Why don’t we target everyone? The need for a defined Buyer Persona

Evelyn Wolf by Evelyn Wolf   10 May



A number of years ago I worked for an organisation where my CEO asked me: “Why don’t we just target everyone? In the end, it doesn’t matter where customers come from as long as they do.” You’d be surprised how often I’ve come across this statement since. Let’s look at why targeting everyone equals targeting no-one.  

One of the biggest segments: Women 25 - 45

Undoubtedly, one of the largest consumer target segments out there are women 25 - 45. Let that 20 year age gap sink in for a minute.

When I was 25, my life was quite different to what it is now at 37. And, I’m under no illusion, once I hit 40 it’s going to be massively different again. My big changes came in the form of my career over the years. For some of my female friends, it was starting a family. I can promise you, no woman will feel the same at 25 as she does at 30, 35, 40 etc. Yet, this segment is used across B2C, in particular for FMCG goods, for advertising for decades.

Similar examples take place in B2B. Software targeted at Enterprise. What industry? Who makes the buying decision? Who will use the software? While you might not care who buys in Enterprise as long as they do, you are throwing your message out there and hoping that it will stick (you’re bound to hit someone, right?).

In these examples, you are targeting everyone. When in fact, you are engaging no-one.

Add a story - The behaviour of your segment

Your buyer persona should be based on those who you are already selling to. After all, if you are already selling to a specific type of person, there will be more like that out there. When you analyse your customers first, start with the broad demographics. Can you spot commonality across age, gender, industry, location? Can you now add detail to this such as the department they work in, responsibilities, marital status? Dive deeper here step by step.

Now, add behaviour/psychographics. The easiest way I find to do this is to image a day in the life. You have the basic demographics, now add a story. Let me give you an example here:  

You are selling your B2B software to engineers in large enterprise organisations who are mostly male, aged at the 35-year mark on average, based in an urban setting. Those are some good demographics and we need to add some behaviour here. In an urban setting, you can assume these guys commute rather than drive, they are less likely to have a phone conversation but are more likely to communicate in writing (engineers), they want proof of what works and get their hands dirty before buying. Engineers tend to start late in the day and work into the evenings. These very basic commonalities already tell us the content format they prefer, give an indication that if they consume content it will be on the go (mobile) and they will want to test your software and really want to dive in before considering talking to you (buyer journey). In their day, it makes no sense to send messages while the commute, remember they start later so test a 10am instead of 8am.

You can make assumptions, but beware, you have to verify. Ask some of your customers what their day looks like and put some actual research behind your gut.

Add the why - Understanding your segment

We’ve gone from a broad segment to narrowing it down to your main customer and knowing what their day looks like. Great! The next step is to try and understand why they are your customer. Here, we need to work through a basic decision making funnel:

1. Awareness Stage

Let’s make this clear, this stage has nothing to do with your solution yet. Get it out of your head. This stage is all about your potential customer recognising that they have a problem and wanting to explore this problem. Great brands will show that they emphasise with the problem their personas is facing. Content talks about troubleshooting, issues, how to improve a situation or resolving a problem. Add your personas pain points (the problems they want to solve) into your persona profile.

2. Consideration Stage

At this stage, your persona has a better grasp on the problem they are trying to solve and wants to start considering the different solutions. For our software example, this could be looking at building something inhouse vs purchasing a solution. It could also be looking at different types of software packages. They are getting to grips with what they really need. Start giving your persona details here on options, what works well, what pitfalls to avoid when choosing a solution. Ensure you are not just pushing your product, be sincere and helpful. Open them up to all possibilities. Add to your persona profile what potential solutions to pain points your persona will evaluate.

3. Decision Stage

Now you get to really talk about your product. Your persona is ready to investigate different providers for a solution. So it’s you vs your competition. Work with case studies, reviews and comparisons. In your persona profile, you can add information about what your persona values in your product (and what it might be lacking).

Each stage adds to the “why”. Why people have a problem, why they look at solutions and why decisions are made in a certain way. If you add this to your persona, you will understand the type of content they will be searching for, the formats they prefer, when they need to see answers and more.

Positively affect your conversion

When you work through traditional segmentation, add behaviour as well as the “why” you are left with a much narrower segment; it’s a buyer persona. This can be frightening because you just shrunk your potential market. Take a deep breath.

By knowing what your persona really cares about you can be extremely targeted. Your efforts across your marketing channels will lead to higher results. So instead of having a vast target market and small to moderate conversion rates, your efforts will result in much higher conversion rates to visit, lead and customer because you are only talking to people who are actually interested. No more throwing mud and hoping it will stick.

Not only will your conversion rates rise, your budgets and working effort are likely to decrease as you focus on only the channels and messages that you know are most likely to work for your persona.

When you target everyone, no-one feels spoken to directly. No-one feels like they should engage as your message isn’t directed at them. A focused buyer persona changes this. Watch your conversion rates increase, your efforts becoming more focused, your spend reducing and your ROI increasing.

Topics: Inbound Marketing

Evelyn Wolf

Written by Evelyn Wolf

Inbound strategy specialist and content creator. She will turn your web presence into a magnet and always has wind in her sails.