What do we need to build an online buyer persona?

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Photo: Eboni (CC)

In reaching out to online audiences, it helps to think of them in the specific rather than the general. They’re not an anonymous blog of people — they’re individuals with distinct habits, experiences and problems.

Savvy marketers create buyer personas to guide them in making the best content and ads for them. Do we want to build our campaign around:

  • women age 25 to 55 with some college education and average household incomes of $35,000 to $60,000,
  • or Jane Wright, 36, divorced mother of two in Huntsville who works as an accountant?

If Jane is our ideal customer, we should think like her and understand what posts and videos are likely to catch her eye.

To create a realistic buyer persona, we need good building blocks. Let me offer some ways to assemble the puzzle into a clear portrait of our target audience.

I like to comb through Google Analytics data. In seeing a site’s thousands of visitors, we can understand when they like to browse and where they came from (countries, states and cities). We see what search terms they used (if someone properly connected Analytics to Google Search Console) and their favorite pages on the site. We can figure out that Jane probably uses a Galaxy S7, speaks English and spent about 3 to 4 minutes on our site. That’s good stuff!

We can look at the company’s customer database to see the common demographics. Can we determine patterns in age, race, gender, education level, income, geography, occupation and other factors? That helps us fill in the important details of our Jane Wright persona.

We should ask our best customers directly. Our customer database may be incomplete, or we may want more data points. An online survey can quickly gather this info. Besides basic demographics, we can ask about online habits, shopping patterns and preferences and intent to purchase. A well-designed survey can elicit hard-to-uncover tactics for reaching people: Pinterest boards and lookbooks, one-on-one sales chats and comparison guides, unboxing videos and virtual test drives.

(Let’s include an incentive, like 10 $25 Amazon gift cards to randomly selected survey participants.)

Our company offers a broad range of products for novices and pros, with price points to match features at consumers’ spending levels. But knowing which products are the top sellers gives us more insight into our ideal customer. Examining sales data shows us if our buyer persona should focus on an advanced user or a beginner. Do they typically buy a cheaper starter model or a mid-price version? What’s the No. 1 reason for returned items and refunds? Hitting those questions in a shopper’s mind head on can bring in more sales with fewer abandoned shopping carts and returns.

Several customer relationship management tools offer automated social data, giving us a fuller picture of a user’s social media profiles and habits. If the marketing plan includes high social interaction and outreach to influencers, we can include these customers in our social media strategy. Studying fan interaction with our brand and others yields new insights for our nearly complete persona.

Sure, we could create buyer personas from scratch. Many companies do, and do so successfully. But with all this data within our reach, we can build richer profiles with less effort.

In turn, this gives us a huge advantage in designing our marketing efforts with our best audience in mind. Gathering the data and studying them should be our first steps in this branch of targeted marketing.

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About Wade Kwon

Wade Kwon is conference director for Y'all Connect. See his full bio.