Great Content Starts with a Well-Researched Buyer Persona

Have you ever written a piece of content you were sure would be a slam dunk only to find out that it totally missed the mark? Or maybe you were sure your clients thought something about your product only to find out that thought had never crossed their minds?

A buyer persona helps keep these types of things from happening. You get to know your client before you ever write any content for them, drastically reducing or even eliminating communication problems within your content. Here’s why you need a buyer persona, how you do the research for one, and how to put it all together.

What a Buyer Persona Is

A buyer persona is a realistic, detailed depiction of your ideal client, complete with a picture and a fictional name. It includes categories like demographic, job, and decision-making information. If you feel a bit silly making up a story about an ideal client, don’t.

This detailed explanation will help you understand why your clients make decisions the way they do using solid data and some educated guesses.

A buyer persona gives you invaluable marketing guidance about your clients’ needs, concerns, and decision-making habits. It will guide the topics, tone, and details of the content you write. Without a buyer persona, you’re just shooting in the dark when you create pieces of content marketing.

For example, a short paragraph about Marlene, a potential home buyer who is 36 years old, has three kids, and works as a bank teller isn’t very useful. A three-page document that describes what Marlene needs in a real estate agent, what her concerns are, and how she picks a real estate agent contains a lot more marketing guidance.

Why You Need a Buyer Persona

Here are the four main ways a buyer persona keeps you and your client in sync:

It Focuses on a Specific Segment of People

A buyer persona tells you exactly who you’re marketing to so you don’t make the mistake of trying to market to everybody, which never works. Writing a buyer persona forces you to decide exactly who you want to target with your marketing.

It Provides Insights at Each Step of the Process

A buyer persona is valuable because it tells you exactly what your potential clients are doing, thinking, and feeling as they decide if you’re the answer to their needs. A great persona describes your client at every step of the sales process, from initial communication through closed sale.

It Gives You a Way to Communicate

When done correctly, a buyer persona helps you succeed because it shows you what will work and what won’t. A buyer persona should provide a clear way for you to communicate with your potential clients. It should also show you exactly how you should not communicate with your clients.

It’s Constantly Updated

Things change fast in today’s world. Buyer personas should be updated periodically to keep you in touch with how your client’s world is changing. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that you’re done just because you’ve written your buyer persona. A good one is constantly evolving.

What’s in a Buyer Persona

Before you start interviewing, it’s helpful to know what kind of data and information you’re looking for. (Make sure to download our template!) Here’s an example of the information we use in our own buyer personas.

Section 1: Basic Demographics

Name:

Job and description:

Age (or age range):

Gender:

Income:

Location:

Family information:

Demographics are the easiest part of the buyer persona. This is where you put basic (but important) information about your ideal client. It’s important because it gives you a basic starting point, and it makes this person seem real because you now have a story to work with.

Not every client will fit within these parameters. The key to a great buyer persona is making accurate generalizations that your ideal clients mostly fit into. Remember, this is “ideal,” not average.

Section 2: Identifiers

Mannerisms:

Groups he or she is part of:

This one is pretty straightforward. Is your ideal client part of any clubs, unions, or other groups? Does he or she most identify with any groups that may play a big part in how you market? These can include groups that may or may not be relevant to your marketing. Even indirect groups can help paint a picture of your client’s needs.

Section 3: Communication Preferences

How does your ideal client prefer to communicate? This is important because you’ll have better success and more interaction if you communicate in a way the client prefers, not the way that’s easiest or most convenient for you.

  • Phone?
  • Email?
  • Text?
  • Face-to-face?
  • Social media?

Section 4: Goals

Goal #1:

Goal #2:

Goal #3:

What are your client’s goals related to buying and selling a home? Also think about goals related to your client’s financial success and even family goals that might be relevant. Unless you know what he or she is striving to achieve, you won’t know how your product or service helps accomplish these goals.

Section 5: Biggest Needs

Need #1:

Need #2:

Need #3:

What are your ideal client’s biggest needs? Hand holding from start to finish of the transaction? Referrals for real estate agents? Help understanding how to improve a credit score or save up a down payment?  Knowing your client’s biggest needs helps you show how your product or service meets those needs.

Section 6: How You Meet Your Client’s Needs

My Solution to Need #1:

My Solution to Need #2:

My Solution to Need #3:

Here’s where you start to connect the dots. How does your product or service meet your client’s needs?

An important note: be really specific here. Don’t just say that you have “great customer service.” That does nothing to set you apart from your competition. Think of unique features that you can really sell as ways to meet a client’s needs.

Section 7: Common Objections

Objection #1:

Objection #2:

Objection #3:

What are common objections you encounter when you try to sell your product or service? What are some roadblocks you consistently encounter or expect to encounter? By knowing what these potential roadblocks are, you can address them from the get-go.

This is also a great time to come up with how you can overcome these typical objections.

Section 8: How and Where They Buy

Does your target client prefer to fill out an application online? Follow a Facebook ad to get more info by giving an email address? Use Google to find great lenders?

How does the sales process go? What kind of follow-up is needed after an initial contact or an initial loan application? Be very specific about the sales cycle you’ll be going through.

An important note: Some of this will likely be guesswork until you start trying and testing different marketing methods, and that’s OK. You can make some educated guesses that will give you a good starting point.

Section 9: Talking Points

What are some ways you can craft your message that will resonate with your audience? At this point, you should have a good idea what ideas and wording will be the most successful at reaching your target audience.

Section 10: Our Pitch in a Nutshell

Distill the essence of your message into one single sentence or two that you can refer back to when crafting marketing.

How to Research Your Buyer Persona

Now that you know the general categories that should be included in your buyer persona, here’s how to go about getting the data.

