First, ask yourself this question: How can you create an engaging content strategy if you’re not sure who you’re creating content for?

The answer is: You can’t. That’s where buyer personas come in.

One of the most important parts of creating a content marketing strategy is having a good understanding of who your customers are, what their pain points are and how you can help solve their problems. Creating buyer personas will enable you to design a campaign that appeals to your target audience and shows how your products or services can be valuable in solving their problems.

Read on to find out more about what buyer personas are, tips for creating them and how they can help you to grow your business.

What is A Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is defined as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. Rather than guesswork, these personas are based on data, research and interviews with your existing customers.

In order to create a persona, you should consider specific details about your customers, such as where they live, what they do for a living, their level of education, their online and offline behaviors, their shopping tendencies, their budgets, their hobbies, their preferred social media platforms and (most importantly) what needs that have that could possibly lead them to use your product or service, even down the road.

Once you have determined all of this, give them a name (like Marketer Michael or Salesperson Sally), and begin to fill in details about them. The goal is to create a sort of 3D image of them, imagining how they will react to certain types of products and marketing tactics.

Based on your research into your customers, it’s likely that you’ll find you have more than one buyer personas. Depending on your business, you could have anywhere from one to five ideal customer profiles. If you find you have more than five, check to see if there are two which could be combined.

Related: What is Inbound Marketing and How Does It Work?

What a Buyer Persona is NOT

It’s very tempting to list out specific details of every customer with whom you’ve ever done business. Or to feel FOMO when after you’ve finished your buyer personas because a peripheral customer is not represented specifically. Stop. A buyer persona is not every single customer. It is a representation of your ideal customer. For example, a university book store might have five important personas but “brother of student” is not represented. They have parent, grandparent and best friend in there, but no sibling. Put priority on the customers who make the most impact with the goal of trying to get more of them, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

Related: 5 Beginner Tips for Digital Marketing Newbies

Why Buyer Personas Are Critical for Marketing Plans

Buyer personas replace what we used to call “target audiences.” In years’ past, target audiences served as the foundation of a marketing plan because they outlined to whom a message goes, and how the message is delivered. Now, we don’t need to cater to the masses which attributes to wastage. We have the ability focus on 1-to-1 marketing and really target your content only to those types of individuals who make the most impact to your business.

Of course, if you have multiple buyer personas, you will need to balance your content between them. Their interests will vary based on how each persona interacts with your brand or uses your product. You can use these differences to your advantage to personalize your marketing for different behaviors, preferences, and identifiers. You can also create highly-targeted content for each of your personas for different stages of the buyer’s journey. Content poised around their position in the sales funnel will help those conversions move along.

Creating Negative Personas

Creating negative personas can be useful, as well. Negative personas are fictionalized versions of people you don’t want as your customers. They could be professionals who are too advanced to purchase your product or service, students who are researching your products for informational purposes only or potential customers who are too expensive to acquire.

Being aware of these negative personas can help you create a strategy that excludes these people for a more targeted strategy and increased ROI.

Related: 7 Sneaky Tips for Building Buyer Personas

How to Gather Information to Create a Buyer Persona

Of course, gathering all the information you will need to create a buyer persona is easier said than done. Just keep in mind how valuable the information you gather will be in the end. To help you along, here are some methods you can use to help you define your ideal customers.

Uncover Trends:

Look through your database to uncover trends about how customers are finding and consuming your content. Are there certain job titles, age ranges or geographical locations that appear over and over again? Check LinkedIn and observe how people with those titles respond to posts, interact with groups and connect with colleagues.

Create Online Forms:

Include forms on your website to obtain valuable information about your customers that can help you provide them with the products and services they need. Try adding questions like, “What’s your biggest software struggle?” or “Which of our service lines interests you most?”

Ask Your Sales Team:

Your sales team interacts with your customers more than anyone. Ask them about the leads they are communicating with the most. See if they can provide you with trends and generalizations that will help you create your buyer personas.

Interview Customers and Prospects:

Communicate with customers and prospects in person, over the phone or via social media. Find out who they are. Get an idea for how they spend their time, what interests them, what they struggle with at work or at home, and ask them for feedback about content they would find helpful related to your products or services.

Understanding your ideal buyers is one of the most important parts of creating a marketing strategy. Your buyer personas will be the guiding light to help determine your content marketing strategy and how to ensure customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Terminology Guide

Need a helping hand crafting your ideal buyer persona? You wouldn’t be the first! Reach out to the marketing experts at Ironmark to start segmenting your customer database and really get a firm idea for how to craft your company messaging.

Written by Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley oversees the digital marketing client services team as well as the marketing strategy division for the company. Since joining the company in 2016, she has increased Ironmark’s digital presence by over 700%, establishing a new lead generation mechanism for the sales team. A certified inbound marketing professional and HubSpot agency partner, Kingsley has been helping companies transform their marketing function into fully diverse and streamlined growth engines since 2003. With agency and client-side work under her belt, Kingsley’s strategic experience spans both the B2B and B2C sectors. Prior to joining the Ironmark team, she served as in-house marketing director for several non-profit organizations. Kingsley is an honors graduate of the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University.
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