Buyer personas are all-important for any business looking to improve the way it targets customers. Here’s why.

A buyer persona is a fictionalised version of your ideal customer. Essentially, it puts a name and face to the group of core characteristics, behaviours, needs, and problems of your target audience. The purpose of buyer personas is to help you understand your customers; what motivates them? What do they care about? How do they consume information?

The number of buyer personas you need will vary according to your business. Sometimes a market is small, and therefore requires only one or two: there probably isn’t much demographic research to do if you’re trying to sell a magazine for UK librarians, for example, so you’re probably okay sticking with Bookish Beth. Sometimes you’ll be targeting a number of different customer types, with different interests, temperaments, and traits: a video game, for example, could theoretically appeal to Casual Chloe (who will play when her mates come over, when there are no good films out, or whenever she gets bored), Dadbod Dan (who will play for an hour or two when the kids finally fall asleep), and Neckbeard Nick (who will complete every mission, find every collectible, coat his chin bristles in Dorito dust and basically give his life over to the game, stopping only when work or continence are at stake). In this case, your created personas would need to account for each type.

Negative buyer personas

Of course, sometimes you just don’t want a certain kind of customer. Sometimes the sign says “Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply” for a very good reason.

Certain groups might be irrelevant – for example, a professional who’s far too advanced for it. They might also be too expensive, or unlikely to buy from you again. Negative buyer personas can be helpful in these instances.

Refund Ruby might habitually return items. Wasteful Wally might tie up customer service lines for hours – the amount of time invested in him exceeding the amount of money he spends on your products. Negative buyer personas help you dissuade these individuals from engaging with your brand and eating up your company’s time. They aren’t a license to be unfriendly or hostile to would-be customers, of course: they’re simply meant to ensure that these customers never find you in the first place.

Why bother?

Because buyer personas help you create more personalised marketing campaigns – and in 2017 and beyond, personalisation is the name of the game. A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that it can reduce extra costs by 50%, lift revenues by 5-15%, and increase the efficiency of your spend by 10-30%.

Buyer personas enable you to target different audience segments and unlock the benefits of personalisation. It’s the difference between sending the same email to your entire database and sending different emails to different clusters of customers – or even different individuals. It’s the difference between attracting customers who will spend money with your business, and wasting time on customers who won’t.

Most importantly, it’s the difference between whether your marketing strategy fails – or succeeds beyond your wildest expectations.