Hey guys! Today’s post is going to be a little different from what we usually do around here. Rather than help you learn something new, I’m going to help you unlearn some things. Think of this as an off-season “spring cleaning” for your mind and business.
I get why there’s a lot of skepticism when it comes to the concept of buyer personas. For starters, it sounds made up (like a lot of marketing jargon does, unfortunately).
“Buyer personas? Do you mean the people who buy your stuff? Aren’t those just customers?”
But “buyer persona” isn’t some fancy term meant to trick business owners into paying for something they could’ve worked out on their own. The only reason buyer persona myths exist is because people who don’t understand them set them up incorrectly and, inevitably, see no results from them.
The truth is, buyer personas aren’t bullshit. And, today, I’m going to debunk 4 of the most popular myths that hold solopreneurs and small business owners back from leveraging this gold mine of data.
One of the amazing things about being in business right now is how much data is available to us — and I’m not just referring to the Amazons of the world.
Even as a small business owner, you have a wealth of data at your fingertips. And just as you leverage data about your cash flow to make important decisions for your company, you should be using data about your customers to influence the direction of your business, too.
So, stop letting these buyer persona myths get in your way and start running a more streamlined and profitable business:
Before I explain what the heck an ICP is, let me quickly explain something:
If you want to improve the efficiency of your marketing and sales efforts, your decisions have to be based on facts. Not assumptions. Not what the local competition is doing. Not based on your gut.
Now, both an ICP and buyer persona do just that. They use the data you’ve collected on your audience — from client feedback, online polls, email surveys, etc. — and enable you to create profiles that help you more effectively:
An ideal customer profile is a way to define your niche in as specific terms as possible. A buyer persona, on the other hand, is a fictitious customer that resembles those you’ve worked with before and are now targeting.
In truth, you need both an ICP and buyer persona. The more refined you can get on the people you want to work with, the easier it’ll be to find them and sell to them.
Some people see examples of buyer personas like the one above and worry that they’re too restrictive. That if you boil your target customer down to such specific qualities, you’ll compromise your profitability because you have too small a pool to work with.
But think of it like dating.
Let’s say you tend to be attracted to athletic types with lighter eyes and hair. But you’re in a bar one night and cross paths with a dark and slender man with whom you have an instant connection with.
Are you going to open your phone, look at your list of dating requirements, and say, “Eh, it’s been great talking to you, but your hair is just too dark for me”?
No! Of course not. While this person might not be someone that’s historically has caught your eye, you two seem to fit well together and the attraction is undeniable. There’s no reason not to go for it.
Buyer personas are a lot like that. While they do help you narrowly focus your efforts in attracting a certain type of customer, they don’t limit who you can work with. They’re basically just guidelines that say:
One thing is for certain: if you’re serious about growing your business, you need to define your buyer persona. What’s not so certain, however, is how many of them you should have.
Take a look at Salesforce, for example. In addition to selling its services as different buckets (e.g. Sales vs. Marketing vs. Analytics), it also has industry-specific products it sells.
This is the call-to-action on the financial services page:
“Unify the financial services experience and unlock loyalty with Financial Services Cloud.”
Basically, it’s talking to leaders of financial organizations. More specifically, though, it’s probably talking to customer service directors who are responsible for boosting customer loyalty.
Then, you have the call-to-action on the health page:
“Take patient relationships to new heights with Health Cloud.”
In this case, Salesforce is talking to hospital administrators who make decisions that affect the experience of everyone involved, from patients to health care providers.
Then, there’s the call-to-action on the philanthropy product page:
“Connect employees to causes on the first-ever global platform for giving and volunteering.”
This message is targeting HR managers at enterprises with social good initiatives.
Just keep in mind that it’s not just companies the size of Salesforce that need to have different buyer personas. Take freelance writers, for instance. While the most successful ones have a hyper-specific area of specialty, that doesn’t always mean they’re pitching their work to the same kinds of companies.
For instance, let’s say you have a writer who is a software specialist. They write product reviews and news for companies like TechRadar. But they also write articles about business productivity and automation on behalf of software companies like Slack. The kind of marketing message and pitch that would appeal to a product review site is going to be a lot different than the SaaS business owner they want to work for.
Bottom line? You’ll never know how many buyer personas you need to create until you dig into the data and start to understand who these key players are that you should be engaging with.
Lastly, there’s this myth, which not only pertains to buyer personas, but to marketing as a whole. It’s basically the assumption that you can just set-it-and-forget-it. But that’s not how marketing works.
Let me show you why:
This is the HubSpot website as it stands today:
HubSpot sells marketing, sales, and service software to help businesses grow, from the startup to the enterprise.
Back in 2013, however, HubSpot was an inbound marketing software:
At the time, it was an all-in-one marketing tool that helped SMBs build their online presence with landing pages, email marketing, and so on.
And if we go all the way back to 2007, HubSpot was nearly unrecognizable:
Sure, it was still a marketing software company that targeted small and medium-sized businesses. However, the software was a simple solution for building a lead-generating website. That’s it. No email, no social, no customer service, no sales, nothing else.
It’s not that HubSpot was behind the curve either — this company is a marketing pioneer. But you can clearly see how its marketing message and even its products have had to change over the years.
Part of this is due to how technology has changed.
Part of it is because marketing has evolved beyond just websites.
And part of it is because HubSpot has made a big enough name for itself and for long enough that it can now successfully position its products in front of enterprise customers.
You might not see it right now, but your company will eventually undergo its own evolution. And so, too, should your buyer personas. Which means you need to regularly review your data and note how your customers and the journey they take from lead to customer is changing. It’s the only way to ensure that your messaging and marketing efforts are always 100% on point.
There are many reasons to create buyer personas:
You have so much data on your clients. Don’t just let it sit in your CRM in the hopes that you’ll some day want to use it. By creating your buyer personas, you can design more effective marketing and sales campaigns sooner rather than later.
If you’re ready to get started, then I’d urge you to reach out to me. I love working through customer journeys and buyer personas!
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Ashley Gadd is an award-winning digital marketing strategist, graphic designer, and educator who helps clients turn their squirrely ideas into captivating and strategic brands that convert. Blending her background in nonprofit marketing with her education in design, Ashley offers customer-centric brand experiences that connect the visual and strategic dots to give her clients the tools to build a sustainable and profitable business they’re proud of.
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