There are plenty of people who could be your client. There are only a few who stand out as the types you should want to be your client.
Growing a practice requires that you provide a serivce that people want, and who are aware of your existence when they want it.
Additionally, you really want to be sure you target the right types of people, because the wrong types of clients can wreak havoc on your growth objectives as well as the amount of enjoyement you get from your work.
What you need is to develop a marketing strategy that allows you to be present at the moment the people who you think need what you offer, decide for themselves that they need it.
Being present could mean a commercial on the radio, an ad in the newspaper, a blog article a video on Youtube, or being referred to a potential client by someone who already knows you.
The only way to ensure that you are present in this way is to develop effective buyer personas.
Who is this article for?
I am writing this article as an introduction to the concept of a buyer persona for professional service providers who want to:
- Grow their practice
- Stop wondering why their marketing efforts have not produced the results they want
- Enjoy their practice by working with certain types of people
This article is not meant to be comprehensive as the concept of a buyer persona is a complex one. My mission is to introduce you to a simple version of the concept, and why it is something either you or your current marketing consultant should be considering.
First – Why do people buy things?
People buy services and products because of their belief that they need to make a change. I know that some marketers believe that it is their job to alter the beliefs of their target audience, but in the case of professional services, it is more cost effective to find people who already know they need what you offer.
Said another way, you want to be present when people somehow arrive at the conclusion that they need to make a change, and part of that change means they need your services.
Some people call this a trigger event. Some people call it being there when someone is “on”.
I don’t care what you call it. All I know is that if you can be present when your ideal target audience decides they need what you offer, you are miles ahead of the competition. Not only that, if you do it right, you will be present with a “message” that resonates with them, in the format they like to consume.
In order to arrive at this moment when your next client decides to make this change, you need to develop buyer personas.
What is a Buyer Persona?
According to Tony Zambito, who in my not so humble opinion, is the buyer persona guy, the definition of a buyer persona is:
Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions.
I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)
When you think about it, a persona is really just a collection of qualitative data or information that tells you what makes the people you want to attract tick. Think in terms of a day-in-the-life of your sterotypical buyer.
In a less abstract illustration, if you are a dentist who provides cosmetic dentistry, you may target woman of a certain age and a certain location. The persona would be developed by understanding:
- What they are trying to accomplish
- What drives their behavior
- How they think
- Why they buy what they buy
- Where they buy it
- When they buy it
Woman of a certain age tells you who you want to attract, but it doesn’t tell you anything about them, their underlying story or what makes their world go round, independent of you.
How is a Persona different than an Ideal Client Profile?
At the root of the difference between a client profile and a persona is context. A profile doesn’t give you the contextual stories of the types of people you want to attract. In what context will you place yourself in front of your ideal client, and how will they respond to you? That is what persona development seeks to advance your ability to answer.
You will find a plethora of articles written about what is and how to develop a buyer persona. What you will not find much of is a proper distinction between an ideal client profile and an ideal buyer persona. These are absolutely not the same thing, and to treat them as such, can be disastrous to your marketing efforts.
In one of Tony Zambito’s articles, “Why the Difference Between Buyer Profiling and Buyer Personas Matters”, Tony provides a lot of useful information as well as this fairly simple chart helping us all see the difference between the two concepts.
If we stick with the woman of a certain age example for a dentist, we can start to illustrate the differences between a profile and a persona, and why they are vastly different concepts.
A woman is a certain age and lives in a certain area. She drives a certain type of car and sends her children to a certain type of school. She is married to a professional and lives in a home that has a household income of $300,000. She has a college degree and in some cases an advanced degree. She reads the local newspaper as well as man popular feminist magazines. She watches Bravo. She and her family travel to Europe once a year. They have a swimming pool in their backyard, and also enjoy a membership at the local country club.
Barbara is the mother of one or more children who lives in New England. She is an active member of her community and participates in activities that range from her kids schools to local nonprofits and church groups. She makes purchases in line with keeping up with her need to align with the latest trends. She listens to and observes her friends, and reads a number of female oriented magazines to stay on top of the latest trends. As such, she is influenced by her friends, as well as celebrities. Barbara loves dogs and spends a great deal of time with her own. She is a member of the local Boosters club and believes in supporting school activities. She has discretionary income but is still frugal about what she buys. Her appearance is important for both status and a sense of well being. Status matters in so much as the social circles she is in, and those she wishes to be in. She drives a nice car more because it makes her look good than because of the quality. The busiest part of her day is when she wakes up, and slows down a bit when her kids are off to school. This is the time she chats with friends, hangs out on social media or goes shopping.