It’s important to interview people who are at different stages of your sales cycle. This way, you’ll get a good balance of answers to form your buyer persona. Here’s a list of potential interviewees.

Note: Be sure to tell your interviewees that this isn’t a sales call (and stick to it). Be open and willing to listen to anything they have to say.

Current Happy Customers

First, get the low-hanging fruit. Reach out to your current customers who love what you’re doing. They’ve already been through the sales process and decided to choose you, so they can give you some great information about why they went with you and how its working out.

Current Unhappy Customers

But you can also learn important things by reaching out to your less-than-ideal customers. Customers like to have an impact on products they use, so they’ll probably be willing to tell you what’s not working for them. It’s a great opportunity to learn how you can better meet the needs of your target clients (or realize who your target clients are not).

Prospects

Prospects are also good sources of information because you probably have some of their basic demographic information. And since they haven’t yet purchased your product but are interested in it, they can give you crucial information about this step of the buying process. Many times, clients forget why they initially chose you over someone else, so talking to people as they’re deciding is invaluable.

People from Your Network

Reach out to co-workers, existing customers, social media followers, and others in your network to see if they know anyone you can interview. You won’t get a ton of interviews this way, but you’re likely to get a few very good ones. You may get irreplaceable insight by talking to people you otherwise wouldn’t.

Online Resources

This is the last step. Once you have information from a good group of people, do a little more research on the Internet. Check out the publications they read, the social media they use, any influential people they follow, and anything else that might be relevant. This will give you additional valuable insight into their world.

Putting it All Together

Once you’ve interviewed three to five people, you probably have enough data to start putting together your persona. (Once you can start predicting what your interviewees are going to say, you can stop interviewing.)

Now, sort all the data and information according to the categories above (don’t forget to download our template). Make sure to only include the most important information—don’t include outlying information that’s not relevant to your group of clients as a whole.

A Test Case

I’m going to walk you through the process we go through when we create a buyer persona (which we do every time we start working with a new client). Let’s say that our new client needs help marketing to veterans and current military members who could buy a house with a VA loan. Here’s the breakdown of how we’d create a buyer persona for this client.

Section 1: Demographics

Name: Mark Marine

Job and description: Mark Marine is a current military member. He intends to spend most or all of his career in the military.

Age (or age range): 35 to 45 years old

Gender: Male

Income: $50,000 to $60,000

Location: Fort Riley, KS

Family Information: He’s married with two young children and is looking to find a nice home to raise them in. His wife also works, usually in some kind of public service job like school teacher or nurse.

Section 2: Identifiers

Mannerisms: Mark likes to be talked to directly, and he doesn’t care for beating around the bush.

Groups: Mark is a Marine. He’s also heavily involved in the Marine Corps Association & Foundation, a group that recognizes Marine excellence and promotes leadership training.

Section 3: Communication Preferences

* Phone

 Email

 Text

* Social Media

 Face-to-face

Mark Marine gets most of his information from Facebook and that he prefers to communicate on the phone. We also discover that it’s harder to get a response from him via email, so we use that as a secondary way to contact Mark, not a primary way to send him information.

Section 4: Goals

Goal #1: Mark really wants to buy a nice, fairly permanent home for his family. He wants something better than a starter home.

Goal #2: Mark wants to buy a home in the next 3 to 6 months.

Section 5: Biggest Needs

Need #1: Mark Marine needs someone who knows the VA loan process backwards and forwards.

Need #2: He­ also needs someone that gets what being a member of the military is like and can connect with him or her on a personal level.

Need #3: He needs someone who can walk him and his wife through buying a home while he is finishing up a deployment.

Section 6: How You Meet a Client’s Needs

My Solution to Need #1: We have 25 years of experience and 20 veterans on our staff. We understand the paperwork and the government regulations.

My Solution to Need #2: Our staff gets what it’s like to be part of the military and to get a complex VA loan.

My Solution to Need #3: We know our process is seamless, even if we’re working through a deployment or other unusual circumstances.

Section 7: Common Objections

Objection #1: Mark Marine is uneducated about getting a VA loan. He thinks they’re too complicated.

Objection #2: He thinks that since he already had a VA loan when he bought a small house 10 years ago, he can’t get another. 

Ways to Meet Objections: We’ll work to educate Mark through a series of Facebook ads and very short blog posts that we post to social media. We’ll also make sure he knows that he can call and talk to us any time. We’ll also work on brand awareness.

Section 8: How and Where They Buy

Mark Marine doesn’t want to give out any information via a Facebook ad. We’ll have more luck targeting him through mailers and following up with him on the phone. Short blog posts are also a great tool for educating Mark about the benefits of a VA loan.

Eventually, after answering enough questions and sending Mark information, he’ll be ready to fill out a loan application with our assistance.

Section 9: Talking Points

  • We have 25 years of experience and 20 veterans on our team. We get what it’s like to be part of the military.
  • We understand all of the paperwork and government regulations and can handle them with no problem.
  • We’ve gotten VA loans before and know how to guide you through these complex waters.
  • We care about veterans and want to help you take advantage of this benefit. We want to make your life better.

We have a team full of veterans that has been through the process. We know that will make Mark Marine instantly more at ease about going through the VA loan process himself. We also know that we need to talk about how much we appreciate the service of all our military members.

Section 10: Our Pitch in a Nutshell

“We’re a team of caring veterans who work hard to get you the very best deal on a VA home purchase or refinance.”

How a Buyer Persona Helps You

With a buyer persona, you’ll know exactly why you’re choosing the topics you’re choosing, how to advertise what you’re doing, and how to encourage people to buy in a way that will resonate with them. This kind of insight is crucial for the long-term success of content marketing.

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