Why buyer personas are making a comeback in the age of big data

A masterfully crafted buyer persona brings an individual customer into focus—and acts as an amazing marketing guide.

A masterfully crafted buyer persona brings an individual customer into focus—and acts as an amazing marketing guide.

The buyer persona has bubbled to the surface as a hot topic in recent months—there’s a viral-like spread of SlideShares, videos and posts expounding on how ridiculously awesome they are.

I agree… but with one nit-picky caveat: Buyer personas are not a new concept. My first experience with them was during a freelance gig some 15 years ago. A marketing director for a financial company handed me an 8.5×11” buyer persona and said, “This is our customer. Write to her.”

I never saw anything like that before. I didn’t admit that, of course. I acted like I got buyer personas every day. But later, as I worked on my copy and concepts for that client, I realized how much the buyer persona helped. And we got a resounding response.

Marketers who use buyer personas swear by them. They’re basically snapshots of your ideal customers. In my client’s buyer persona, l learned about “perfect customer” Rachel—a mom, with a college education, who was concerned about the effect of mounting credit card debt on her family’s financial health. As I read the description of Rachel, I could see her in my mind and understand where she was coming from—and the ideas just flowed.

You tend to see buyer personas in certain industries more than others—and especially in B2B. I think it’s cool to see them make this little resurgence.

Granted, I’m a fan of big data, too. There’s nothing like it to reveal buying patterns and trends, make predictions and analyze response rates. But I like to think of the buyer persona as the personal side of marketing—where you pull a single customer out of a spreadsheet and connect with him or her. For that reason, buyer personas are also incredibly useful with content marketing and social media.

Here are three major points to keep in mind when crafting a good buyer persona:

It’s a work of fiction… but based very much on reality and intelligence. The best personas are qualitative in nature—crafted from interviews, discussions and real-world experience with real customers. This is NOT the land of the databases or big data; it’s about people.

You have three basic questions to answer: 1. Who is this person? 2. What problem is he/she trying to solve? 3. What does he/she need to solve that problem? (I’ll get deeper into all of this later.)

The more vivid you can be, the better. I’ve seen personas that use fictitious portraits of the buyer… images of the type of place he/she works or lives in… the types of posts he/she would put on Facebook… and more. Make your description strong and compelling—and your marketing will follow suit.

Next week, I’ll share a simple, step-by-step guide to creating your own buyer persona—one you can copy, adapt and use for your own marketing.

– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group

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