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Buyer persona vs. target group: what’s the difference?

Knowing your target group and buyer personas is a crucial advantage in marketing. But what’s the difference?
Image: © ponsulak / Adobe Stock

Who, how, what? Why you should know your target group inside out

Every company needs clear answers with regard to what it wants to sell and communicate and how to do it. And then there’s also the question of why. However, no matter how important those answers are, they’ll get you nowhere if you aren’t thoroughly familiar with your target group. If you don’t know who you’re addressing, you’ll run the risk of your message falling on deaf ears.

To avoid that and win over as many different customers as possible, you need to know your stuff when it comes to target groups and buyer personas. But what are the two concepts all about and how exactly do they differ?

What is a target group?

In inbound marketing, knowing your target group is key. After all, inbound marketing or content marketing measures will only be effective if you know who you want to reach. A target group analysis will give you a quick guide as to how to align your marketing campaigns.

A target group is everyone you want to address with your marketing measures. Market segmentation will help you define a target group that covers a group of people who are of interest to your company and who you want to sell your products or services to.

The following categorizations are commonly used for the purposes of target group definition:

  • Sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, level of education, and age
  • Behavioral attributes, for example early adopters or extreme users
  • Psychographic factors, such as values, lifestyle, and attitudes, e.g. innovative spirit or need for security
  • Media-based considerations, for instance the use of specific media

These levels can be used to gain an initial picture of a target group. You then have to consider how to address and fulfill the various levels of your own target group’s needs: safety will almost certainly be the number one priority when buying a children’s toy, but at the same time the customers will be wanting to express their love, affection, and appreciation with it and give the child the chance to thrive. You need to play on all these aspects.

By communicating in a way that is tailored to the target group and takes its needs into account, companies can effectively capture the attention of potential or existing customers – in the context of content marketing, for example, this can be achieved through articles, newsletters, social media posts, etc. The disadvantage, though, is that target groups often only scratch the surface and are very heterogeneous. This is where buyer personas come into play.

Buyer personas: why it’s worth delving deeper

The customers within a target group won’t always have the same needs, making it difficult for marketers to maximize the impact of their campaigns. Although you can never really fully know your potential customers, it can pay off to dig deeper and divide your target group into buyer personas, essentially by means of target group segmentation.

 

A buyer persona puts a face to your ideal customer and, although fictional, it is based on data.

By drawing on the findings from market research, customer interviews, surveys, and internal knowledge sources, such as the customer service department, buyer personas can be refined more and more clearly over time. That will enable you to specifically address the different buyer personas on the relevant channels, take into account their individual needs and preferences, and ultimately be much more effective in your marketing. When you can visualize your buyer personas, you will also find it easier to optimize their customer journey.

4 Advantages of buyer personas in marketing

  1. More effective marketing measures through targeted addressing
  2. More leads and customers
  3. Greater likability among your customers due to personal communication
  4. Higher level of trust as a result of understanding your customers’ needs

How do I create buyer personas?

The number of buyer personas varies from company to company, but there is usually more than one. It is wisest to start with your existing customers and group them according to what they have in common.

You should keep in mind the following two differences:

  • B2B and B2C differ somewhat: If companies are the focus of your marketing measures, you need to determine their economic and behavioral factors. Information on the company size or market share can also be helpful. In addition, it is advisable to classify B2B personas according to marketing-relevant roles within a company, for example CEOs or CIOs.
  • Buyers are not necessarily the users of your product or service: as mentioned before, when marketing a children’s toy, you need to address the parents as the buyers, even though the child will be the one who plays with it.

A step-by-step approach to creating your own buyer personas

In his definition, Tony Zambito, who invented the concept of buyer personas, asks eight questions for edging closer to your own buyer personas. In contrast to a target group analysis, not only are typical characteristics considered here, but psychological factors as well.

 

“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. (Today, I now include where they buy as well as when buyers decide to buy.)”

Tony Zambito

It is important to put yourself in the shoes of the different personas as best you can and really get a feel for what they’re about. The more intensively you explore the questions in Zambito’s definition, the more vivid your idea of the personas will be.

So, imagine you’re drawing a digital or analog map of a buyer persona, and add information on the following aspects:

#1 Demographic characteristics

What is the age and gender of the person? Where do they live? How much do they earn?

#2 Background of your persona

What is the person’s occupation? How much experience do they have in it? What challenges do they face in their daily work?

#3 Psychographic factors

What attitude does the person have and how motivated are they? Where do they get their information and how long do they need to complete a purchase?

#4 Values and free time

What products does your persona use, for example what type of smartphone? What are their hobbies? Do they volunteer in their community?

#5 Worries and dislikes

Find out what doesn’t appeal to the person and what they worry about. For example, do they worry about the digitalization of their line of work and being overwhelmed by it?

#6 Goals and challenges

What are the person’s goals? What professional challenges stand in the way of achieving them?

#7 Personal touch with a photo and name

Giving your persona a face and name will help you visualize them. Pick ones that match the characteristics you have identified.

#8 Put words in their mouth

Think of a sentence that this buyer persona is likely to say a lot and add it as a quote.

Carving out buyer personas is a long process. Over time, you’ll get better at understanding the different personas. When it comes to newsletter and email marketing, for example, the personas you have developed will make it easier for you to personalize your communication in a targeted way. And that doesn’t just include addressing readers by their name, but also addressing the challenges, goals, concerns, interests, and/or worries of the persona.

Relevance of target groups and buyer personas for successful marketing

To sum up, it is absolutely essential to familiarize yourself with your target group’s needs if you want to successfully reach potential or existing customers. For example, does your target group crave security or is it prepared to take risks?

Buyer personas, on the other hand, offer you an even better understanding of your customer spectrum. Once you have established the different personas that are relevant to your company, you will find it easier to develop new content and appealing marketing measures. From identifying topics, choosing the right channels and formats, to presenting it all in a way that captivates your target group – buyer personas make it possible and boost your marketing success.

And if you want to get to know your personas on an even deeper level, A/B testing will reveal what works well and what doesn’t. At any rate, exploring the diverse range of customers within your target group is a fascinating process that will keep you on your toes.

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