If you’ve decided to use Inbound marketing, account-based marketing, or another customer-centered marketing philosophy for your legal marketing strategy, you know how important it is to truly understand your prospective clients. If you really hope to reach them – to start a conversation with them, you have to know them as well as you’d know your best friend. For this, you need to develop a buyer persona.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is kind of like a character sheet. We take the information that we know about your ideal client and then bring it to life with a combination of data, experience, and imagination. The buyer persona then becomes more relatable. We want our buyer persona to be someone we feel like we can sit down and have coffee with.
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Your buyer persona is more than just an audience description. We take that audience description and give it a name. We might hunt down a stock image to put a picture with the name description, and we give them a name. Usually the name will be something that’s kind of descriptive and catchy. For example, if you’re a lawyer specializing in working with startup founders, you might have three buyer personas that you work with: Tech Tony, Startup Sarah, and Angel Andy.
The purpose of a Buyer Persona is to understand your “buyer” – in your case, your client. Who are they? What do they want? What do they value? What are they looking for? Where do they hang out? What do they appreciate? You have to get inside their head, so you go much deeper than you do if you’re just looking at age, gender, and socioeconomic status.
Picking the Right Clients for a Buyer Persona
Have you ever had the perfect client? The one that leaves the office and you tell your secretary, “I wish we could clone her”? That’s what your Buyer Persona is based on.
Everyone has that perfect client. Or maybe you haven’t had one yet, but you can imagine it. If you had a client that paid like Client A but was chill and easy to work with like Client B, maybe THAT would be your perfect client. As you start to formulate in your head the vision of the perfect client, that becomes your Customer Avatar.
When you start looking at your customer avatar (you’ll use that to write out a buyer persona later), I would caution you not to look solely at the clients that pay your bills. You may need some of those clients, but if your most lucrative clients are also the biggest headache, you might want to prioritize avatars that are easier to work with.
Everyone will have a different idea of what makes a perfect client, so this exercise will be different for everyone. If you’re working in a small law firm, this can be a good exercise to do with your fellow partners, because everyone will have a different perspective. What makes a client a “good” client? What scope of work do you and your partners most enjoy doing? What types of problems do they have? What’s their attitude?
If you’ve been practicing for awhile, this will be a breeze. Look at what all your favorite clients have in common. Are they all married or single? Do they all have kids at home, grown kids, or no kids? Do they all live in a certain city or suburb? Do they prefer golf or racquetball? Do they listen to podcasts or radio?
It seems weird, but you want to put yourself in the shoes of that customer avatar. What do they do during the day? Who do they spend time with? Brainstorm all these ideas and think up as much as you can, and commit all these ideas to paper. You’ll have a lot to work with when we get down to the nuts and bolts!
There IS a reason for this madness!
There are people out there that need you, and the purpose of Inbound is to make sure that you are in a place where they’ll stumble onto you. They have problems that you are uniquely suited to solve. We need to know what those problems are, how they feel about them, and where they are. That’s the magic part of Inbound! To your client, it looks like kismet – like synchrony or magic.
So let’s see this magic in action. Consider Tech Tony from the samples above. He’s a software developer who’s started building a potentially lucrative new app with his college roommate. They just realized that it could have some commercial potential and have decided to form a company, but he’s a software guy, not a corporate guy. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.
So half of Tony’s head is filled with cool ideas for his app (because software guys tend to get a bit obsessed with their latest projects!). And the other half of his head is… well, he’s confused. He knows he needs to do something. Patents? Corporate filings, I guess? Something? He’s heard enough horror stories about friendships ruined when a fun project between friends suddenly became valuable, so he knows he needs to get ahead of that and make sure everything gets hammered out before it blows up. But what to do?
Being a tech guy, Tony Googled it (because that’s how tech guys get new information), but that kind of made things worse. There’s a wealth of information from finance sectors and investment gurus and 20,001 accelerators and pitch contests, and it just gave him a headache trying to make sense of it all. He felt no closer to finding an answer.
That night while he was up with insomnia, he was vaguely blue-linking through the online version of Entrepreneur magazine only halfway paying attention to an article about the best states to incorporate your startup in, but something caught his eye. “… said John Smith, an attorney from Atlanta who specializes in startup law…” the article said next to a quote from YOU! That mention linked back to an article you wrote on your own website about corporate structures in Georgia.
