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Inbound Marketing Blog

    To Determine Your Business’s Buyer Personas, Try A/B Testing

    Posted by Taylor Eben

    Buyer personas? Good. A/B testing? Good. What about A/B testing buyer personas?

    Constructing buyer personas is useful for any business. Buyer personas determine the ways in which individuals can interact with your business. To sell a product or service to a prospective customer, you have to understand how that prospective customer buys.

    Designing one landing page or running one Facebook ad just doesn’t work anymore. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof, one-size-fits-all methodology when it comes to getting more clicks, sign ups or conversions.

    You need to have a set of specific buyer personas in place and tailor your content accordingly. If not, you’re conducting your marketing efforts rather blindly.

    Types of Buyer Personas

    In Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?, online marketing experts Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg suggest that all customers can be split up into four buyer personas: competitive, spontaneous, methodical and humanistic. Although there are four distinct buyer personas, every person who sees a Facebook ad, opens an email or visits a landing page is going to ask themselves the same question: What’s in it for me?

    The competitive buyer makes up 5-10% of the buyer persona spectrum. They value speed and efficiency and make decisions quickly. The competitive buyer is primarily motivated by the competitive advantage they could gain, regardless of cost. If you want the competitive buyer to convert, you have to blatantly state the benefits and the advantage they have to gain with the evidence to back it up. The competitive buyer is very data-driven.

    The spontaneous buyer makes up 25-35% of the spectrum. They’re easy-going and make decisions quickly, but unlike the competitive buyer who is motivated by logic and numbers, the spontaneous buyer is motivated by emotion. If you want the spontaneous buyer to convert, you have to make them feel like they’re trying something new and exciting for the first time. The spontaneous buyer tends to be easily distracted, so make sure your messaging and design get right to the point without being too plain or boring.

    The methodical buyer makes up the largest chunk of the spectrum: 45%, according to the Eisenberg brothers. They are in no rush to make a decision. The methodical buyer is driven by logic and doesn’t make a decision without researching the facts and evidence. If they have questions, they want answers. They’re the type of buyer who reads the fine print. To get the methodical buyer to convert, you have to hawk your credibility and share as much pertinent information necessary to debunk any skepticism.

    The humanistic buyer makes up 15% of the spectrum. Emotionally driven, the humanistic buyer is more motivated by being able to relate to something rather than by numbers. They are most interested in buying something that can help them. Imagery, storytelling, testimonials and any messaging that evokes emotion are particularly effective ways to reach the humanistic buyer.

    How to Create Buyer Personas

    The Eisenberg brothers’ buyer personas separate customers based on the speed of their decisions and how they behave when making a purchase, but those four categories aren’t the be all, end all of buyer personas.

    Your business is unique, and so are your buyer personas.

    Researching and creating unique buyer personas is a smart move for any business because it will provide valuable insight into how to appeal to your customers. Otherwise, you’re taking a shot in the dark. If you don’t know exactly which prospective customers you’re going after, how can you expect to convert them successfully?

    Instead of assuming what your customers will respond to, you’ll KNOW what they’ll respond to.

    Buyer personas go beyond the obvious details (age, gender, geographic location, etc.) and get way more specific. Think demographics, personality traits, interests, beliefs and motivations. Together, those characteristics represent one type of ideal customer. The customer is even given a name and considered to be an actual person. Here's a great example:

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    There are lots of questions to ask when creating buyer personas. Ultimately, your primary objective is to get as specific as possible. If there's one thing you can never do enough of, it's research. Ask yourself:

    What’s a day in the life? Determine your persona’s typical day, including their job responsibilities and what they do outside of work. What are their job hours? Do they spend more time at work or home? Where would they rather be? What do they do to blow off steam or have fun?

    Don’t make the mistake of creating personas in silos. In real life, personas interact with one another. If you want your personas to be of us, incorporate their relationships with other personas, like a supervisor’s relationship with a subordinate employee. This provides a much deeper understanding of a persona’s behaviors, pain points and obstacles.

    To really understand what it’s like to walk in a persona’s shoes, write it in the first-person. First-person wording is much more insightful than a third-person explanation.

    What are their objectives? You want your message to resonate. To do that, you have to know what your persona’s goals and responsibilities are.

    What are their pain points? Get granular when identifying your persona’s problems. How do these problems make them feel? For example, your persona isn’t frustrated by “inefficiencies” in the workplace; they’re frustrated by a convoluted workflow that prevents them from reaching deadlines.

    In the uber-competitive business climate we live in, fully fleshing out your buyer personas is worth your while. According to a 2016 benchmark study conducted by Cintell, a customer intelligence platform that helps businesses better understand their customers, 71% of companies who exceed revenue and lead goals use personas, compared to the 37% who simply meet goals and the 26% who miss goals entirely. Increased website traffic, improved open and click-through rates, more revenue and more leads are just a few of the benefits you can expect from creating a robust arsenal of buyer personas.

    Your buyer personas are fictional versions of your actual buyers, but they are based on actual data. How do you get that data? Heat maps, the search terms used to find your business, the content they view, customer feedback, Facebook Insights, etc.

