Build a better brand with buyer persona development

Buyer Personas, What’s That?

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Every company wants to be effectively branding their products and services. Looking at statistics on branding from factbrowser.com illustrates that effective branding leads to greater loyalty, higher sales, and long-term stability.

The trouble is, the term “branding” has been improperly applied to a subset of brand activities such as: marketing communications, corporate identity, and sales collateral design. 

In reality, branding is a big picture activity that companies use to articulate the value of products and services in the minds of their stakeholders. Stakeholders can be: internal – such as employees, or external such as customers, leads, and beneficiaries or services the company may provide to communities they support.

Effective branding programs influence product development, research, policies, service programs, and every level of messaging a company puts forth from memos to signage and packaging. For a large institution, you can imagine how comprehensive branding development and programs need to be. By nature of their size, smaller institutions engaging in branding tend to focus more on external stakeholders.

Whatever the size of your firm, the challenge is to be fully aware of the stakeholder’s needs and desires. That understanding can come from many sources, including sales data, customer research and an understanding of cultural and technological trends that affect your products or services.

Gain understanding through customer persona development

Personas are representations of your ideal client, built from demographic and psychographic data.

The value of developing persona profiles for your business is that they can become yardstick by which you measure the value and quality of your messaging. A persona is perspective from a potential customer about what you are offering and communicating. Personas help keep you from “being too close” to an issue and help you to objectively evaluate your marketing efforts.

What’s the difference between a persona and a target segment or demographic?

Target segments simply represent a group of the population you wish to reach. Demographics are important statistics about population age, location, occupation, gender and income. Demographic statistics help you to select particular subsets of the population.  As an example, a “millennial” is a moniker used to define a broad group of people who reached adulthood near the year 2000. Within the millenial segment, there are several subcategories who have varying belief systems.

By contrast, a persona is a summary profile of a customer you have or want, that includes more specific psychographic data about interests, responsibilities, challenges and goals. While demographics and larger target market segments are obviously very useful, personas provide insights that help you connect to consumers in meaningful ways. Instead of trying to develop a message based on general information about age and income, personas give you information about specific challenges, gaps and needs that your product or service can fill.

What’s makes up a persona?

Corey Eridon, expert inbound marketer at our inbound partner Hubspot uses specific questions to define a customer persona. Depending on your situation, the weighting of one vs. another might change.

  1. What is their demographic information?
  2. What is their job and level of seniority?
  3. What does a day in their life look like?
  4. What are their challenges?
  5. What do they value most? What are their goals?
  6. Where do they go for information?
  7. What experience are they looking for when shopping for products and services?
  8. What are their most common objections to your products or service?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you need to identify it for recognition and for specific targeting of your marketing messaging. Depending on you product or service, you may have between 5-25 personas or more.

How do you get started?

Start by creating a list of your best customers and then add to define a group of “ideal” customers who may not be aware of the advantages and benefits or your products or services. Plan phone or in person interview techniques conducted by your company or an independent firm, to collect and organize the results.

Next steps

Ideally, you should share the personas you develop with everyone in your company to help build a common understanding of how your product or service answers the needs of your “ideal” customers. These profiles should help guide marketing communication planning and inform your sales efforts. They can be used to keep your advertising and marketing firms focused.

Developing personas is one important component of corporate branding. You can see how the process will be useful for all aspects of your business from vision and mission through planning and service.

Persona research and documentation takes time. If you are running a successful business, you should consider hiring a specialist to help you through the process as your team may have higher priority activities to tend to. An experienced marketing, branding and design firm may be able to assist with the entire process from defining personas to data collection, presentation and messaging development for both traditional and online marketing activities.

About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.

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