Two hours later, Tony had clicked through three of the articles on your site and he finally felt like you actually knew what you were talking about and could help him. He used your online appointment scheduler and booked a consultation with you for the following Monday, and he signed up for your email list.
There’s the magic. Tony didn’t know what he wanted or needed. He’s not a lawyer! But you’ve seen enough Tony’s over the years to know exactly how to help. So when Tony was ready, you were in place. You were right where he could find you with the right message at the right time. To Tony, it looks like magic. But we know that it’s the result of a lot of work and preparation, and it all starts with the buyer persona.
What do you Need in a Buyer Persona?
Your buyer persona needs some basic information. Every buyer persona needs the following:
- Demographic Information (Age range, gender, socioeconomic status, location/region)
- Relevant information about their relationship to you (for instance, if you’re a divorce attorney, your client will either be married, single, or divorced; if you work with business clients, your buyer persona’s job MUST be included)
- Family information (marital status, kids, pets, elderly parents? Add what you can when you think it may be relevant)
- What’s the problem they have that you can solve? (We’ll go into detail on this one below)
- What do they fear or worry about?
- What makes them happy?
- What do they do for fun or enjoy? Do they have any hobbies?
- How do they get new information? (Keep reading for more info on this)
- How do they prefer to learn about new things? (Podcasts, articles, videos, something else?)
- Where do they go to stay up-to-date on information? (Social media, industry-specific publications, television, radio, somewhere else?)
The biggest thing to pay attention to is the problem, but it’s important to look at it from THEIR perspective. How would they describe their problem? If you have clients that are close to your customer avatar, take some notes. Write down how they describe their problem word for word and you’ll start to see some themes emerge, and you’ll notice that how THEY describe it will be very different from how YOU describe it.
Let’s look at Tech Tony again. You might say that his problem is that he needs counsel on business structure and intellectual property concerns. But do you think Tony is Googling “intellectual property concerns”? He’s probably not staying up at night worrying about “business structure and tax ramifications”.
When Tony walks into your office, he doesn’t ask you about business structure and IP issues. He says, “I started building this app with my friend, and now it looks like it might be something that people might want to buy. We’ve talked about it, and I think we agree about how to divide everything up, but we want to make sure that we get everything in writing so that we don’t argue about it later. What do we need to do to make sure our friendship is protected if this app idea takes off? How do we make sure everything stays fair?”
On your Buyer Persona, when you write down the problem, you’re writing it from Tony’s perspective. So you’ll write, “Tony has a new idea that he’s probably building with a friend. He’s worried that if the idea or the company gets big, it’ll cause problems in the friendship. He wants to get ahead of the problem and work out a fair solution now to prevent disagreement later and also protect everyone’s interests.” THAT is the problem you’ll solve for Tony. You may solve it through business structure and IP agreements and patents, but Tony’s problem is how to preserve his relationships and protect his own future. That’s what he’s really interested in.
It helps to ask yourself a few follow-up questions about the problem. Ask yourself how the Buyer Persona FEELS about the problem. Are they worried, sad, angry, annoyed, afraid? Why?
Where is your Buyer Persona?
Another key element to consider is how to communicate with your buyer persona. How do they like to receive information? If they like to listen to podcasts, then it makes sense to prioritize podcast interviews or mentions. If they surf the Internet to look for new information, we need to be there.
Drilling down even further, where do they look for information they need to solve problems and stay informed? Are there particular websites they visit, magazines they read, forums or groups they visit, or social networks they spend time on? If we’re going to magically appear in the right place at the right time, we need to know where they’re hanging out.
Tech Tony will probably at some point (after COVID ends) will probably be going to all of the “Tech Entrepreneur Meetups” in the local area, but he might also hang out at the local craft brewery. It’s perfectly acceptable to consider personal and professional interests in making up your buyer persona.
What to do with a Buyer Persona
Once you have your buyer persona more or less fleshed out, you’ll want to keep it secure. You can alter it and adjust it over time, but it’s a great guide to give to anyone who’ll be working on your marketing, and it’s a good idea to refer back to it every few months even if you’re not making any changes or updates to your marketing. Your buyer personal will influence how you market, but it can also be a good guideline for your overall business practices.
Is your firm meeting the needs of that buyer persona? Are you answering their questions and solving their problems in a way that makes them happy and satisfied? Is there anything you can do to make them happier? Even if you’re not doing any new customer acquisition, your buyer persona can help you continue to improve your service and delight your existing clients.