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October 23, 2014 | John Goethert

Buyer Personas: Connecting Demographics to Real People

Use Buyer Personas Instead of Demographics

As marketers, we’re slaves to data.

We use information from a wide variety of sources to learn about our customers. We research their age ranges, average incomes, and so on. But the problem with working from demographic data is that it only gives you the most common ranges, obscuring the complexity of actual people.

For example, a “predominantly male” group includes vastly different people with very different needs for your product or service – and they’re not even all male.

The Rifle vs. Shotgun Approach

Many companies’ marketing goals could be summarized “I want to target as many people as possible.” But the problem with this approach is that the message, in attempt to attract everyone, ends up only attracting a few because it is so generic.

Imagine that you’re a hunter wanting to bag dinner for the upcoming Thanksgiving feast.

You could take your rifle to a great place for turkey hunting, use your turkey call, and wait for them to come to you.

Or, you could head to the middle of the nearest field with your shotgun, fire repeatedly into the sky, and hope that something edible will fall into your lap.

The same scenario is played out all the time by marketing teams (but without the guns). Many companies shoot a very generic message out into the world in the hopes that it will hit someone ready to buy.

But creating a message that addresses the specific pain points of your ideal customer, delivered on the platforms that use most frequently, will produce much better results. Instead of getting your marketing messages in front of as many people as possible, the goal is to find the right people – the ones who are actually interested in what you have to say.

Buyer personas help you figure out who these “right people” are and where to find them, and then craft messages that appeal to them and demonstrate your value. HubSpot, creator of the popular closed-loop marketing software that we use here at VIEO, defines personas as “holistic ideals of what your customers are really like, inside and out.”

When you build a buyer persona, you’ll be honing in on a very specific, focused segment of your current (or desired) customer base and creating a descriptive portrait as if this group was a real, singular person.

Each persona will include his or her particular workplace and personal goals, challenges, and pain points, as well as likely barriers to your products or services and key motivators in life at work or at play.

In other words, the things that impact their buying decisions much more than their gender or economic bracket.

So, how do you build a persona?

By studying every resource you have about your best customers:

  • Your customers’ demographic data from sources like TowerData
  • Personal interviews/questionnaires
  • Insights from your sales staff’s direct contact
  • Tools like our simple Buyer Persona Worksheet


As you go through the process and learn about these people, you might see that your current marketing will not appeal to your ideal persona. And even if it does, you might choose to focus on a new persona that is a different kind of customer than those you previously attracted. If you want to read a case study, MailChimp recently shared the steps they took to research and create their four personas.

You might be wondering why personal information is included in a buyer persona – it’s often one of the first things our clients ask as we work with them to develop their buyer personas.

There are two big reasons to get personal: first, finding a work-life balance is a common customer motivator, so ignore the personal at your peril. Secondly, you’ll be publishing and sharing content that appeals to your buyer personas to build a relationship and ultimately do business with them, and that appeal depends on who they are as a whole.

When you share content to target your buyer personas, aim for a ratio of 80% content that directly addresses their needs, and only 20% sales-driven marketing messages. “Buy, buy, buy” is not the most engaging way to show people how great you are.

Convinced that building personas is overdue? Start with our blog post How to Create a Buyer Persona You Can Actually Use or download our 8-question Buyer Persona Worksheet.

You can always ask a professional like me to walk you through the process! I might even invite you to Thanksgiving dinner after we’re done.

Don't have buyer personas? Better get on that.

Crafting Effective Buyer Personas-Click Here to Download

John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert, VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager, has more than 25 years of diverse experience in graphic design and publishing, and he enjoys using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients. Whether he’s the worker bee or the one managing the hive, John will go the extra mile to help you achieve the results you want.

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