Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Content Marketing Basics: Developing Buyer Personas

Effective content marketing requires a thorough understanding of your prospective buyers.  Let's face it.  It's awfully hard to really connect with someone you don't understand.  That's why buyer personas must be a core component of your content marketing effort.

According to Adele Revella, author of the Buyer Persona blog, a buyer persona is, "a detailed profile of an example buyer that represents the real audience - an archetype of the target buyer."  In her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, Ardath Albee defines a buyer persona as, "a composite sketch representative of a type of customer you serve."

Just to be clear, a buyer persona is a biograhpical sketch of a typical buyer.  It is more than a job description.  Buyer personas are written in narrative form, and they are written as if the archetypical buyer is a real human being.  Buyer personas enable you to create more relevant and personalized communications, which is why they are so important for effective content marketing.

You will need to create a persona for each type of buyer who makes or significantly influences the decision to purchase your product or service.  Most sales methodologies use categories to indentify buying roles.  So, for example, you may have economic buyers, technical buyers, user buyers, and so on.  I prefer to describe buyer types by job title or job function in additon to these buying role categories.

It's also important to identify the type of business the buyer works for.  Buyers performing the same job function in different industries can have different issues, problems, or concerns.  Therefore, you may need to create "industry specific" personas.

The next step in developing a buyer persona is to answer a series of questions about the buyer.  Here are some examples:
  • What are the buyer's major business objectives and job responsibilities?
  • What strategies and tactics does the buyer use to achieve his objectives and fulfill his responsibilities?
  • What meaures are used to evaluate the buyer's job performance?
  • What issues and problems keep the buyer awake at night?
  • How old is the typical buyer? [Age range is OK]
  • Is the buyer typically male or female?
  • What is the buyer's educational background?
  • What sources does the buyer turn to for information?
  • How would the buyer describe the issues he or she is facing?
In my earlier post about developing a customer value matrix, I recommended using a cross-functional team that includes both marketing and sales personnel.  That approach also works well for developing buyer personas.


  1. Thanks for talking about my favorite subject, David. It's difficult to develop a short list of insights I want to have about a buyer persona because so many of those variables depend on the company's goals for interactions with that persona. But here's one I really like -- what attitudes have prevented this buyer from purchasing my solution?

  2. Adele,

    Thanks for your comment! I love your question, and I'll add it to my checklist.