It isn’t uncommon for small business owners to shy away from defining their target market, believing their product or service appeals to everyone. Unfortunately, a poorly defined target market often causes a myriad of headaches—from poorly optimized content to wasted marketing dollars, misunderstanding your core audience can make a dramatic impact on your business’ success. One simple solution is to build a detailed buyer persona, which you can use to direct your marketing efforts.
What Exactly is a Buyer Persona?
Buyer personas are fictionalized representations of your ideal customers. Who is most likely to patronize your restaurant, purchase your beverage, or repeatedly visit your website? Perhaps “Bob” is your buyer persona, a retiree with a taste for the finer things in life. Do you run a family-friendly diner with a wide array of dishes that appeal to kids and adults alike? You may be catering to “Megan,” a busy soccer mom looking for options when she’s too tired to cook.
Of course, it’s not enough to simply give your fictionalized buyer a name. You want to understand what makes him or her tick. What are the needs of your customer? What are his or her hobbies, passions, and habits? The more closely you can define your buyer persona, the more effective this tool ultimately proves.
How to Use Your Buyer Persona
After carefully constructing your personas, you can think more intentionally about the best way to market and advertise your business. What magazines does “Megan” read, and what sort of topics interest “Bob” online? You can use this information to better target potential customers.
Buyer personas also prove useful when segmenting your market into various buckets. Retiree “Bob” may want to visit your restaurant with his wife for a romantic evening out while successful businesswoman “Sarah” needs a place to hold meetings with her clients. By segmenting your market into multiple personas, you can tailor your communications to fit the mold of your buyers. The ads, digital content, and interactions you direct towards each persona will vary based on the profile of the customer.
Research Makes Perfect
You may be familiar with the expression, “practice makes perfect,” but in marketing, research is the path to perfection. Don’t simply guess what your ideal customers are looking for—instead, work to tweak your personas by continually investing in market research.
This process doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Instead, listen to customer feedback and take the time to ask specific questions. Start conversations with your customers and ask specific questions to get a better understanding for the needs and wants of your buyer.
Buyer personas hold plenty of potential for businesses struggling to gain marketing traction. By carefully researching your market, defining target segments, and working to shape your initiatives to fit the needs of your personas, you’ll maximize earning potential and protect your bottom line. It may sound simple at first, but you’ll find yourself surprised at just how effective this fundamental marketing technique can be.
In mid-September 2015, Groupon announced it would be cutting 1,100 jobs and shuttering its operations in many countries around the world. It marks a devastating turn for the leader in daily deal sites, a company that was once the fastest-growing business in the world. Where did it all go wrong?
Unfortunately, for small businesses and large chains alike, daily deal sites cause more problems than they solve. Touted as an inexpensive way to land new customers and increase revenue, many business owners have found daily deals generate nothing but headaches. And yet, some businesses are still tempted to purchase advertising space on these sites. Before you make this faux pas, consider the four problems daily deals create:
1. Daily Deals Attract the Wrong Buyers
Pulling in a new customer with a great sale makes logical sense, right? Unfortunately, daily most deals shoppers are simply bargain hunters. You’re not reaching members of your target audience—you’re giving away products and services on the cheap to people who likely won’t come back.
2. Traffic Issues Cause Lasting Repercussions
If you flood the market with an unbeatable deal for your business, you could see your traffic increase exponentially. Sadly, very few small businesses are ready to deal with the challenges that accompany a short term traffic boost. If your service or product suffers as you scramble to serve a massive number of new customers, unsatisfied buyers will flood the web with poor reviews and negative feedback.
3. You’re Selling Yourself Short
In marketing, perception is everything. By setting your prices, you’re teaching buyers what your product is worth. When your $45 entree becomes $15 on a daily deals site, you’re rewriting customer value perceptions. Why should that customer ever want to spend three times as much on the same service he received at a discounted rate?
