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Consumer and Buyer Personas Best Practice

5 min read
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Tips for making sure your personas are working for you

It’s no secret that understanding your consumer or buyer is critical to business and brand success. It’s also true that “you can’t be all things to all people.” At Doe-Anderson, we work with our clients to identify critical, focused audience groups that are our best opportunity for success because they represent the most likely buyer, the best audience for growth or the most likely group to influence others in category decisions.

Understanding these target audiences can lead you to crucial insights that help your brand make a more meaningful connection, drive purchase and even earn loyalty among the target audience. But making sure you have an informative, actionable and useful persona isn’t always easy.

When identifying these audiences, Doe focuses on four criteria:

  1. The audience exists.

    The consumer profile must represent a real situation that exists in the real world. It may sound obvious, but it’s not always easy. Many times we have a vision of who would be “perfect” for our brand or business (often a reflection of the founder or ourselves), and that audience simply doesn’t represent reality.

    The best way to ensure an audience exists is through first-party research. (Who is your real audience? Your real buyer? Your real consumer?)

  2. The audience is identifiable.

    The consumer profile will ultimately need to be defined by core traits that can easily be applied in other planning and marketing efforts. This means we can research these audiences in platforms like MRI-Simmons or Helixa (two tools Doe-Anderson uses) to define traits that distinguish one discreet audience from others.

  3. The audience is sustainable.

    At Doe, we want to ensure the audiences we identify represent long-view opportunities. The consumer profile should represent an ongoing, consistent situation that will yield strategic value over time.

  4. The audience is actionable.

    The profile must be able to be effectively reached through specifically targeted communication initiatives. The existence of your audience doesn’t mean it can be reached directly. Understanding consumer vs. buyer vs. purchase influencer is critical here. This is often true when your efforts are ultimately targeted toward kids (like the anti-vaping work we did in partnership with the Commonwealth of Kentucky). Perhaps you need to redirect your persona or efforts to create a more successful reach plan.

Once we have identified the right profile, we can move into creating the consumer or buyer persona, which is designed to give us a more empathetic, and deeper understanding of the person well beyond how to reach them.

Understanding requires us to look well past demographic data to psychographic traits and even shared attitudes as well as product, category, shopping and media behaviors.

At Doe-Anderson, we use a variety of tools and resources to collect information in four key areas: Demographics, Psychographics, Attitudes and Behaviors.

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Custom quantitative and qualitative research can give us the best look at consumers: who they are, what they think, what they believe, what motivates them and how they act.

From traditional focus groups or surveys executed with select research partners to more innovative approaches like online ethnographies or mobile shop-alongs, we can gain a rich understanding of core audiences.

Extensive desk research using trusted tools can also provide us with deep learnings about different groups. At Doe-Anderson, we subscribe to premium consumer research platforms like Mintel, MRI-Simmons and Helixa. We can also use social listening and research on organic search patterns to unearth meaningful information about how a person uses the product/category, what they care about in the world and where we can best meet them with our message within their real lives.

Desk research can complement field research (either filling in gaps or helping to share the research from the outset) or can supplant field research when budgets or timelines don’t allow for custom research.

Whatever the method, the data must be qualified and thorough to ensure we are operating in reality. Too many marketers rely on basic demographic data embellished by ideas of a buyer persona based on personal experience and perspective rather than statistical, behavioral data. 

To build these personas, Doe’s strategy and media teams work closely together across tools to ensure buyer personas will deliver truly actionable information and insights.

When it comes time to construct the persona, Doe-Anderson synthesizes all data into one clear, meaningful page that becomes a touchstone for all work. It outlines the most useful information relative to the business or brand’s needs.

Doing this extensive work in the beginning of the discovery process – and gaining alignment with our internal and external partners – helps us strengthen our creative work and create more impactful and effective plans.

We created a similar buyer persona to the one above using the principles above for our client at Feeder's Supply & Chow Hound. We focused on buyer behavior as well as demographic data. Snapshots at the bottom provide a look into their lives, and narrative text gives the reader a bit more info into the attitudes and beliefs this audience shares relative to the client's business. The persona work helped us find a meaningful insight, that drove highly effective work.

Ultimately, an effective consumer or buyer persona is one that integrates well-researched demographic, psychographic, attitudinal and behavioral data to provide a holistic picture of the consumer, buyer or influencer and guides strategic and creative direction for your brand’s efforts. 

Interested in learning more or talking about how this process may apply to your brand? Get in touch!

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