It’s common advice for writers to consider a single reader. “Imagine you’re writing this story as a letter to a friend.”
It helps to focus the tone, and to guide the flow of narrative — as though you were telling it to someone, directly.
It helps the process of stepping outside of yourself, also, putting yourself in the shoes of the reader and feeling what it’s like to read this thing for the very first time.
The development of buyer or user personas follows a similar logic.
The goal isn’t to aggregate all possible characteristics and traits of your current or prospective buyers into some hideous chimera; it is to generate a consistent and coherent character. To consider a singular person who is genuinely interested in what your business has to offer, responds well to it, and takes valuable actions in the right contexts.
It forces you to be consistent. To stay grounded. And helps to imagine how this particularly individual would actually interact with your offerings.
Even still, just 44% of B2B marketers use buyer personas, despite 90% of sales coming from just 3 or 4 customer profiles.
The main reason I come across from business owners and decision makers is that it’s ‘low priority’. They have enough things on their plates, and while they’ve been meaning to get around to developing some proper user personas, it just hasn’t been a high enough priority to justify the time.
Personas help you:
And they do so in a compounding manner — that’s to say, the earlier you get them right, the better.
So if it is time that’s holding you back from developing clear user personas to target, let’s take a look at a simple, focused framework you can implement, today.
And to save you time, you can even use the link here to start from a pre-built template.
In this section, we cover the basics to help give our persona some context. Things like age, gender, location, occupation, education & career history. This background information helps us set the scene, along with defining some clear, targeting factors for any campaigns we may be planning.
The Big Five personality traits are a tried and tested piece of the psychological literature. While personality is of course more complicated than these 5 (or 10, really) traits, they are some of the most robust indicators we have: across anything from career success to relationships, well-being and many of the life outcomes we care about most.
Openness to experience describes an individual’s willingness to participate in, or open themselves up to, new experiences.
Conscientiousness refers to that quality of accountability — how responsible and reliable is this person in the way they live their professional (or whichever area is relevant to your business) lives?
Extraversion is coupled with introversion. Are they gregarious socialites? Or do they prefer their own company. Again, none of these are really black and white distinctions— it helps to think more in terms of weightings and leanings — which way does this person lean on the extraversion scale?
Agreeable individuals tend to avoid confrontation. They want things to go smoothly, and so often go out of their way to make others comfortable. Disagreeable people, on the other hand, aren’t afraid to be stubborn or unpleasant.
Neuroticism refers to our base levels of anxiety. Does this person feel high anxiety over every task or problem that arises? Or are they more chill, laid back and rolling with the punches? (For better or worse).
Next up, we get to pain points. These are those juicy problems the user or buyer is most aware of. The ones that bother them. Preferably, these are issues that our product or offering can relieve, directly.
What is the user working toward? What do they want to achieve? It helps to again hone in on those goals that are most relevant to your business’ offerings — but it can also help to think more broadly about this individual’s deeper motivations and ambitions, more generally.
How will they interact with our offerings? What is the application of our product for this particular user — to address a pain point, reach a desired outcome, or otherwise?
Where pain points describe problems that the user is aware of; blind spots describe problems they are not aware of. That’s what makes them difficult.
If you were selling a solution that helps the buyer increase sales through higher SEO rankings, a blind spot of the user might be ‘What’s SEO?’.
It might be that they haven’t even built a website, yet. Or it might be more subtle than that, say, ‘I didn’t know there were small-scale SEO agencies (like yours), I thought it was either go with a big software company or hire some full-time talent’.
The digital world is an integral piece of the modern user’s daily life. Which social medias they engage with — and how frequently they do so; the types of content the consume; the people and personalities they listen to; their willingness to purchase online; their search behaviors.
These are all relevant and highly informative pieces to collect and consider about our ideal buyer.
When you step past the sale and imagine what it looks like to have a loyal customer, you’re able to think more concretely about a few important questions.
What was it that convinced them, in the end? Why do they stick with us? What do they like most? How does it make them feel about themselves to go with our offering, and not another?
And, to help your marketing or sales teams out, you can also include a section about which types of content, interactions and outreach this particular character responds to.
Do they pick up the phone or screen all their calls? Are they going to respond to a cold email? Will they download a template if it means sharing an email address? Are they going to purchase on the spot, right after seeing an ad? Do they need a free trial to make up their mind?
While it may not be high on your priority list, even simply sketching an outline of your target persona can help you focus your messaging and efforts significantly.
If you’d like to start using this framework, along with a system for storing and linking information across business areas, you can use the personas workspace here.