4. You’re Not Maximizing Your Marketing Dollar
When you purchase a daily deal ad, you’re selling discounted vouchers to customers through a third party. If you’d offered the same sale yourself, you would have the buyer’s personal information, which you could use for marketing initiatives down the road. Instead, you’ve simply purchased a customer’s business as a one-off opportunity.
Even worse, you likely won’t see the money from that sale for some time. For example, Groupon lays out a complicated payment structure for its merchants. You won’t receive the entirety of the money until two months after the sale, by which time you’ll likely have seen the customers come and go. If you operate on a tight budget, this could cause serious cash flow issues.
The clever idea behind sites like Groupon caused the daily deal to explode in popularity a few years ago. As the economy has recovered, and buyers have started spending again, however, the novelty has worn off. Buyers aren’t near as interested in daily deals, and the vendors hawking them aren’t turning a profit. Don’t fall prey to the mistakes of others—instead, use tried and true marketing efforts to grow your bottom line.
Capturing the attention of first-time buyers drives many marketing campaigns forward, but repeat customers represent greater value for loyalty branding. It costs six to seven times as much money to land a new customer, as opposed to simply retaining those already frequenting your business. A loyal customer spends more money, recommends your brand to others, and generates a lifetime of return.
Some businesses choose to build point-based loyalty programs, in an effort to encourage repeat spending, but research suggests most of these programs don’t boost revenue. Instead, customers are more apt to frequent businesses that create a great buying experience.
Understanding Buyer Motivations
As an entrepreneur, you likely already understand the basic appeal of the products or services you offer. Beyond the wants or needs of your buyer, however, what is motivating how he or she spends his money? Of course, rewards and discounts can have some impact on a business’ success, but many times a customer is seeking an overall enjoyable experience. For example, Zagat discovered in a survey of restaurant diners that 51% of all complaints revolve around noise and bad service—not food quality or prices! Customers associate your brand with the experience you provide.
Don’t Undervalue Your Product
Loyalty programs are often used by businesses that struggle to set themselves apart from the competition. According to research cited in the Harvard Business Review, many businesses ultimately lose money because a points-based loyalty program trains customers not to buy without a discount. You are effectively telling your buyer not to pay the sticker price because it’s not worth that amount.
How to Improve Customer Experience
Poor service is one of the largest factors that pushes buyers to seek out competitors. Train your staff to be courteous, friendly, and sincere. If you’ve ever visited a luxury hotel, you may remember the customer service more than the room itself. At a certain point, a bed is just a bed, after all. Customer service is what allows a business to set itself apart.
Other factors that influence a customer’s perception of your business include your staff’s flexibility. If you run a restaurant, do you allow customers to make substitutions, for example? Modern buyers expect variety, choice, and the freedom to change their mind.
There are plenty of powerful tools you can utilize to encourage repeat visits from customers, but a loyalty program doesn’t need to be one of them. Instead, focus on making your business the best in its class. Diners don’t visit a Michelin-starred restaurant for the credit card points they’ll receive—they’re seeking an unforgettable experience. Apply the same principle in your business and watch your bottom line grow, all without using coupons and discount cards as a crutch for your marketing team.
Emotions have long been recognized as one of the most important factors in marketing. In one analysis of 1,400 case studies, marketing campaigns that elicited emotional responses were nearly twice as effective as the baseline. To capitalize on your buyer’s emotions, you need to understand how to elicit that elusive response. On the web, copy and design form part of the equation, but it is a site’s images that truly impact a visitor’s emotions.
Wonder how to use your website’s images to make the biggest impression on potential buyers? Use these simple tips to maximize the power of your digital photos.
1. Understand Your Audience’s Needs
Defining a narrow target audience has benefits that extend across every facet of your marketing strategy. If you understand what your reader needs emotionally, you’ll be better equipped to evoke that response. Establish your audience needs first, and you’ll then be better able to choose imagery that will connect with the reader in question.
