The sales and marketing team at VMG Studios recently sat down for a social media planning workshop to outline our strategy moving forward. I instinctually wanted to jump straight ahead to the content creation stage. From static, designed posts to animations to videos – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the fun stuff.
Luckily, our social media manager brought us back into focus, and politely said, “We’re not there yet.”
As a marketing professional, I knew this. I knew better than to jump ahead, but it’s easy to do from time to time. Who doesn’t want to talk about fun holiday posts we can put together?
This discussion, however, brought us back to the beginning. If we were to create a holiday animation to post on Instagram, for example, what’s the purpose of it? What are we hoping to achieve with this post? And most importantly, who are we trying to reach?
With any marketing strategy – whether it’s video marketing, content marketing, or social media marketing, it’s important to define your target audience from the get-go. That’s a no-brainer.
However, creating specific buyer personas is just as important in building out specific and targeted marketing campaigns and initiatives.
This article will define a buyer persona, how it differs from your target audience, and how to create buyer personas before kicking off your next marketing initiative.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
HubSpot defines a buyer persona as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customers based on market research and real data about your existing customers. I also like the elements of Social Media Today’s definition; Buyer personas describe who your ideal customers are, what their days are like, the challenges they face, and how they make decisions.
The key verbiage to focus on, specifically from the HubSpot definition, is existing customers. This is one of the key differentiators between a buyer persona and target audience.
Buyer Persona vs. Target Audience: What’s the Difference?
A buyer persona is more granular than your target audience. Your target audience is broad and something that is defined in the early stages of creating a business. We even have it listed at number two in our 8 steps to building a brand guide.
A buyer persona is more specific and is helpful in building out specific marketing and/or sales campaigns.
Ultimately, your target audience comes first. You can then segment and build your buyer personas based on a variety of things such as companies, services, or products.
Let’s think about Nike for a moment.
It’s safe to say that Nike’s target audience is men and women ages 15 to 45 who are active in some way. Pretty generic, right? Nike has dozens of products and various brands under its umbrella – i.e., Jordan and Converse – which means their sales and marketing teams need more information than just “men and women ages 15 to 45” to successfully marketing their products.
They might have a buyer persona geared towards youth, a buyer persona for golfers, a buyer persona for runners, etc., etc. The list likely goes on and on.
By segmenting these buyer personas, Nike, as a B2C company, can determine which products to market towards which buyer persona and how best to reach them, whether it’s social media ads, email campaigns, or TV commercials.
VMG Studios, as a B2B company, has created our buyer personas based on the businesses we support. Our primary target audience is enterprise corporations. We’ve since built out personas for specific companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks, based on the data and information we’ve acquired working with such corporations over the years.
These buyer personas focus on the individuals within these corporations. They include considerations such as job titles, job functions, age, gender, education levels, personality traits, and more.
So, VMG’s breakdown is as such:
- Target audience = enterprise corporations
- Buyer personas = profiles of the individuals who work within those enterprise corporations like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, etc.
Why Is it Important to Create Buyer Personas?
Now that we have an understanding of what a buyer persona is and how it differs from your target audience, the next big question is why should we care?
As marketers, our goal is to reach our target audience, engage them, and funnel them towards conversion, and understanding exactly who our target buyer is helps us do our jobs.
Segmenting your target audience into specific buyer personas helps direct marketing campaigns from every angle such as the messaging and tone, whether it’s a video campaign or a static banner ad campaign, or whether it’s a local or national campaign.
The idea of a buyer persona is to think of them as an individual person and to sell directly to that person.
What are their likes and dislikes? What issues do they care about? What’s their job title and functions? Do they have a family or are they single? Are they social? Identifying the answers to these questions and keeping the ideal buyer in mind helps build a solid strategy from the ground up.
When you jump immediately into content creation, like I started to do when discussing our social media strategy, it’s easy to lose sight of your buyer personas and target customer. I was thinking about what I thought would be cute. However, it doesn’t matter what I think, it matters what our ideal customer thinks.
I’m a married, female millennial with no kids, and a full-time job in a creative field. The marketing strategy that would effectively engage me as a consumer probably isn’t the same as the Gen-X man with a spouse and kids who works in tech. You might even market completely different products or services to certain buyer personas.
By starting with your buyer persona, you’ll negate the likelihood of having to backtrack or make last-minute changes, and your marketing strategy will likely be more successful in the end.
How To Create a Buyer Persona
We’ve touched on this briefly, but let’s dive a little deeper into how to start identifying your buyer persona. As mentioned, you’ll already have your target audience in mind, and now, it’s time to get really specific.
You can create buyer personas by company as we do here at VMG, or you can do it by product or service.
From there, try to visualize the buyer as an individual. HubSpot even suggests naming your buyer personas (VMG has Microsoft Mary, T-Mobile Taylor, and Amazon Alex) so that you remember to think of these personas as an individual.
Next, when you have your individual in mind, it’s time to learn everything about them! You can do this by interviewing current customers, conducting surveys, pulling client data, tracking demographics, or researching your social media followers.
We suggest thinking about the individual both professionally and personally and then writing down their attributes accordingly.
- Professional attributes
- What kind of company does this person work for? Small? Medium? Large?
- What’s their job title?
- What are their job functions?
- How long have they been in this field?
- What’s the industry?
- What’s their level of education?
- Personal attributes:
- Are they married or single?
- Do they have kids?
- Are they an introvert or extrovert?
- Are they more Type-A or Type-B?
- What are their interests?
- What issues do they care about?
- What challenges do they face?
- Are they a morning person or a night owl?
Honestly, the list of questions to ask could be endless. While you don’t necessarily need to ask all of these questions, your marketing strategy or campaign will likely be more effective the more granular you get.
Next Steps After Creating a Buyer Persona
Once you’ve identified your buyer persona (or personas), you can then really start to dive into the strategy of your next marketing campaign.
Since you’ll know exactly who you’re targeting, you can outline all the other aspects of the campaign including:
- The type of campaign: email, social, paid, service-based, etc.
- Content type: video, animation, banner ad, social media posts, etc.
- Messaging, tone, and voice
- Deployment channels: digital, TV, radio, social, etc.
Identifying your target audience is key for all businesses. It’s part of the building blocks of creating a brand. Creating buyer personas, however, takes it even further by elevating your strategy to create targeted campaigns that increase conversions and result in a positive return on investment.
We all get ahead of ourselves and want to “go, go, go,” sometimes, so it’s important to remember that the best results often come from strategic planning that gives careful consideration to each stage of the process.
Your customers are ultimately your company’s lifeblood, so give time and consideration to understanding who they are and how you can best support them every step of the way.
Need help outlining your buyer persona? Click the image below to download a free worksheet!