Written by Ian Landsman in

Who Are You Supporting? Defining Buyer Personas

The tech-loving college student.

The CIOs, CEOs, CFOs, and rest of the c-suite.

The SMB owner.

The family of four.

The computer savvy senior.

Your business serves hundreds or even thousands of customers. Your products or services are intended to meet their wants, solve their problems and, in general, improve their days. Whether you’re a B2C or a B2B business, you’re looking to provide what your customers need.

Because they wouldn’t really be interested in purchasing anything from you otherwise, right?

Before you can offer up a product or service your target audience will purchase, subscribe to or otherwise engage with (or even what product or service you should offer!), you have to understand who these people are.

You might’ve heard about buyer personas (or customer personas) before. Today, we’ll discuss what they are, and how understanding them can help you provide better service.

What Is A Buyer Persona?

“A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” - Sam Kusinitz, HubSpot

Your marketing team knows about these buyer personas. Your sales team knows of these, too. (and if they don’t, they should!)

Buyer personas break down your target audience(s) into detailed, custom segments that look at who your customers are, and how different groups of them need different kinds of support from you.

For example…

You run an online delivery service that works with local casual and fine restaurants to provide quick and easy pickup and delivery services to homes in a 10-mile radius.

So, who do you “cater” to? Hungry people, and people feeding hungry people. But let’s break this down further:

Jessica, the college student: Age between 18 and 24, orders tend to come in late at night, or at places other than residences, such as libraries, students centers. She tends to place the same food order over and over again, though her location changes. She pays with her credit card.

Bill, the parent: Tends to be on-the-go, often grabbing food for two or more people. The perk of your delivery service for him is your ability to efficiently deliver from multiple places, allowing Joe to get kid-friendly food and what he prefers. Timeliness is important, because he can’t serve the kids too late - and he has a soccer practice to get to. His debit card is saved in his online profile, and he really appreciates your mobile app.

Susan, the employee: Susan’s really busy. She has exactly one hour for lunch, but in reality, she’s going to work through most of lunch. She didn’t bring lunch, so she’s counting on you to deliver at exactly the time you promised - early in her lunch hour, so she can eat before her 1:00 p.m. meeting. She’ll step outside for some fresh air and pay in cash when she meets your driver.

Joe and Megan, the salespeople: This dynamic duo - realtors, account executives, fundraisers, etc. - have an important meeting with key people they intend to impress. They’re usually based in delivery locations that are surrounded by rush hour traffic. Your delivery from the nice Italian deli down the road needs to arrive on time, and come with all the essentials to make this food look presentable, including quality plates, cups, napkins, and utensils. They tip well, if you make them look good.

Nick, the writer: He’ll be home all day, pondering his next book. He likes to try different places and experience new delicacies. Luckily for you, he actively posts feedback about what he likes and doesn’t like, providing you with information about which restaurants you should pursue partnerships with in the future.

Those example buyer personas are overly simplified, but they give you an idea of the kinds of things you should consider when building out profiles of your key customer segments. Consider details such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Purchasing Habits
  • Interests
  • Job Title/Industry
  • Hobbies
  • Preferred Communication Methods

Buyer personas are incredibly valuable, as long as the information you use to create them is based on real experiences and data. No stereotypical assumptions here, folks. There are stay-at-home dads, one “millennial” can be quite different from another, and seniors do know how to use the Internet. Look at your data and your experiences to begin to shape these personas.

Understanding these personas, and being able to quickly identify which categories new customers fall into, is critical to offering the right product or service to them. It’s a key part of the initial sale.

But it’s also incredibly helpful for customer support, as well.

Using Personas In Customer Service

Think of the sample personas listed above.

How you provide proactive customer service and respond to a customer should be adjusted based on your understanding of what this particular individual needs most from you.

Customer service starts from the first moment of the customer experience.

  • For our student Jessica, that means getting her food and coffee to her while it’s still hot, despite it being 2 a.m.
  • For Bill, it’s providing a mobile app that’s smart enough to remember his past orders and delivery preferences.
  • For Susan, it’s providing discrete methods of placing her order and receiving delivery updates, such as text and email, that don’t disrupt her busy co-workers.
  • For Joe and Megan, it means having your delivery drivers dressed in a professional fashion, prepared to enter whatever formal building in which your services are being requested.
  • For Nick, it means providing multiple options for him to place reviews and feedback for your review, such as your website and your social media channels.

But customer support carries through the life of the relationship, too.

  • You know that Jill is a repeat buyer and on a limited budget, so you’ll send her rewards points that allow her to order food at a lower cost, as a thank you for her business.
  • You know that one time Bill’s order was delayed, it wreaked havoc at his house, so you’ve sent along an apologetic gift card, and outlined steps being taken to ensure that never happens again.
  • You know that Susan’s pleased with your services, and you request that she join an incentive program where she’ll receive perks when she refers her coworkers to you. She feels valued and rewarded for her loyalty, while you benefit, as well.
  • You notice a lot of your customers are Joes and Megans impressing their clients, and so you offer a new premium service that provides additional catering supplies, ensuring the quality of the dishes and utensils you deliver does not vary based on the restaurants chosen for their food.
  • You know Nick’s feedback has made a difference in how your business runs. You tell him so, frequently, and assign him a customer representative that provides him with a direct contact for feedback, while also giving him first looks at new programs and incentives rolling out.

Understanding your buyer personas means knowing exactly what you offer your various customer segments, and tailoring your efforts to help each group in just the right way.

Sure, your tagline might serve to speak to all, and so can your :30 elevator pitch. But how you follow through - how you provide good service, at all times, depends greatly on knowing exactly what they need from you, even if those needs vary from person to person.

Your marketing team might use buyer personas to get people through the door. Now you can use them to build loyalty and increase retention. And, of course, to delight your customers!

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About the author

Ian Landsman of UserScape

Ian is the founder of HelpSpot and also podcasts at Bootstrapped.fm.

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