Buyer Personas: Inbound Marketing’s Own Criminal Minds – Douglas Phillips


Inbound marketing is, more often than not, all about knowing how your ideal customers think.

Having a solid grasp of who your customers are, what they want when they visit your website, and how they usually like to consume information can help you craft more effective messaging for your marketing efforts.

In a recent call I had with a customer, I was trying to explain why buyer personas are important and how they work. The customer wanted to know how buyer personas helped them and why they should bother doing the research.

One of the first things that I thought of to explain the concept of buyer personas was the concept of criminal profiling a la the show Criminal Minds.

How Is Making a Buyer Persona Like an Episode of Criminal Minds?

You might be wondering what a TV show and your marketing efforts might have in common. Surprisingly enough, quite a bit!

If you’re not familiar with the show Criminal Minds, the basic gist is that it’s a crime drama about a team of FBI profilers who analyze the actions of various criminals to:

  • Establish the criminal’s background;
  • Determine elements of the criminal’s psychology and beliefs; and
  • Predict the criminal’s future behavior.

Using this information, the team creates a profile of the criminal that they then use to identify and capture them using various psychological ploys that take advantage of the criminal’s tendencies.

In a way, creating a buyer persona isn’t all that different from the criminal profiling used by the FBI team in the show.

The main differences are the scale of the profile and the goal. Where Criminal Mind’s FBI team is analyzing the actions of one person to do a deep dive into their psyche, you’ll be looking at the actions of many different people to establish a general pattern of behavior.

Creating a Buyer Persona

Buyer Persona Graphic

So, how does one create a buyer persona that will actually be useful?

A good place to start is by analyzing all of your top-performing customers. These are the people who bring you the most business with the least drama or heavily evangelize for your company. They are the customers who you’re always happy to see in your office or to hear from on the phone.

Note that these personas aren’t necessarily going to be based on your biggest clients, but the ones who bring you a lot of business.

Yes, there is a difference.

For example, you might have a client that’s a large company with big orders, but they may experience so many issues that they end up eating more resources that are worth more than what they pay you for. They might not be the best client to target for a customer persona.

When looking at your highest-performing accounts, try to take a look at:

  • What it is that they’re looking for on your website;
  • How they reached your website; and
  • How they used your site.

Those first two points are easy enough to find by checking your Google Analytics (or HubSpot Analytics) tools to identify traffic sources and which pages had the most views and fewest bounces. The third bullet might be a bit trickier to manage unless you have a heat mapping software program.

Heat mapping software puts a bit of code on your site pages that tracks how people interact with your website—including where they’re clicking and how long they’re sitting on each page.

This lets you know what is and isn’t working, giving you an idea of what works with your customers so you can focus on things that will help convert more customers and avoid things that put them off.

In addition to checking how they’re interacting with your website, try to establish the following information about each of your buyer personas to flesh them out a bit:

  • Personal Data. How old are your ideal customers, on average? What is their general level of education? Do they have a family or not?
  • Their Primary Industry. What field of expertise do they specialize in? How long have they been a part of that industry and why do your products appeal to that industry/market?
  • Job Titles and Responsibilities. At work, what do these people do? Who do they report to, and who reports to them? This is often more important for B2B organizations to know than it is for B2C companies.
  • Where They Live/Work. What is the location of this person or their business?
  • Short and/or Long Term Goals. Given their job responsibilities and personalities, what are the biggest goals that the buyer is trying to meet—both now and in the future?
  • Pain Points/Challenges. Most of the time, when someone visits your website, they have some kind of immediate need. When your best customers visit your site, what are the biggest challenges that they’re typically trying to overcome? Knowing this is always useful information.
  • Information Sources. Where do your ideal customers go to get their information? What online hangouts and news sources do they frequent?
  • Common Objections to Your Services/Products. What are the most common reasons that people who would normally be your best customers would object to using your company’s products or services?
  • Elevator Pitch/Marketing Message. If you had 30 seconds to talk to this persona face-to-face, what would you say to convince them that they need your solution above any others?

Using all of this information, try to sort your best customers into a few (between one and three) different, easily-separated buyer personas.

Note that while your personas will be based on real people, you shouldn’t actually use any one specific person’s real identity for the persona—this is an amalgamation of traits from numerous people who are similar, not a summary of one specific person.

Why You Should ALWAYS Use Buyer Personas

You might be wondering why you should sink so much time and effort into researching your customers so you can create these fictitious personas.

The reason is similar to why the FBI profilers in Criminal Minds sink so much time each episode into analyzing the actions of their “unsubs” (unknown subjects): to get into their heads and understand how they think so you can “catch” them more easily.

Without a well-defined buyer persona, you don’t have any kind of profile to focus on when creating new content. You might know that one offer is outperforming others based on the number of clicks it gets, but you may not know exactly why it’s performing well—such as it being especially well-targeted for one kind of buyer.

Also, you run the risk of focusing on attracting the wrong kind of customers.

Who would be the wrong customer? What separates them from your “ideal” customers?

This can be hard to define, but it’s usually the customers who end up costing your business more in time and resources than the revenue they generate is worth.

An example of a worst-case scenario might be that: You notice that one offer is doing really well on your website, so you double down on it and push it like crazy.

However, the only problem is that it’s performing really well with your absolute worst customers. You get a lot of revenue and results in the short run—only to end up wasting far more in time and materials in the long run.

With personas, you can assign each customer to a persona so you know which prospects to focus on for best results. You can also see if you’re underperforming with specific groups of people so you can create content that targets them better—bring more “Grade A” customers and fewer of those that just make your life harder.

So, if you want to get your man (or woman, as the case may be) like the cast of Criminal Minds, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and dig into your data!

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