Hello. I’m a buyer persona.

What goes into a buyer persona? Attributes, behaviours, motivations, personal needs.

What was once ‘target audience’ is now a buyer persona – a much richer, deeper understanding of who is buying your product and services.

In my early career, we were always encouraged to go further than gender, age, lifestyle choices, education and professional accomplishments. Stating male, mid-30s, where they sat on the National Readership Survey (ABC1C2DE) and what they liked or disliked, simply wasn’t enough.

We were encouraged to really try to get into the mindset of those buying so we could understand why they made the choices they did – and why or why not they might buy the product or service we’re selling.

We tried hard to colour up their lives and give insight in to why they would choose to buy to something, uncovering the emotional triggers to purchase – all so the creative team could capture that in words and pictures. It was all about hearts and minds.

Back then, it was tough. I was in my 20s and didn’t have much life experience. How the heck would I know why some middle-aged man did what they did?! My planner at the time pushed and pushed, and whilst it resonated with me (and has stuck with me), it was hard to put myself in someone else’s shoes.

This is difficult for most people too. It’s hard to see someone else’s perspective and understand why they do the things they do. We’re not mind readers.

But with better communications come better understanding of the customer – no matter whether you’re architecting a website, writing a white paper or creating a marketing campaign. Knowing and understanding who is buying and why they’re buying is powerful stuff.

Now, it’s all about personas (rather than target audiences). Personally, I prefer the concept of a buyer persona as it puts the focus firmly on the buyer, not on the marketer. And ultimately, the buyer or customer always comes first.

So how is a ‘buyer persona’ different new?

These days, we don’t colour the description of who’s buying with Acorn references or NRS categories. It’s simply not rich enough. It gives an indication of who you’re talking to, but doesn’t provide that deeper insight.

People buy for many different reasons and in business it’s no different. What’s more, you have the complexity of multiple buyers that you need to convince with your marketing activity. They all have different a rationale and all need the information presenting in a different way.

For now, let’s stick with what a buyer persona should consist of.

For that deeper perspective, I want to know the usual insights – age, likely gender and stage in career. It’s also helpful to know who they report to and how they function in a team.

I’d then like to know the likely personality type they are. Are they dominant, results-focused and ambitious risk-takers, or are they analytical, detailed and highly technical? Different people suit different roles in an organisation and all have a part to play in the buying process. It’s also worth noting that different personality types require a very different message and format so that they are given the information in a way that suits them.

For example, we did a workshop for client and identified two very distinct types of IT director. The main sectors they sold to were charity and financial services.

With the charity sector, we found that most of the IT directors worked at the charity because they felt connected to the specific cause – there was a level of altruism with what they did.

With financial services, what drew them to the role was financial returns and kudos of working within a large financial institutions doing large project work.

Same job title, very different types of people – and both need communicating to in very different ways.

As part of our buyer profiles, we’d uncover the typical pressures they face, the types of decisions they need to make, what typically motivates them in their professional life and equally as important what concerns them.

We’d also look at the behaviours they exhibit at work and at home, their lifestyles, the technology they used and how they use it, what media they consume and how they consume it.

We’re looking for insights about behaviour, emotional triggers and a deeper understanding of what they’re about – what it is that makes them tick.

With that in hand, documented and ratified by a bit of research, the marketing that comes off the back of it is powerful. It resonates and delivers action.

How do your buyer personas stack up?

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