A Different Way to Target Customers


Most business owners understand the importance of targeting prospects, but few take the time to create buyer personas. If you’re serious about getting new business – whether it’s 10 or 10,000 buyers – take time to invest in this marketing activity.

What is a buyer persona? It’s a fictitious character of the real people who might want your product or service. You may think you know your target customer, but do you really know his or her interests, tastes and habits, and what keeps them up at nights? Creating a persona or personas will not only help you adjust your product or service offerings when need be, but also help you create content that is far more effective.

When you’ve defined your buyer personas, you’ll find you can stop trying to hard-sell, and focus instead on your customer’s needs and wants. There’s a big difference. Your prospect will feel he’s been talked to rather than talked at. “Think in terms of spreading ideas rather than generating leads,” says David Meerman Scott, author of a slew of PR books, including World Wide Rave, which is available as a free download.

“Never talk about your products and services again,” he commands. “Instead, focus on your buyer personas and how you can solve problems for them.” He’s right. People don’t want buzzwords and mumbo-jumbo about what you do. When you communicate to real people in a real way, it “jars them to attention.” In his book, he gives example after example of how this has worked in the real world.

If you’re ready to delve deeper and get inside the hearts and minds of your prospects, here’s how to get started.

  • Interview your customers. Understanding what drives your buyers requires more than a 3-minute chat at your place of business. You need a 20-30 minute conversation to find out what clinched the deal. The goal is to end up with a better understanding of potential customers. If you don’t have a marketing budget and want to do this yourself, check out HubSpot, which has a buyer persona worksheet, as well as information on how to most effectively use your buyer personas.
  • Interview those who didn’t buy from you. A short conversation into their lifestyle, goals, behaviors and decision-making process will give you insights that online research can’t match. Scott believes their input is even more vital than that of your current customers.
  • Don’t confine your interviews to one or two people. Interview a dozen. Use a prepared list of questions but ask follow-up questions to get relevant information. In addition to learning about their needs, desires and decision-making processes, you also need to know where they get their information (newspapers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, TV/radio, et cetera)
  • After the interviews, get something down on paper. This can be a one-pager. Some people even give their buyer personas names. However you do it, review it regularly and be prepared to change the description of your personas from time to time. Markets do change and so do your prospects. You need to stay ahead of the curve.

Use all the information you gathered to transform how you communicate. Instead of boring, tired clichés on your website, how about posing a question, then list a few bullet points to show you understand some of the problems your customers and prospects face?

Have you used buyer personas to improve your sales and marketing?


About Chris Ruys

Chris Ruys is founder and president of Chris Ruys Communications, Inc., a marketing/public relations firm that specializes in high visibility campaigns using both traditional and social media strategies. Her blog, originally called "Getting Social," was launched in October 2010 as a way to share her progress as a "student" of social media. While she's still learning, Ms. Ruys has broadened the scope to include other aspects of marketing communications and PR, including blogging, email, traditional media and advertising in the blog she now calls "Proactive PR."