Buyer_Personas-346397-editedYour company’s buyer personas do much more than give you a target audience for your content. These are fictional characters created to flesh out real customers to help you focus your efforts, yes. They’re also a direct reflection of your company’s goals and ideals. So, how can you ensure your buyer personas aren’t simply caricatures of your ideal buyer and instead are fully developed, thoughtfully cultivated profiles? You can start by asking yourself these 10 questions:

1. How well does this buyer know your product?

Maybe you just sell a better version than whatever has been on the market for years. Even better, you’ve developed something totally new that no one can live without. Either way, the buyer must know your product to know just how much he or she needs it.

Once many buyers do know your product, you’ll have two separate levels to each buyer persona: the sophisticate and the neophyte. You can’t let either classification down, which means content must be tailored to fit one or both at all times.

2. What other media do they consume?

The more you know about how your buyers receive information, the better you can provide education through various outlets. One of the easiest examples of this is social media. You could be flinging all your content out there onto Facebook, which is understandable. It’s the largest social media network available. However, Instagram shows that most of its users, at 39%, are between the ages of 16 and 24. If your buyer personas fall within that age range, you could be missing out by only focusing on one.

You can delve even further into various demographics to reach more potential buyers. For instance, 76% of Facebook users have a household income of less than $50,000. LinkedIn on the other hand, boasts 38% of users with a household income of more than $75,000.

Perform this same research for the blogs they follow, the television they watch, and the news outlets to which they subscribe. The more you learn, the more you can tailor your content and distribution accordingly.

3. What problems (jobs) are they hiring you to do?

Understanding the specific nature of your buyer personas’ needs is particularly important. This means you should not only know the primary need for purchase, but also any potential secondary and tertiary needs. For instance: Your online coffee mug shop obviously sells products with the intent of containing coffee. However, many of your buyers also prefer the fact that the sayings on your mugs are snappier and more sarcastic than those from another coffee mug supplier.

Or, as Netflix seems to have learned: Consumers don’t just want choice and convenience; they also want it now. The original model for Netflix has changed drastically in response to buyer demands. Their job, the one they were hired for, was to deliver movies right to the consumer’s house. For many, that’s still enough. But now, Netflix has secondary concerns, like immediate gratification. What else do they sell? Customized recommendations based on the buyers’ purchase history.

4. What impact does your product have on their overall life?

Maybe your products are of the life-saving sort. If so, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on the impact your company makes on your buyer personas’ lives. If you’re not in the business of saving lives, you have a harder job on your hands.

Determining the impact of your products on a customer’s life is as simple as developing a list of the pain points your service relieves. Without your snappy coffee mugs, your customer doesn’t have a conversation starter—or a personal definition, if he or she takes their sarcasm seriously. Without Watch Instantly from Netflix, customers have a boring night of regular TV in store while they wait for the next DVD delivery. Without a Kindle, customers have to wait for a paper copy of their next book and then read it with a light on, which probably aggravates spouses and partners after bedtime.

5. What jobs are you better positioned to do than your competitors?

You’re probably aware of the dozens of other companies that provide similar services or products out there. How do your buyers expect you to provide something better? For instance, the Kindle Paperwhite is miles behind the iPad as far as functions, but form takes first place. Need a device you can read while sitting in direct sunlight? Done.

The jobs you do better often depend on the buyers clamoring for your products. Those who want the function of an iPad probably don’t care that the Kindle Paperwhite is easier to read—not when they can play Bejeweled or Covet Fashion apps all day and read in bed later that night.

6. What questions separate one persona lead from another?

If you’re lucky, your products appeal to a wide variety of people. Separating your buyer personas may be a little difficult unless you know which questions to ask. For instance, a mom and her college-aged son may thoroughly enjoy many of the same Netflix shows. In fact, we’ll say 90% of the watch list is the same. How would Netflix know when to recommend something different for the son? By determining age, gender, activities, and maybe even income.

Of course, you can’t ask all these things at once, or your buyers may get a little creeped out. Start small and build a relationship. You also want to make sure they know why you’re asking. Obtaining permission is a big part of not appearing creepy. Using the answers they give exactly as promised is the next step. And for the love of all that’s inbound marketing, don’t share that information with anyone else.

7. Who influences their buying decisions? Or whose decisions do they influence?

Your buyer personas aren’t always the ones doing the buying. Consider this scenario: A C-level executive needs a new laptop for his office. Will he actually pay for the computer? Will he even be the one to choose the computer? Before you go churning out content geared toward a C-level executive, instead consider the possibility that the executive assistant will probably research the type of laptop needed, and a purchasing department will actually make the payment. Who is your actual buyer persona now?

8. How do they respond to different rhetorical appeals?

Different buyer personas respond differently to particular appeals. Are yours affected by emotional tugs? Is logic the key to their pocketbook? Maybe they’ll pay a little extra for something they can get right away or for a brand or company with an excellent reputation. By determining how your buyers react to the different rhetorical appeals, you can better tailor your content, products, and even customer service.

9. What communication channels do they prefer?

Most people would prefer not to part with their phone numbers, especially not early in the buyer/seller relationship. That doesn’t mean you won’t have some buyers who still fear technology and prefer to talk directly with you. Determine how your customers want to be reached before you start reaching out.

You’ll probably learn a lot about the buyer personas simply by the way they wish to be contacted. Younger users will probably find your content through social media channels. Professionals in their late twenties, thirties, and forties may get all they need to know through your blog.

10. How early do they adopt new technologies? 

This particular question may seem to apply only to companies selling technology of some sort, but that’s not the case. You’ll learn a lot about your buyer personas with this particular answer. For some, the very latest Apple device is already pre-ordered, the hottest social media platform of tomorrow boasts their profile, and their current smartphone is crammed with all the hottest apps. For others, the word “blog” is still foreign. Not only can you determine their willingness to take chances on hot new products, but you can also learn one more bit of information that helps you reach your buyers. 

Again, these answers will be gained over time. If you throw too much at your buyers at once, ask too many questions in your contact forms, you’ll scare them away. What else can you learn from your buyer personas that will help you tailor your content, products, and service? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Context Marketing for the eCommerce Shopper

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Originally published Jun 9, 2014 1:00:00 PM, updated January 18 2023