Learn to Use Buyer Personas and Target Audiences in Your Marketing Plan!
Do you know the difference between target audiences and buyer personas? If you aren’t a marketing expert, you may not be familiar with these terms and what exactly they mean. However, both are crucial tools to deploy in planning your business’s marketing strategy.
Target audiences and buyer personas are tools used in market segmentation. First, a target audience brings together common demographic traits like age, gender, income level, and geographic location, to offer a broad summary of the people you’re marketing to. Buyer personas then offer detailed snapshots of distinct types of individuals you encounter, providing deep analysis of their behavior so you can better isolate and target your best customers.
Let’s look closer at how these tools work and how they can be applied in your operations.
What are Target Audiences?
A target audience is a simple summary of basic demographic information about your buyers. You use it to pull people together into larger aggregate groups.
An example of a target audience for a marketing firm might look like this:
- Occupation: Business Owner / Operator
- Age: 25-50 years old
- Annual Income: $40,000-80,0000
- Location: Northern Illinois / Chicagoland
As you can see, the data points in a target audience are just basic traits. They describe demographics more than behaviors. Other data points you might feature include gender, home ownership, parenthood, etc. Target audiences simply summarize historical data, trends, and a bit of research. They aren’t detailed breakdowns of the customers’ buying process.
You may have just one target audience, or a couple. You might make another for a group they want to be in that influences them. Either way, your target audience focuses on your likely buyers as a whole. It provides an overview, a big-picture look at who you’re targeting.
What are Buyer Personas?
In contrast, buyer personas are much more zoomed-in portraits. They represent typical individual buyers, customers, or users. You use them to get insights into your customers’ buying process and how your marketing should address each of these types of customer.
Each persona has detailed sections that provide deep insight into your customers’ minds. Sections typically featured in a buyer persona include:
- Persona Name: Use a descriptive and alliterative name like Marketer Mark, Executive Ellen, Startup Stan, etc, so that the personas easily come to mind when employees think about them in the future.
- Background: Job, career path, family.
- Demographics: Gender, age, income, location.
- Identifiers: Demeanor, communication preferences.
- Goals: Name both a primary and a secondary.
- Challenges: Also name both a primary and a secondary—to be helpful, these should map to their goals.
- What We Can Do: How can we help them achieve their goals and overcome their challenges?
- Real Quotes: If interviews were conducted.
- Common Objections: Why wouldn’t they buy your product or service?
- Day in the Life: A brief 200-300 word 1st-person account giving a meaningful glimpse into what the person’s daily life looks like.
The marketing firm from our example might make a persona named Professional Patrick. Patrick represents a lawyer, doctor, financial adviser, or other professional who started their own firm or practice several years ago. The persona details their behaviors and motivations. This helps the marketer understand the buyer the way they see themselves.
Now you have a handy reference guide to understand which subset of your customer base you’re addressing. This lets you develop highly targeted content that speaks to real people rather than to all potential buyers in general, increasing user engagement and conversion rates.
What’s a Negative Persona?
You could also create another persona for someone you often encounter, but who isn’t your ideal customer. This is called a negative persona, or exclusionary persona. This persona cautions the marketer or salesperson not to dedicate too many resources to this type of lead. It could be a type who often gets far in the sales process but doesn’t close, or who only goes for your lowest-ROI services, or whose goals or expectations you won’t be reasonably able to meet. The negative persona tells you what red flags to look for.
For example, say the marketing firm from the above example has a negative persona named Restaurant Rick. Rick represents low-ROI-per-customer businesses like fast-casual restaurants. These clients may often have tighter budgets and get weaker initial returns from the firm’s services. As a result, they abruptly leave the relationship, costing the firm resources. The negative persona advises the firm to focus less on marketing to those businesses. Instead, they’ll focus more on Professional Patrick.
What’s the Relationship Between Buyer Personas and Target Audiences?
Before buyer personas rose to prominence, target audiences were the primary tool for understanding your customer base. As buyer personas emerged, target audiences have taken a backseat role. As a result, many ask, “Have buyer personas replaced target audiences?”
However, while buyer personas have overtaken target audiences in importance and utility, target audiences still have their uses. In fact, the two can work together in your marketing plan.
For example, the marketing firm first identified its target audience: business owners in northern Illinois. Then, it created buyer personas to better understand groups within that target audience. This helped them identify one type of potential buyer (Professional Patrick) whom they should focus on more than another (Restaurant Rick). As a result, they’re better equipped to target the clients they want the most.
Alternatively, you may not have the time or resources to develop deep, comprehensive buyer personas. In that case, a target audience makes a decent stand-in to provide at least some customer insights in the meantime.
So, now that you understand how target audiences and buyer personas work, you’re probably wondering how you can implement these tools in your own marketing operations. Luckily, you’re already in the right place. Frontier Marketing’s experienced content writers and graphic designers produce insightful, convenient, branded buyer personas for businesses and nonprofits, so feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments below!
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This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated and expanded for accuracy and comprehensiveness.