In an online world, we’re bombarded by adverts on a daily basis.

In fact, according to an article in Forbes, the average American is exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every single day.  We may be slightly behind that figure here in the UK, but the fact remains that it’s difficult for any business to make itself heard above the constant noise.

So how do you make sure that your target audience not only sees your message, but also responds to it favourably?  What is it that will make your brand stand out from the crowd, and draw them in to buy your products or services?

There’s no one single answer to those questions, but creating buyer personas could certainly give you a distinct advantage over your competitors.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a well-crafted, hypothetical person who is particularly interested in the goods of services that you provide.  Rather than directing your marketing efforts at a broad sweep of the population, your buyer persona narrows down your approach to appeal specifically to your target market, ensuring that web visitors and potential customers receive the information that they need, in a manner that speaks directly to them.

Ideally, your buyer persona will be so well-crafted that you’ll know just about everything about them, from their age, their educational background and where they live, to their hobbies and pastimes. The more specific you can be in creating this fictional character, the greater your chances of a successful outcome.

Why is a buyer persona important?

We’ve all visited stores and websites that we instinctively feel alienated from.  Whether a store seems too upmarket for our tastes, or seems to be aiming at an audience that we can’t identify with, it’s off-putting to say the least.  Yet when we find a store or online site that seems to speak to us directly, we immediately sit up and take notice.  We’re engaged and instantly in the mood to go ahead and make a purchase.  We feel as though we ‘belong’, and that’s a crucial part of the buying experience.

We’ve already looked at the value of social proof in creating an enthusiastic audience for your brand.  People love to follow the crowd, and we pay particular attention to personal recommendations from friends, even if they’re online friends that we’ve never met in real life.  But narrowing down your target audience by creating individual buyer personas delivers an even more irresistible message to potential buyers.

How many buyer personas does a business need?

Every business should aim to have at least one buyer persona, but for optimum results two or more personas can be helpful, as it allows your business to reach out to a wider audience.  And with so many marketing methods now available to businesses, the more you can specify your target market for each one, the better your overall results will be.

The actual number of buyer personas that you need to create will be entirely dependent upon your business model and your range of products.  For example, an online shop that sells clothes aimed at a teenage market will use very different buyer personas from a store aimed at mature ladies.  Whereas, if you happen to sell clothing that covers both of those markets, then you’ll need to establish separate buyer personas for each sector of your audience.

Don’t make the mistake of creating a website or marketing campaign that appeals to you, or your board of directors.  You are not your target audience, so it’s extremely important that you find out as much as you possibly can about your current customer base.  What do they particularly like about your marketing approach?  What do they dislike?  These are just two of the questions that you need to find the answers to, to ensure happy and satisfied customers that will keep returning to your store, as well as recommending you to their friends and colleagues.

You may find that you need to establish separate buyer personas for your ecommerce marketing and your social media campaign, depending on which platforms you are using.  Never forget that your aim is to capture your prospective customer’s attention, appealing to them on an almost subconscious level, so that they feel compelled to go ahead and make that purchase.

Why B2B companies need a buyer persona

Many B2B companies feel that a buyer persona is of little use to them, but they couldn’t be more wrong!  Every company, no matter how large, or how small, and no matter who their target audience is, needs to establish valid buyer personas.

Don’t forget that the B2B market is fiercely competitive, and so anything that makes your company speak directly to a buyer is likely to increase your chances of making a successful sale.  Everything from your web content, your images and the look and feel of your website, should reinforce the image that you are aiming at, with the intention of making your business irresistible to your target audience.

How to create a buyer persona

Whether you plan to have one single buyer persona, or multiple personas,  the methods for creating them will be the same.

Forms that capture customer data are invaluable, though be prepared that not everyone will feel comfortable parting with personal information. But contacting previous customers and asking them to review your sales process, as well as your product range, can provide highly useful information.  Even negative feedback should be welcomed, as it allows you to see areas of your business that need changing or improving.

Market research is absolutely invaluable in discovering your core customer base.  The more specific that you can make your buyer personas, the more they will resonate with your intended audience, leading to a high ROI, and ultimately, greatly increased sales figures.

And don’t ignore the value that social media can provide in your search for information about your target audience.  Online dialogue with your followers is invaluable, so don’t be afraid to offer incentives, in the form of discounts, freebies or special offers, to sweeten the deal and encourage feedback.

Your goal is to uncover your customer’s hopes, fears and pain points.  Age, background, ethnicity, marital status, education level and job title can all provide additional information that will help you to establish high-quality buyer personas that yield great results.  The more specific you can be in creating each buyer persona, the greater your chances of improving sales and driving your business forward.