SoDash Buyer Personas and How To Harness Them - SoDash

Buyer Personas and How To Harness Them

Having the right insight into your audience makes it easy to develop a perfect-fit sales strategy. Here’s how to use social media to enrich your buyer personas.

Antique head-and-shoulders line drawings laid out in grid on wooden table

Image credit: Nicolas Nova

Understanding the customer and their needs is key to success in sales. This is straightforward enough when selling one-on-one, where leads can be researched individually beforehand and strategy tailored according to their behaviour and presentation on the day, but when presenting a product to an audience, a more generalised game plan is necessary.

With buyer personas, this personal approach can be adapted to a mass market. However, while buyer personas are nothing new, the rise of social media means the concept is due for an upgrade.

Why buyer personas work

Buyer personas are characters created to reflect common customer characteristics, built using data gathered from market research. Analysing knowledge structures of salespeople shows that effective sales staff notice commonalities between previous sales situations and use these observations to customise their approaches in similar pitches — this is essentially what you’re doing when you build a buyer persona.

We intuitively know how to interact with different kinds of people: using buyer personas is a way of harnessing this ability. In other words, it’s easier to sell to “Holly” rather than women aged 21-25 who work full time in their first graduate job.

As they consolidate complex data into a form that is easy to understand, buyer personas are also a great way to communicate aspects of customer behaviour between colleagues. Make sure that your buyer persona profiles are jointly accessible, so that your whole team is on the same page: put personas in a shared-access document, or for visual thinkers, try posters on the office wall.

Black and white image of a large knife switch

Image credit: Don Debold

Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory: how to build buyer personas

Data on your customers are the bricks and mortar with which buyer personas are built: the robustness of the end product depends on the reliability of this information. Ideally, buyer personas should be created from data collected on a representative sample of a population demonstrated to have interest in a product.

Traditionally, businesses would interview clients, finding out how purchasing decisions were made as well as learning about personal experiences.  However, this can be so time consuming that obtaining a truly representative sample is made impossible. Another option is administering online surveys. While this requires fewer resources, as with conducting interviews, this depends on your customers taking time to help you out. Also, bear in mind that this kind of subjective data can (unintentionally) be inaccurate, as well as hard to meaningfully compare and assess.

Social media channels are a great place to find information on your market. Using this approach eliminates the problems with small samples and subjectivity with the above methods, and is a cost-effective way of conducting market research. Follows on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. are small but positive indicators of interest that can be parlayed into sales with the right approach. Sodash can collect a wealth of data representing the opinions and intentions of thousands of potential customers from what they share on social media. Age, gender, location, interests, time of day engagement and other demographics can be divined from analysing message hashtags and profile keywords.

Ultimately, what you decide to include in your personas depends on what is important to your business: there are various freely available templates which can give you an idea of where to begin. However, all buyer personas should include some reference to the central challenge they face that your product helps them to overcome: ultimately, this is what brings them to you and piques their interest. While other info gives context and colour, focus on the hole in their life that you’re filling.

Example Sodash report showing tag usage over time, traffic distrubution by hour, and gender breakdown

Data visualisation will give a good idea of what the figures represent. For example, graphs could show that customers tend to cluster in two age groups, giving skeletons for two personas.

The number of personas you end up using depends on your business: for instance a university PR department, aiming to make their landing page more targeted, could begin by generating a report on the institution as well as generalised searches on higher education. From this, they might identify several groups each needing a persona, such as prospective undergraduates, their parents, and job seekers. A look at your data spread will show how many personas you need,

Once you have a solid grasp of your client base, built on a good understanding of your data, imagination can begin to come into play: pick a name for your persona and add hobbies and an occupation from your data pool. Creating a believable character helps salespeople tap into their natural social ability.

As well as creating personas describing the ideal customer, negative or exclusionary persona can be useful. Exclusionary personas describe the types of person whose interest will never convert into sales: for example, your product might attract idle curiosity from window-shoppers for whom it’s well out of budget, and some customers end up costing more than they bring in. Use your experience of the market as well as information gathered on your audience to identify these groups, and avoid wasting time and resources.

How does all this translate into improved sales?

Buyer personas allow you to pitch your content in the most appealing way to your target audience, creating a personal approach to your work and customers. For example, rather than sending out one general email blast, use buyer personas to customise your newsletters according to what your research shows different groups are interested in.

Completed buyer personas arm you with a deeper understanding of what drives customers’ purchasing decisions, making your sales approach more informed and agile. Using buyer personas will help your team work more cohesively, by giving you an intuitive and easy way of communicating your research with your colleagues.

It’s worth investing time in researching how the world sees your business and industry. Building modern buyer personas enhanced with the latest insights into your audience will help you gain a competitive edge, and the confidence that comes with it.

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