Buyer Personas for Dummies

Carole Mahoney of Mahoney Internet Marketing and the Smarketing Blog burst onto my consciousness at the HubSpot conference in Boston. I was fascinated to hear how creatively she uses personas to find the most effective online marketing strategies for her business customers, and she kindly agreed to do a guest post on the topic.

How a Start Up, Solopreneur, or Small Business can create and use buyer persona modes.

Behavioral scientists have been studying how people operate and what motivates them to do so for many years. In all the research and various concepts derived from it, there is one thing they all have in common: there are four basic modalities of behavior that can be distinguished from one other. They are:

Star Wars Buyer Personas

Competitive, spontaneous, humanistic, methodical


  1. Competitive
  2. Spontaneous
  3. Humanistic
  4. Methodical

The trick is to understand these four modalities well enough to be able to identify those your target customer is in when faced with solving a problem that can be solved with your product or service. [Editor’s note: see Carole’s post Customer Profile Examples for more about the four customer profiles.]

What you are really trying to accomplish with a buyer persona mode is to get inside their head and understand why they want to buy and how they want to buy it. Once you have an answer to those questions, you know enough to start developing and testing a marketing strategy that helps you to find your target audience.

The inbound gurus at Hubspot listed 9 basic questions you should be asking when developing your personas. It’s a good place to start. Here is how you start answering some of the questions they say you should be asking.

What is their demographic profile? What is their job and level of seniority?
This is an easy one. Make some observations about your current customers and prospects. Then go to Facebook Ads and/or LinkedIn ads, create a dummy ad and start filling in some of that demographic information. The results will not only confirm (or disprove) your assumptions, they will offer you new insight into the demographics of your target customer and how to reach them.

What does a day in their life look like? What are their pain points? What do they value most? What are their goals?
The simplest way to find this out to is to ask. If you don’t have any customers you can ask now, identify who in your current network knows people who might be your ideal customer. Ask them what their co-workers’ day looks like. Are they running from one task to the next? Are they in meetings all day long? Are they pulled in too many directions to be effective? What annoys them the most? What delights them? What do they wish they could do, but are challenged by?.

Where do they go for information?
This is the million dollar question every marketer is trying to figure out. Why? Because you want to be in those places too.

The mistake that many marketers make is assuming that because someone is looking, they are ready to buy. This is rarely true. What you want to figure out is, where do they start their buying process? Do they go online? If yes, what keywords do they use in Google? Focus your SEO efforts on the phrases your customer likely uses.

Again, advertising to the market research rescue. Use the keyword tool in Google AdWords to do your keyword research.

Also consider what associations (Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureau) and other media outlets (Yelp, Facebook) your customers might turn to for information. The goal is to be in the places they are, and ones that might not necessarily be the next social media craze.

What are their most common objections to your product or service?
Don’t wait for objections to come; bring them up. Objections are not always about you- they may be about risk to the customer. When you look at objections as an opportunity to learn, they become much less intimidating.

Objections make excellent blog posts too. Don’t hide from them, bring them up first. It helps to establish transparency and trust.

How do I identify with this persona? What experience are they looking for when shopping for your products and services?
In answer to this final question, here are four questions I ask to help entrepreneurs answer to identify and engage with their buyer personas:
1. What is their attitude like?
2. How do they use their time?
3. How do they ask questions?
4. What approach should you use accordingly?

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Carole MahoneyAbout the author
Carole Mahoney is the founder of Mahoney Internet Marketing, a consulting firm focusing on sales and marketing strategy, management, and analysis. For more about Carole, check out her musings on the Smarketing blog, or watch her ADHD in real time on Twitter.

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