PR is rarely associated with sales activities. Most often, we perceive it as creating and sustaining a certain image and explaining a brand’s philosophy to the recipients. Also, it is usually seen as part of the “I-feel-it-in-my-guts” kingdom, but in the era of big data and highly digitized world, it works better when considered as one of the rather measurable species. Like most marketing and sales activities, PR can be accurately measured and optimized once you start collecting the right data.
The first step to understanding what and why is working in a given area is to deeply and profoundly figure out your audience and the motives behind their actions. One of the basic tools for profiling audiences (and determining who the recipient is) is a Buyer Persona.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a simple representation created to visualize the abstract concept of a model customer or recipient of the content.
By no means, it is not a real customer—your buyer persona is not Mr. Frank, the local newspaper editor, nor is it Mrs. Smee on Facebook. It is more of a concept or characterization, such as “a pregnant woman,” “a reader of a well-known news service” or “a representative of a free, creative profession.” A buyer persona is a fictional representation of a person who can become your customer. It captures and lists his (or her) needs, habits, and values. Companies usually have more than one buyer persona.
How to Use a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a transcription of numbers and virtual data into a language that will be understood by an average specialist in the marketing department. It aims to help them visualize who the person to whom they direct their messages is. Data streams can be collected during various activities like on-site and in-app behavior monitoring, email campaigns, or running a social media profile. All this information, if it’s useful, requires putting them in a slightly less abstract form. Giving them a specific shape allows naming the needs and habits of this theoretical recipient. Benefit: people using it can formulate and test hypotheses about activities much easier as well as address their actions to a specific audience.
Creating a buyer persona brings tangible benefits such as, for example:
- Making customer actions measurable — raw data provides knowledge about what the recipients are doing. Personas allow to organize this knowledge and also to find reasons behind that activity.
- Better communication within the company — different departments have different goals and use a different “slang.” Personas standardize the vision of the customer, his or her needs, values, doubts and the way PR pros should communicate with them.
- Setting the pattern and reference points in campaigns — it means stating whether a given campaign or new product is compatible with the vision of the customer your company has.
- Better grip on advertising costs — having specific recipients makes it easier to create a message that will pique their interest and fix up the moment of sending as well as the preferred communication channel.
- Constant improvement of the customer journey — personas inform their users about any eventual customer doubts and problems. Being able to address them in advance minimizes the criticism towards the brand.
- A new level of personalization — personas provide a lot of information when it comes to choosing channels, form, and content of the customized communication.
Results, or Buyer Persona in Numbers (source: SALESmanago)
- The efficiency of website marketing activities increases 2–5 times,
- CTR of emails increases by 14%,
- Targeted ads are twice as effective as non-targeted ones.
Does PR Need Buyer Personas?
PR is a fairly large blanket term that includes creating and maintaining company’s image and building brand awareness, as well as encompasses a comprehensive notion of staying in contact with the media. I can’t imagine any other marketing area in which a message would require a more specific target group than PR. When taking care of such a delicate area as brand image, a manager should make every effort to adapt the message to the recipient.
It’s true—you won’t be focusing on a potential customer or someone to whom you will sell products and services. If PR is your domain, you will rather look for groups of journalists and influencers potentially interested in the philosophy and message of the brand you represent. Your “customers” will also be the people with whom you will want to build long-term relationships and other brands that may be interested in establishing cooperation by mutual promotion or integration of some of their services complementary to your offer.
By adjusting the message to the recipient, you can significantly increase its effectiveness. It’s quite obvious—other things will be interesting for a journalist looking for a killer scoop, and completely different topics will draw the attention of a soon-to-be reseller.
On the other hand, PR is also about selling. The subject of transactions, however, is information and ideas. That’s why creating a buyer persona helps a lot in distributing and “selling” relevant content to the right audience. Finally, according to eMarketer, B2C (Business to Customer) marketers who send personalized offers to their customers, record a conversion rate of 50%. It’s a result worth chasing.
How to Build a Buyer Persona
Data Sources and Tools to Organize Them
It is best to collect data at the source, that is, from the customers themselves. There are many ways to get both direct and indirect information. Direct solutions include:
- Interviews (live in brick-and-mortar store, via Skype),
- Focus groups,
- Ethnographic research (you can order it),
- Data from forms,
- Comments, website and social media feedback (also analyze the competitors’ page looking for this kind of information).
- Website analytics (demographic data, interests, references, time of activity),
- Online behavior monitoring, behavioral and demographic data,
- Social media analytics,
- Information from salespeople or customer service.
Both types of sources have their advantages and disadvantages. Direct methods are much more flexible due to the possibility of face-to-face contact with a given person, while indirect methods are, contrary to what one may expect, burdened with a much lower risk of error and have fewer distortions that could appear because of what surveyed people think about themselves. Nevertheless, it is recommended to follow both of these methods to get a broader picture.
- Google Forms,
- Marketing Automation Platform.
To organize the results:
- Google Docs.
How to Use Marketing Automation to Build a Functional Persona?
The platform is quite useful when it comes to collecting data directly from customers, and for tracking digital footprints they leave on websites, social media sites, or mobile channel.
- The Marketing Automation platform collects data from many channels.
- Platforms record all interactions, providing a more realistic and reliable image.
- Online monitoring conducted using tools such as Web Beacon allows you to track not only the clicks of specific users but also what drew their attention.
- Offline behavior tracking complements the knowledge about customers’ online behavior with data from physical stores.
- Vast possibilities of targeting the questionnaires ensure more adequate results.
- Considering the stage of customer relationship with the brand is an additional factor that allows an even better understanding of the obtained results.
When creating a Buyer Persona, you should indicate:
- The motivation and priorities of the recipient,
- Success rates (what he wants to achieve),
- The course, barriers, and obstacles in the relationship with the brand,
- Decision-making criteria.
Like most of the marketing tools available, buyer personas also require periodic revision. Both the recipients and the brand evolve. Therefore, the first revision exercise should be performed after 1–3 months. The following ones should take place once a year. To ensure a better track record of changes, do not delete or overwrite old responses, but rather add new ones to create a record of your buyer persona history and evolution.
What Should You Remember About When Creating a Buyer Persona?
First and foremost, persona is a tool, and thus it should be easy to use. Do not try to complicate this process with graphics—you will waste your time and still won’t obtain an actual effect. Also, remember that the triumph of form over substance, i.e., putting greater emphasis on the form of the persona itself than on the reliability of data and the work put into it, is a waste of time and potential of the marketer who creates it. In other words—it is all just a lot of hot air.
When building a persona, watch out for:
- Wishful thinking: it’s not unusual that when designing a model recipient, marketers fall for fantasy and wishful thinking. Avoid doing it—make sure that your models have solid support in the data—not in hunches and speculations.
- The evolution of the persona: as your business evolves, your model customer will also evolve. For example, it turns out that you have an unexpected target group. Revise your persona regularly: doing so will also allow you to follow the changes in your business.
- Spreading yourself too thin: do not waste time to create more needs than the situation requires. Some companies give their personas names, make collages, and hang them in the office… If it helps you, great, but do not feel obliged to do it just for the sake of doing it.
To learn more about Buyer Personas, download our free ebook.
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