"Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all -- in marketing, sales, product, and services -- internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention." -- Pamela Vaughan, HubSpot
While traditional advertising focused on outbound methods like radio, television, and billboards, it also utilized an outdated concept--target markets. Typically a target market represented people grouped by demographic characteristics like income, location, race, and gender. Because the marketing channels were broad by nature, so were the target markets.
Today we know this is an inefficient and expensive way to reach our ideal customers. All thirty to forty year-old middle income women in Columbus, Ohio are not the same. And as a result their needs, challenges, and buying habits aren't the same either. Personas solve for that problem so marketers can better reach the ideal customers for their clients without the needless expense and effort of marketing to people who are not interested in the given brand.
A persona is more specific, a narrow vertical that is clearly defined and understood. Instead of the previous broad example, a persona might be something like this:
Suzy Soccer mom is a thirty-five year-old working mother who lives in Powell, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. She works in Human Resources at a local hospital and spends most of her free time running her three children to sports practices, games, and school events. She often feels overworked, underpaid, and under-appreciated. Her biggest challenge is finding the time and energy to keep up with all the commitments for her busy family.
Do you see the difference? Marketing to Suzy can be tightly targeted, and done well, even helpful. Marketing to the middle-aged middle-income target market could easily be a hit or miss because we simply don't know enough to do an adequate job.
Taking the time to properly research and understand your buyer personas is the key foundation of any successful marketing initiative whether it be a marketing plan, campaign, or even a single piece of marketing.