2. Use People to Sell Your Product
We’re naturally wired to focus on human faces, which is why you’ll see human beings as one of the top image choices on the web. Buyers don’t merely want pictures of your products and services. If you can use a photo of a person to drum up feelings of nostalgia or memories, you can generate an even greater emotional pull.
3. Focus on Authenticity
Many marketing firms shy away from stock photography for one simple reason—it doesn’t resonate as well with web users. Consumers want the real, raw deal, with photos that aren’t airbrushed to perfection. Choose to highlight photos of your staff members, or instead take photos of your business, flaws and all. An honest portrayal of who you are is much better than trying to create an unrealistic fantasy.
4. Select Sensory Photos
If you’re not already familiar with sensory marketing, take some time to learn more about the science behind this riveting phenomenon. Our senses affect our mood and memories in a powerful way, and while photos only call on a web user’s sight, the right picture can make your reader practically smell your product or taste your food.
Choose graphic pictures that catapult your web user into another world. Remember, the whole marketing equation should be focused on your buyer, not on your company and what you sell.
When selecting images for your site, try to imagine what your ideal customer would want to feel when interacting with your brand.
There are countless resources available to business owners who want to use images to enhance their marketing efforts. By selecting photos that emotionally resonate with your web visitor, you’ll boost your conversion rate and get consumers excited about choosing your business. If you’re able to do this consistently, your website could easily become one of the most powerful tools in your marketing arsenal.
Perhaps one of the single most important aspects of a modern website, the call-to-action often receives little more than a passing thought for small business owners. A call-to-action, often shortened to CTA, gives your reader direction. You can hire the world’s most talented copywriter, spend thousands on a cutting-edge design, and continually invest in online advertising to pull in traffic—yet without a killer call-to-action, you won’t convert visitors to buyers.
Ready to get started creating dynamic CTAs for your site? Use the following tips to ensure your call-to-action will deliver the results you’re seeking.
1. Set a Clear Goal
Too many business owners overlook the importance of setting conversion goals for their website. Your company’s presence on the web shouldn’t be underestimated. What do you want to do with your site? Are you trying to earn more newsletter subscribers? Do you want to encourage readers to make a reservation? Perhaps you’re selling a great product.
Determine what you want your visitor to do, and then, craft a CTA with that action in mind.
2. Action Verbs are Your Friend
Which of the following two options catches your attention? Option 1: Do you want to stay in touch & receive free coupons? You can sign up for our newsletter by clicking here. Option 2: Save money on your next visit by signing up for our newsletter now!
Don’t make a suggestion—create an exciting opportunity your visitor won’t want to miss.
3. Create Scarcity for Visitors
Establishing a false sense of scarcity is a key marketing principle you don’t want to overlook with your call-to-action. Crazy Egg recommends creating a sense of scarcity and urgency with words like immediately, now, and instant. You can also talk about deadlines and limits to get visitors interested.
4. Keep it Brief
Your call-to-action is not an opportunity to make a long-winded sales pitch—your copy should have already convinced the visitor. Instead, the CTA is sending them in the right direction. Don’t over complicate it with long sentences and explanations. Hubspot suggests aiming for 90 to 150 characters.
5. Highlight Your Key Benefits
Use your product or service highlights to get your visitor’s attention. Try to directly tie those benefits into clicking through your link. You should have taken the copy as an opportunity to expound upon the important stuff, but the call-to-action is your way of saying, “You want this. Let’s make it happen.”
6. Think Wisely about Placement
Most marketers place their CTA above the fold or at the bottom of the page. Both can be effective positions, but think about the story you’re writing for your visitor. Let the CTA be the culmination of a well-thought out marketing message.
The ultimate truth is that there is no perfect CTA that applies across the board—instead, experiment to find what works best for your site. If you receive enough visitors, consider using A/B testing to determine what option works best for you. With a bit of elbow grease and some luck, you should be able to determine what call-to-action most effectively helps you reach your business goals.