As I was trying on sunglasses in the drugstore last week, a teenager reached for exactly the same pair. I’m a retired teacher, so we laughed and compared notes on why we both liked this frame.”

Has this situation ever happened to you? It shows how effectively products appeal to very different people for many reasons – which is why buyer personas are important to companies eager to expand their markets. They serve two primary purposes: telling you what your buyers like and – which is equally important! – what they dislike.

Are Buyer Personas Real People?

No – but they indeed represent your ideal consumers! Buyer personas are fictional characters, amalgams of personal preferences and individual needs, pinpointed through market research and real-life data on your current customers.

With specific behavioral and demographic characteristics, these marketing avatars have emotional barriers and predictable reactions. Offering insights into consumer concerns, they spotlight pleasure and pain points.

What’s the Difference Between Buyer Personas and Target Audiences?

Sharing a common purpose, both are vital tools for marketers to understand their audiences. Very simply, a target audience is defined by demographics, while a buyer persona is defined by behaviors and beliefs.

Defining a target audience is a big-brush task, a mural that often involves age brackets, gender, job, education, and income. In contrast, crafting a buyer persona means portraying a potential consumer in great detail, as shown in the template below.

These two definitions often feed back into each other, as building a buyer persona is often the next step after outlining a target audience. Once a consumer avatar has been created, marketing messages have higher chances of speaking directly to real-life prospects.

How Many Buyer Personas Do I Need?

That’s a good question, and with an obvious answer: it depends! It depends on the scope of your business and its wares, together with its flexibility, cash flows, and marketing budgets.

As a general rule, starting with a single prospect avatar makes good marketing sense, perhaps focused on the most promising segment of your main target audience. Subsequent personas can focus on under-explored niches, deep-diving into outlier factors that might be neglected by your competition.

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What Are the Benefits of Buyer Personas?

By narrowing down your target markets, you reach out to these potential customers more effectively, activating unexpected triggers like fear of missing out and keeping up with current trends. Segmentation is a powerful marketing tool that’s often neglected:

  • For B2B marketing, a unique buyer persona reflects every major client. As your inbound marketing progresses, with smarter content on your website and more lead nurturing campaigns, these buyer personas keep you on the right path;
  • For retail sales, designing buyer personas for niche markets is a great way of attracting new consumers. If you’re selling ready-made sauces, adding Vegan flashes to your meat-free packs might attract new buyers appreciative of your respect for their lifestyle choices.

Do I Need a Buyer Persona Template?

The advantage of buyer persona templates is that they establish frameworks that portray the consumers you’re trying to attract. They’re skeletons that you flesh out by gathering information from various sources. Here’s a starter persona template, with twenty items for you to tweak at will:

  1. Name and nickname:
  2. Gender, self-specified:
  3. Age:
  4. Marital status, current, and past:
  5. Children, grandchildren, others:
  6. Pets and other animals:
  7. Home/work addresses:
  8. Job Title:
  9. Income from work and other sources (specify):
  10. Education, current and intended:
  11. Health:
  12. Travel:
  13. Hobbies:
  14. Interests:
  15. Beliefs:
  16. Dreams:
  17. Ambitions, personal and professional:
  18. Goals, short, medium, and long-term:
  19. Hurdles, failures, and successes:
  20.  Problems, pain points, and solutions.

Can I Afford to Work with Buyer Personas?

The question is, really: can you afford not to? Let’s break down the figures for a hypothetically unlimited market for your sunscreen.

  • Scenario A: You run a broad (and expensive) Protect Your Skin marketing campaign in major media that’s seen and recalled by 100,000 people, who are all very different. With a bit of luck, you’ll convert a thousand of them into customers;
  • Scenario B: You choose a specific buyer persona representing a neglected niche and craft a low-cost, small-scale campaign explaining that Senior Skins Need Senior Protection. The chances are high that you’ll convert at least a thousand retirees, but for only a fraction of your big-bucks Scenario A budget;
  • Scenarios C – Z: You explore other niche markets through low-cost segmented campaigns focused on specific buyer personas who need sunscreen, too: construction workers, surfers, gardeners …

Takeaway: When you communicate with everyone, you speak to nobody in particular. But when you focus on fewer people, you get straight through to their hearts (and wallets!).