- Buyer Personas – Introduction and History (Part 1 of 7 Series)
- What is a Buyer Persona? (Part 2 of 7 Series)
- Who Should Use Buyer Personas? (Part 3 of 7 Series)
- How Do You Create Buyer Personas? (Part 4 of 7 Series)
- Common Buyer Persona Mistakes to Avoid (Part 5 of 7 Series)
- Sample Buyer Persona Guide for Interviewers (Part 6 of 7 Series)
- Buyer Persona Checklist (Part 7 of 7 Series)
The original definition established in 2002 was, “Buyer Personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.” Today, the Buyer Persona Institute includes “where they buy” as well as “when buyers decide to buy.” Others have their own definitions, for example, Hubspot’s definition is, “Semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and goals.”
Buyer Personas ARE NOT specific real people, job titles, job positions, target markets or industry segments. Some people have criticized the approach for being ‘descriptions of fictional characters’ or ‘imaginary people’ and therefore not relevant. But don’t be misled – just as a spreadsheet can model and help you understand your business, so a Buyer Persona can model your customers and help you understand their behaviours.
“”Business Advantage has provided us with the answers to some vital questions. For our customers, we now have a much better understanding of where and why they purchase, and how open are they to changing these patterns. For our channel partners, we have a greater understanding of their margin expectations, and their sales empowerment needs.” – World Wide Media Marketing Manager, HP
Buyer Personas are very different from approaches they replace such as ‘customer profiling’ and ‘industry segmentation’ that you’ve likely used in the past. Customer profiles break your potential target customers into groups based on age demographic, job title and industry or some other criteria. Personas go further to cover behaviours, often presented as personified characters, sometimes with pictures to make them easier to visualize and empathize with.
Where customer profiles are commonly obtained by quantitative market research, Buyer Personas require qualitative research to obtain insights, possibly quantitative research too, and skilled analysis to connect the dots between them. For example, two 40 year old software company CIOs in the same industry might fit the same customer profile but have different motivations and decision making styles, so fit different Buyer Personas. However, as we’ll discuss later, one common mistake is having too many Buyer Personas. Often the same buying behaviour, motivations and decision making regarding your product may occur across multiple markets and industries so a single Buyer Persona may suffice.
Buyer Personas ARE deeply qualitatively researched descriptions of real buyers who influence or make decisions on the products, services or solutions you market. They present behaviours, real insights and understanding of about how, when and why your buyers make the decisions you want to influence – their goals, motivations, mindset, common behaviour patterns, professional and personal pain points, language, demographic and biographic information.
“Business Advantage had the international research capabilities required for this project which covered APAC, US and Europe. The fact that Business Advantage was based in Europe was helpful to us, Europe is a collection of many markets, and Business Advantage had a very good understanding of the problems there. Business Advantage would definitely be considered as a supplier for future projects and therefore be invited to tender. We had a very good relationship, Business Advantage know their business.” – Global Launch Manager, Autodesk
They are a tool to enable you to know your buyer as you know a character in a good novel so that your strategies and tactics better persuade buyers to choose your company rather than a competitor (or the status quo).
See this AUTODESK® CASE STUDY on the creation and use of Buyer Personas (Autodesk® is a leading software supplier for the CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, PDM and many other markets).