Using Buyer Personas to Target Real Human Beings

Tom is a 65-year old CFO for a pharmaceutical company. He started with them as an intern in college and was hired right out of school as an accounting coordinator—working his way up the corporate ladder. Tom has lived in the same house in the suburbs for 40 years with his wife, Mary. He drives a Volvo, golfs on weekends with his high school buddies and vacations at his family’s beach house.

Sara is a 35-year old CFO for a major clothing manufacturer. She got her bachelor’s degree in design, and her first job was as a graphic designer for an insurance agency. After attending a financial networking event, Sara decided it was time for a career switch, so she went back to school and earned her master’s degree in finance. Sara is single, leases an apartment in the city and is an avid traveler who enjoys experiencing different cultures.

Traditional Tom and Spontaneous Sara couldn’t be more different, except for one thing—their titles. This is why it’s so important that marketers never judge a prospect by his or her title. Whether talking to two or two thousand potential customers, speak to each and every one in a way that resonates with them.

Start Big and Drill Down
You’ve identified your target market. Now what? We’ve already established that not everyone with the same title is created equal, so it’s time to refine this broad target into sub-groups, or buyer personas like the ones we’ve describe above.

Buyer personas are fictional characters that are created based upon common characteristics within your target market. Any given target can have multiple buyer personas. For instance, CFOs may be your target but within that group you can have Traditional Tom and Spontaneous Sara.

Put Your Plan Into Action
Let’s say you’re a technology company trying to sell very advanced (and very expensive) IT systems. You’ve developed a strategy to target CFOs as they are the gatekeepers when it comes to spending company money. You could stop there and cast a wide net for a very varied audience. Or you could use your buyer personas to make your marketing work harder.

Since Traditional Tom is very risk averse and conservative, he may be resistant to change. For this reason, it might make sense to craft the messaging for this type of CFO to be more about efficiencies, productivity and savings—focusing more on creating stability for the company. Ideal tactics for him may be more traditional advertising like print, direct mail and collateral.

Spontaneous Sara is more open to change, in fact she relishes in it. So the messaging for her and other CFOs like her could be more about gaining a competitive edge, being a leader, changing with the times. Sara is more likely to respond to digital ads, emails and social media posts.

So you still have one target and one strategy, but this approach allows you to deliver multiple messages on different platforms—increasing your chances of reaching your audience in more ways than one.

Using Buyer Personas to Your Advantage
We all know from personal experience that it’s just easier to talk to someone when you know them. The same is true with marketing. The more you know about your audience, the more relevant the conversation will be for everyone.

Next Steps
As you’re developing your 2020 marketing plans, consider including buyer persona research and development to help you hone your messaging, reach your ideal prospects and increase success.