Whether you think it, believe it, or discard it... the truth is that buyer personas are the start of every successful campaign. Every marketer knows that understanding your buyer is key, but every smart marketer knows that standard demographics just won't cut it anymore.

The best way to start the process of getting to know your buyer—intimately—is to go through a persona exercise. Here are some tried and true tips for tackling the buyer persona beast.

Give the targets an identity

If you were thinking that labeling your targets "C-level execs of midsize companies who experience generic problem X, Y, or Z" is akin to truly knowing them... be prepared to completely overhaul your mindset. That information doesn't actually tell you anything about how to really reach your prospect.

Buying habits are only as powerful as the psychology behind them, so you need to figure out motivations. Stop here: Did that statement tempt you to defiantly respond, "Not in my industry"? Well, to put it as nicely as possible, you're wrong. This approach is applicable to every company in every industry.

Gather buying experiences that epitomize your key buyer and describe them—the personality traits, not the overly generalized tidbits you'd usually whip out. Did this person climb the corporate ladder linearly and respect the chain of command? Is she a Gen X or a Boomer? Does he prefer to interact with vendors personally and does he still believe in the good-old-fashioned phone call?

You get the idea. Do this methodically with your targets—and voila: You'll narrow down to 3-5 personas.

Map out their workflow

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image of Justin Gray

Justin Gray is the CEO of LeadMD. He founded the company with a vision to transform marketing via the use of marketing automation and CRM solutions. Reach him via jgray@leadmd.com.

LinkedIn: Justin Gray

Twitter: @jgraymatter