above aspects tend to be the most relevant when it comes to planning content.

What Do I Do With Buyer Personas?

You’ve jotted down all this great information. Now how do you make use of it in your content marketing?

First, take the buyer persona you’ve just fleshed out on your worksheet.

Next, list some content that the persona would likely consume on their journey or as you engage with them. You can list it in the second tab of this downloadable Content Editorial Calendar Template.

Shift the content over to the “In Progress” sheet while it’s being worked on, and list it on the “Scheduled Content” tab.

Voila! Now publish your content, and you have the assets you need to support Sue through the sales funnel.