If you are a small business owner developing your online marketing strategy, you probably already have a target customer in mind. And that is a perfect first step! Knowing the audience you are trying to attract to your SMB is a critical aspect of planning your marketing budget and strategy.

Now are you ready to take it a step further? If you have a target customer in mind, one of the best ways to figure out exactly who you are targeting is to develop buyer personas or marketing personas.

These personas are fictional representations of your target customers. The process of developing these customer personas is a chance for you, as a small business owner, to get to know your customers on a deeper, human, level and to gain a deeper understanding of your target customer’s needs relating to your business.

Creating these fictional personas to represent your ideal customers will help you to tailor every step of your marketing process to attracting and converting the customers that your business needs to grow and thrive.

Do your research

Best tools for developing buyer personasForbes compares developing buyer personas to fishing. As a business owner, you could just cast your line with any old bait from the store and probably get lucky eventually. Conversely, you could research the type of fish that you want to catch, and discover the best kind of lures and tackle needed to catch them and reel them in.

Although, you may “catch” a customer with the first approach, researching to create clearly defined personas and knowing the “bait” you need to lure them in will make your marketing process much more effective and efficient in the end.

So now that you know WHY customer personas are important for your SMB marketing strategy, you are probably wondering HOW to develop realistic customer personas for your brand. Below we will explore some tools and methods that have worked for us.

Consider a survey

In marketing, the first step of creating buyer personas is to research the demographics of your target customers. This research can look at location, income and education level, as well as at the challenges that your prospective clients are facing and need help with.

Interviewing past customers is one of the easiest ways to find out information about future customers, as you will probably want to attract similar clients in the future. However, in-person interviews can be time-consuming and difficult to arrange. If this is the case for you, you may want to consider creating a survey through a service like Survey Monkey or FluidSurveys.

Utilize social media

If you have followed our past advice and set up the best social media accounts for your business, it is time to turn to them for help in your customer persona research process.Best tools for developing buyer personas

Aside from being valuable tools for networking and SEO, platforms like Facebook and Twitter also include analytical tools that provide in-depth insights into your audience and followers.

If you have Facebook for Business, their Audience Insights tools will allow you to view valuable information about your Facebook audience including household information, gender and location information bout your customers.

Similarly, Twitter Analytics allows users to analyze audience demographics including gender, location and industry.

Gather information from your competitors

Just getting started? If you are a new business, you may not have social media pages with analytics established or a customer base to survey or interview, but fear not, there are still easy ways to gather information to use in developing buyer personas.Best tools for developing buyer personas

The easiest way to gather this information is to consider your competitors. Once you know the competitors that you want to emulate, you can look at the demographics of their customers, to develop your own target audience.

Tools like Similar Web offer in-depth information based on company URLs. For instance, looking up Amazon.com, we found that their customers are predominantly located in the United States with customers interested in shopping, internet and telecom and arts and entertainment.

Best tools for developing buyer personas

Or, find a free template!

The marketing experts at Hubspot have even developed a FREE template on developing buyer personas. Sticking to a template like this, is an easy way to make sure that you hit every detail while developing detailed personas for your business.

The process of developing customer personas is an opportunity for your small business to learn in-depth information about your target audience, and in doing so, your business will be able to better attract these individuals to your brand. It may seem time-consuming, but taking the time to clearly detail your customers before “casting your line” will lead to more effective marketing and, in turn, better results in the long run.