By Aaron Agius published May 20, 2019

Buyer Personas: One Method Doesn’t Fit All

In July 2017, I wrote Hacking Your Buyer Personas: The Only 3 Questions You Need to Ask. In it, I shared a stat from IBM’s THINK Marketing blog – “63% of consumers say they would think more positively about a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting, or relevant.” I think that thinking still stands strong.

Persona-based marketing is key to success in many industries.

What was most interesting about that 2017 post were the comments.

I still believe the original article is valid and useful, but it isn’t appropriate for all audiences or situations. One size does not fit all.

Original hack for buyer personas

In the original article, the goal was to provide a way for businesses to glean customer insight without having multiple people answering 150 questions. I proposed three simple questions to ask when hacking a buyer persona.

  • What is the first thing my customer thinks about in the morning?
  • What is the last thing my customer thinks about at night?
  • Why?

The simple questions could help identify the pain points of a typical customer. This specific process was only appropriate in some situations. The three-question buyer persona model could work for businesses tight on time or strapped for cash.

A 3-question buyer persona model works for businesses tight on time or cash, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Reaction to the persona hack

While some comments agreed with the simple approach, others got me to look at buyer personas from a broader point of view. Some themes from those comments include:

  • The three-question methodology can only work when the problem is of high importance in the buyer’s life.
  • You don’t need 150 questions, but you may need the three to go in-depth.
  • Interviews are necessary to develop personas.

With that in mind, I took another persona-building method from my arsenal to share in this article. Sticking to one method is not necessarily the best thing to do; you need many techniques and tactics.

It’s all about finding the right approach for your business and your buyers. And that is key – one size does not fit all.

4 perspectives on personas

Bryan Eisenberg is at the forefront of conversion-based marketing. “Creating personas is really just the beginning,” he says. “A persona is not a document – it is a clear understanding of a target customer that exists in the minds of your team. Personas evolve as your data around them evolves as well.”

Buyer personas evolve as your data around them evolves via @TheGrok. Click To Tweet

In his book Persuasive Online Copywriting, he (along with this brother) identified and labeled four groups of people who use websites – driver, amiable, expressive, and analytical. They later renamed the four personas of website visitors to competitive, spontaneous, humanistic, and methodical.

This thinking expands my original guide to hacking buyer personas into something more actionable for you and your marketing team. Let’s get into the details as detailed by the Eisenbergs.

Competitive: Fast-paced decision-making, logically oriented

The competitive buyers act quickly and make decisions that give them a competitive advantage. Curious by nature, they seek information that will help them make these fast-paced decisions.

Competitive buyers seek info to make fast-paced decisions, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

Spontaneous: Fast-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented

The spontaneous buyer does exactly what you think they might. They purchase on the fly and make decisions based on emotions. They also are known as impulse buyers.

Humanistic: Slow-paced decision-making, emotionally oriented

Like spontaneous buyers, humanistic buyers are motivated by emotion. They need more information than the spontaneous person but less than the methodical. Often slow to commit, the humanistic buyers can become a loyal and repeat customer when marketed to correctly.

Methodical: Slow-paced decision-making, logically oriented

Methodical buyers like to review every detail. They devour all the technical information they can. They’re unlikely to decide until they’re satisfied that they have soaked up all the information they can. Then, and only then, are they ready to make a purchase.

Bryan demonstrates how the personas overlap and merge in this image:

That understanding leads to this graphical analysis:

How to market to those 4 buyer personas

Competitive

Focus on the “what” – show all the options available to them. They:

  • Need to know what makes your brand the best choice. How are you different?
  • Like comparison charts to see how you stack up against your competitors.
  • Want to know what awards you have won and what makes you credible. Who have you worked with?

Above all, you need to make sure the route to purchasing is frictionless for competitive buyers. When they decide, they need to move quickly.

Competitive in real world

Trust signals help the competitive persona get closer to purchasing. Look at this example from Asana showings its clients:

LiquidPlanner combines the companies it has worked with alongside testimonials and stats.

Spontaneous

Spontaneous buyers need to know more of the “why” and “when.” If you get the spontaneous buyers excited about something, then they are more likely to purchase from you. Follow these tips:

  • Make your copy exciting and enticing. Don’t bog them down with the information that the competitive buyer prefers.
  • Create obvious calls to action. Once spontaneous buyers are in the buying zone, they need instant gratification.
  • Help them make the choice quickly and efficiently – limit the choices when possible.

It can be difficult to market to multiple personas. Think carefully how you might hide the technical details from the spontaneous buyer while making them visible to the competitive buyer.

Spontaneous in the real world

Look at Singapore Life to see how it markets the spontaneous persona. The copy is simple and appeals to someone who doesn’t want details.

Its CTAs are clear and give the spontaneous persons the direction they need.

Netflix also is great at targeting the spontaneous person:

.@Netflix landing page is ideal for the spontaneous persona, says @IamAaronAgius. Click To Tweet

It’s uncluttered. The copy is simple. It presents an offer (CTA) and explains succinctly that the service can be canceled at any time. This is the perfect landing page for the spontaneous persona.

Humanistic

While humanistic buyers are motivated by emotion, it can take them a long time to decide. With the humanistic persona, concentrate on the “who” questions:

  • Let them know who uses your products – people they can identify with.
  • Publish testimonials.
  • Provide trust signals.

They are deciding emotionally, but they need the information to make that decision.

Humanistic in the real world

Look at this section of a car insurance website. It shows people who bought the insurance and how much they saved. This strategy appeals to the humanistic persona who needs that personal connection.

Coming back to the Singapore Life example, see how it features what the media is saying about it in the middle of the home page, perfect for the humanistic persona.

Methodical

The methodical buyers want all the information – they review everything before they consider a purchase. Focus on “how” questions:

  • Show them how the product works. Provide technical details, but recognize that a video never hurts.
  • Focus on features over benefits; the methodical buyer is not emotionally motivated.

Methodical in the real world

The methodical person is likely to want to see how something works. Monday (a planning and productivity product) exemplifies how to market to the methodical persona. Each step shows clearly what the product does.

The home page is feature-based and videos further down provide additional details on the benefit.

Pick the persona-building method that’s right for your brand

No matter what kind of persona-building you are undertaking, make sure it is right for your business – that it provides the information you need.

You may find that my three-questions approach is best or you may find that the Eisenberg method is a good fit. Or you may want to look at a post that I wrote way back in 2014 that covered 100 Questions to Ask Yourself When Creating a Buyer Persona – essentially the super complete buyer persona model.

If you want to take it further, you may want to investigate some other methods to gather even more data on your buyer personas. Dig into:

  • Qualitative personas.
  • Qualitative personas with quantitative validation.
  • Quantitative personas.

There isn’t time to look at all of these in one article, but I strongly suggest you read this research paper by Steven Mulder. It covers more in-depth methods of building personas.

Don’t take any advice from experts at face value. Take what they propose, compare it to what other experts recommend, and see how it applies to your unique situation. Be inquisitive and figure out which buyer-persona-building method is right for you.

For competitive and spontaneous buyers, be one of the early birds and save money. Register now for exclusive early-bird rates to Content Marketing World. For the humanistic and methodical buyers, check out the event website for testimonials, agenda details, and much more. (And still save by registering before May 31.) And all personas can save $100 more by using code CMIBLOG100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Aaron Agius

Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online.

Other posts by Aaron Agius

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