Why Creating Buyer Personas Is So Important In Branding

All too often, products are developed, campaigns are launched and brands are designed for nameless, faceless users, defined simply by obligatory data points that lack any meaningful context. That is unfortunate because, when this happens, everyone from the companies creating the products to the end user loses.

If you know that your ideal customer is a 28-year-old business woman named Sally who has two children under five, drives a Volkswagen and shops primarily at Whole Foods, you’re in a much better position to begin crafting a visual and verbal identity that will resonate with her than if you simply worked toward an end goal with a “twenty-something female” in mind.

We usually conduct this exercise in the latter half of our first client work session, dedicating between 1.5-2 hours to create three-to-six distinct buyer personas that represent our most common users in as realistic terms as possible. This means we go much further than simply outlining the character’s age, annual income and occupation. We also consider where this person gets their news, what hobbies they enjoy in their free time and where they are most likely to spend their next vacation.

Do personas need to be 100% based on factual evidence or extensive research? No. The real benefit of this exercise is to begin viewing our target demographic or ideal customers as real people rather than as faceless statistics. Here are the top three reasons it is so important to build buyer personas and how you can do so:

Buyer Personas Save Time And Money

It is simply not productive or cost-efficient to begin the design process before you’ve attempted to get to know who your ideal customers might be. This is true of creating almost anything, but it is especially important for executives to remember as they invest valuable time and funds into developing their brand. Imagine you’ve invited a new friend over for lunch. Which of the following processes is more efficient? Making a sandwich and then asking the person you made it for if they have any food allergies as you place the beautifully plated sandwich in front of them or vice versa?

Unless you’re prepared to throw that whole sandwich away when your new friend tells you they’re deathly allergic to mustard, the answer should be pretty obvious. The same is true of a business. If you start building your brand before getting to know your customers, you’re probably going to have to go back and make costly, time-consuming changes that could have been avoided if you had created and referenced your buyer personas.

Buyer Personas Help You Find Your Place In The Customer’s Life

To avoid stereotypes in the work you create, move past the superficial view of a basic buyer persona, which might only include gender, age and income. Those pieces of information are, of course, helpful. But they only provide you with a vague idea of the person you’re targeting. With that limited view, you’re more likely to fall back on generalizations, clichés and stereotypes, which are more likely to turn your customer off (or even offend them) than to convert them into a loyal customer or brand advocate.

The best way to do this is to talk to the real people who are purchasing your product or using your service, ask the right questions and listen fully to what they say. Foster a much deeper connection with your target audience by taking an interest in the minutiae of their identities. Where do they get their news from? Where do they go when they eat out? What hobbies take up most of their free time? Where are they most likely to do their grocery shopping or purchase a new pair of shoes? What do they love to do and what gets in the way of that?

By giving you this full view and intimate understanding of the person you’ve created, buyer personas will also help you define common problems or pain points your customers experience, which, in turn, prepares you to effectively present them with your solution as well as how it can seamlessly integrate into their lives.

Buyer Personas Provide A Bar To Test Against As You Build And Launch

With a complete set of in-depth buyer personas in your arsenal, building and launching your brand will feel less like a gamble because you’ll always have something to test new features or iterations against.

Now that you’re aware that Sally hates aggressive language and brash colors and loves anything that reminds her of children or animals, you’ll know that a bright orange logo probably won’t be her cup of tea and “DON’T GIVE UP UNTIL YOUR DAY IS CRUSHED!” isn’t the best tagline either. Luckily, thanks to the work you did in creating your buyer personas, you can return to the drawing board sooner rather than later to produce something that will engage her in a positive (rather than a negative) way. Depending on who you’re targeting or the medium you are using, your messaging may change slightly. However, your value proposition should always remain consistent.

This article was originally published on Forbes.

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