Martin Broadhurst By Martin Broadhurst • March 11, 2013

Inbound marketing 101: buyer personas explained

Want to know more about buyer personas, or user personas, as some people call them? Here you will find a comprehensive guide to what a buyer persona is and why it matters to your marketing.

Definition of buyer persona

One of the most concise explanations of a buyer persona that I have found comes from HubSpot, who tell us:

"Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behavior, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations, and concerns."

Why do I need buyer personas?

Buyer personas ensure your content marketing efforts are focused on reaching the right person to sell your products or services to. A common mistake people make is to confuse buyer personas with simple demographic information; there is much more to it than age, sex and location.

In an interview with the Content Marketing Institute, Ardath Albee explained the important difference between demographic insight and a complete buyer persona:

"A buyer persona really is a composite sketch, representative of a segment of your target market. So, the difference between traditional profiling or target markets is that those were done for us as the company.

So, for example, I ask a lot of people when I first start working with them, “Tell me who you’re selling to.” You get a standard “We’re selling to CIOs and companies with revenues over a hundred million in the financial services industry,” and that’s what they think is their target market. Well, that’s not a persona, it’s a demographic explanation of the kind of companies they go after and the area within a company they go after.

Whereas, a persona is really focused on the roles and responsibilities of particular people that you are going to try to establish dialogue and conversation with, that are going to be part of that purchasing process. One of the things that traditional targeting didn’t really account for is that in B2B, especially, it’s not one person doing the buying. So, there are a lot of other people who have to decide and provide consensus in order for that decision to get made.

In fact, I just did a project where we discovered the primary target they were going after really wasn’t involved in the buying process, other than to approve budget. So, they were wasting a lot of time and effort. So, that’s how critical personas can be in doing B2B content marketing."

How do I create a buyer persona?

Step 1: Define The different client types

You need to be clear who the biggest buyers of your products are. For example, if you offer laundry services you might sell mostly to domestic clients, hotel and hospitality firms and health care professionals. Give each one of these a detailed description, including name, industry, job title and demographic info. Some of this information will be guesswork but that's okay. Once you have them defined, give them names such as "Domestic Diane", "Hospitality Hugo" and "NHS Betty."

Step 2: Understand the buyer's needs

For each of the profiles you just defined you will need to identify their specific needs. Knowing their pain points will help you segment your marketing messaging so that it remains relevant to the individual. Sticking with the laundry example, Domestic Diane's biggest pain point could be a lack of time to wash and iron the family's clothes whereas NHS Betty could be more concerned with minimising the environmental impact of uniform laundry.

When considering these paint points, HubSpot recommends asking the following questions:

  • What are the biggest problems they are trying to solve?
  • What do they need most?
  • What information are they typically searching for?
  • What trends are influencing their business or personal success?
  • What can my organisation provide to solve the buyer's problems?


Step 3: Tap in to each persona’s typical online behavior

Now that you know who your audience is and what their pain points are you should look to understand what it is that they do online. Think about where you will be able to reach these different audiences (blogs, social media, SEO) and what types of content they will respond best to. How do your buyers look to educate themselves when trying to solve their problems?

If domestic Diane is active on social media and looks for recommendations from online peers, make sure you are active in those circles. Likewise, NHS Betty might be better served with an environmental impact calculator to assess how much energy can be saved by using your business.

The outcome of this simple three step process should give you everything you need to get started to create valuable content for your different buyer personas in order to drive traffic and start generating new business leads.