    Another method not typically included in that list of “actual data” is A/B testing, which can provide keen insights into your buyers by using customer behavior to fine tune your personas.

    A/B Testing Basics

    A/B testing is a critical component of any marketing plan and is hopefully already a part of your efforts. For those who are unfamiliar, A/B testing is like conducting a scientific experiment (flashback to high school biology): There is a control group and an experimental group, or variation.

    An A/B test pits one variable against another, like a green CTA button versus a red one, or one landing page layout versus another, to see which performs better.

    Experimenting with different headlines, wording, landing page layout and CTA buttons can lead you in the direction of higher conversion rates and more revenue.

    How to Analyze A/B Tests

    Launch your control (A) first. Once it’s been up and running for 24 to 48 hours, it’s time to analyze. Ask yourself:

    • How is the control performing?
    • What are you trying to improve upon? Conversions? Sign ups? Social sharing? Click-throughs?
    • What could be influencing its performance?
    • What could be changed to improve its performance?

    Once you establish the areas that can be improved upon, you can create and launch your variation (B).

    To be able to assess performance accurately, both variations need to be running at the same time for enough time to see substantial results. So, how much time is enough?

    It depends, but the amount of traffic is often the determining factor. For example, if you’re A/B testing Facebook ads typically don’t get a lot of traction, it will take longer to run the A/B test. The only exception is if you’re testing timing, say with finding the best time to send out emails.

    There are a number of tools you can use to analyze results. Some are pricey; some are free; some are built-in. Tools like Optimizely and Kissmetrics A/B Test Report provide super in-depth data. Apps like Hemingway and Grammarly can help you tighten up your copy and make it easier to read. WordPress plugins like Nelio A/B Testing and Simple Page Tester allow you to track visits, heat maps and more. MailChimp already has built-in A/B testing.

    You can also set up a free Google Alert, which will help you determine which AdWords or organic search terms may be worth testing. It also enables you to keep tabs on your competitors’ messaging. You’ll get an email for any new mentions of a keyword, phrase, company, etc.

    Testing 1, 2, 3...

    Some of your buyer persona details may be open to interpretation, but A/B testing gives you hard and fast evidence of your persona’s likes, dislikes, wants, needs and beliefs.

    Pretend you’re a pastry chef known creating exquisite wedding cakes. As an experienced and in-demand pastry chef, you know that your buyer is typically a bride who needs to book with you at least 6 to 12 months out, especially if they’re getting married during the summer. You also know that your buyer is mainly motivated by fear: fear that if they don’t book soon, their big day won’t include an expertly crafted cake. Their wedding may be a year away, but your availability is already dwindling. In turn, your messaging will speak to that fear.

    But you’d be making a mistake by only speaking to that motivation. Don’t isolate the buyers who aren’t driven by fear. A simple A/B test will help you determine which type of buyer persona makes up the bulk of your audience.

    To figure it out, you’d A/B test two landing pages: one that is fear-based and one that focuses on your talent as a seasoned pastry chef and the quality of your services, complete with testimonials that prove you are the best of the best. Both landing pages include an opt-in form that asks for a name, email and wedding date to get more information about pricing, availability and scheduling a tasting.

    Whichever landing page has a higher conversion rate is your real buyer persona.

    An A/B test will give you concrete evidence as to why the buyer took a particular action. You’ll know whether they’re more motivated by fear or what they have to gain; whether they respond to positive or negative language; and what key selling point made them hit the “submit” button.

    Each buyer persona is looking to get something different out of your website and content. With A/B testing, you don’t have to leave it to chance. Once you’ve conducted enough A/B tests to know what makes your buyer persona tick, you’ll know exactly how to resonate with them. It becomes formulaic.

    Update Your Buyer Personas

    Creating buyer personas isn’t a once and done deal. Buyers change and evolve; naturally, personas can become dated and irrelevant over time. If you want your personas to deliver value to your business, you have to update them continuously.

    In the aforementioned Cintell study, nearly 65% of companies that updated their personas within the last 6 months exceeded their lead and revenue goals. In fact, those companies that exceeded revenue goals were 7.4 times more likely to have updated their personas within the last 6 months than their underperforming competition. Keep your personas fresh and relevant by revisiting them at least every 6 months. Assign a point person to keep personas up to date.

    That Cintell study also found that fewer than 30% of survey participants could confidently report that at least half of their organization would be able to name their personas and cite their attributes. If you’ve taken the time to flesh out and A/B test your personas, don’t let that hard work go to waste. Make sure your team understands the significance of buyer personas and the value that they add. Distribute your buyer persona insights to your marketing team, so your research will be utilized.

    Once you’ve identified your buyer personas through A/B testing, you’ll be able to create landing pages, blog posts, emails, Facebook ads and other types of messaging that your buyers will truly be interested in. And because buyer personas are dynamic in nature, you can always fix what isn’t working, and you can always make something that is working work even better.

    Topics: A/B Testing, Marketing, Lead Generation, Content Marketing, buyer personas