Getting To Know You: Building Buyer Personas With Customer Research

Posted on January 12, 2018

Knowledge is power. The more you know, the smarter the decisions you make will be, and the more dependably successful the outcome. This is true in virtually every facet of life, from chess to purchasing property – but it’s especially true for marketers and advertisers.

While you may think of advertising (and its related fields) as creative – all about big ideas and original graphics – it’s actually much more strategic and data-based than you realise. Once upon a time, advertisers simply told consumers what the benefits of their product were, but since the 60s, advertising has been all about selling “the dream” (just watch Adam Curtis’ seminal Century of the Self to see what we mean).

Since none of us shares exactly the same dream, marketing material must be tailored to specific demographics to perform most powerfully. While making a product’s low price point most prominent may appeal to David, highlighting its bonus features may be most compelling for Jan. Maximising the likelihood of a sale is all about approaching the right customers in the right way – and in-depth customer research is the key to this.

Harnessing this type of knowledge is especially important today, as AI and machine learning make digital marketing ever more sophisticated. Today it’s possible to easily segment your customer base, then target them with content personalised based on their likes, dislikes, behaviours, income, age, education – you name it.

So how can you get hold of all of this valuable, powerful knowledge about your consumers?

1. Work with what you’ve got

You may be surprised to know that you’ve already got a wealth of demographic information you can use to hone your marketing – right at your fingertips. From online accounts to social media followers, your business likely has all sorts of information about consumers, ready and waiting to be turned into useful facts.

Short-term lender Wonga recently released some data they’ve gleaned from their customer database which paints a clear (and potentially very useful) picture of their key target customers in South Africa. Their “average” customer? A 34 year old, English-speaking single male, living in Gauteng with no dependents and using his smartphone for 60% of his digital needs. Handy stuff!

2. Run surveys

If you don’t have a wealth of information in your files, or have a specific thing you want to find out about your customers, running surveys can be a good approach. You can develop your own with tools like Survey Monkey and incentivise participation with rewards or a prize draw.

3. Interview consumers

Sometimes data is nothing but numbers and the best way to get to know someone is to sit down face-to-face. Inviting a demographically representative selection of customers to discuss their experiences of your brand, their shopping habits, their outlook and their views on your advertising campaigns can generate extremely valuable insights. Don’t forget to make it worth their while with free travel and treats!


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