As you create the narrative, you can start to see some rich information about the type of woman you would want to attract. This then becomes one of your personas. It could very well be that this is the only persona a dentist would need, but it is more likely that there are other types of people who need cosmetic dentistry, and have a completely different narrative.
Why do you need a buyer persona?
I feel almost silly asking this question now. The common sense answer is, without this information, your marketing efforts become much less target and focused, allowing for the attraction of the wrong people at completely random intervals. Nothing you say or do will be perceived in the context of the narrative experienced by the people you are trying to attract.
This makes it not only difficult to affect consistent growth, it makes it impossible to grow by attracting the right people, on purpose.
What you say, when you say it, how you say it, to who you say it to, where you say it and why you say it are all related to a thorough understanding of the persona or personas you create. While the persona itself is a fictional character, it is an amalgamation of the characteristics of the type or types of person or people you want to attract.
By understanding their stories, you can place your self more strategical in their narrative, in the context that will resonate when them, at a time that they are in need of and ready to buy your services.
I do some marketing work for a local Orthodontist. She has a unique, if not revolutionary, approach to her practice. When I discovered her work, I didn’t need to go to deep to discover a high level buyer persona for her marketing efforts.
“Orthodontic treatment to help a 55 year old woman who needs braces avoid surgery to break her jaw.”
That is an example of something we have used to attract a certain type of person to her practice. Without understanding some basic persona attributes, her marketing language wouldn’t be so exact, and would probably look like every other Orthodontist.
“Braces for people over the age of 45”
Surely you can see the difference between the two, and why the first “headline” would be far more effective in attracting anyone over the age of 45, let alone a woman who didn’t want her jaw broken.
Uncovered Buyer Insights
The objective, believe it or not, of any type of meaningful buyer persona development exercise is to uncover the underlying reasons that people do what they do. Often times, without careful analysis, buyers themselves don’t even know why they do what they do. All the more reason why you want to carefully analyze their stories, to be sure you are “speaking” to their reality.
An example might be that a person advertises in the yellow pages because they are afraid that they are somewhere their competition is not.
Everyone has fears, desires, concerns and beliefs. Everyone has agendas that are either personalized or part of a larger group.
The objective of buyer persona development is to uncover those qualities in the people you want to work with, so you can engage with them, on their terms, and in their narrative.
Create a List of Who You Want to Work With – If you have clients now, and you have some you like, create a list. If you don’t have clients, or you believe the ones you have are not optimal, create a profile of sorts of the type of people you want to work with.
Preferably, you chose people who value your style and want to pay for premium services.
Start Gathering Persona Information – You may already know the stories of the people you want to work with, or you may have to go uncover them. Either way, start mapping out the narratives of the type of person you want to work with. What are their goals, fears and objectives. Why would they buy your services? What are they afraid of? Where do they hang out? How do they make decisions? What criteria do they use to make good choices? How do they measure their success?
Note, if you don’t have this information, you will need to find it. You can interview people directly or you can start to listen to people and the things they express on social media. You can also, if you have a list available, send out a survey crafted to deliver this kind of information.
Create the Persona – After you have gathered enough information so that you can craft a story, document your persona, give it a name of sorts and leverage it to create a marketing plan designed only to attract that type of person.
At this point, you want to avoid crafting stories that fit your narrative, which is a common pitfall. This persona is a mock up of real people who have real problems who need what you offer, but don’t care about it from your point of view. They want to know that you know them, and can serve their needs. Craft your personas to help you better serve their needs.
If you need some help, feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to lend a hand.
You might argue that this is all a matter of semantics, and you would be dead wrong. Knowing who you want to target does you absolutely no good in knowing why they would care at all about your existence. To get them to care about your existence you have to reach them on their terms, not yours. Their terms are defined by their stories, their lives, their objectives. They don’t care about you as much as they care about you caring about them.
Personas are the starting point of you having the ability to hone in on, and attract, the people you really and truly want to work with. They allow you to be present at the moment in time the people believe they need you, and enhance your ability to resonate with them.
This is just a introduction to give you a sense of how you need to start thinking about marketing your services and growing your practice. Over time, I will add articles to dive into more detail about each of these the topics covered here.