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How to Shape Website Design Using Buyer Personas

By Annie ZelmSep 18, 2014

Website_designI have a confession to make: I’m a woman who hates shopping for shoes. At 5 feet 10 inches, I don’t need heels to feel more awkward than I already do. I just want to be comfortable, but I’m not willing to completely surrender all sense of style.

So that eliminates a lot of options.

I may dread shoe-shopping, but I recently had a great experience at a shoe store. Within 30 minutes, I found exactly what I needed, and there was someone to answer my questions without pressuring me to make a decision before I was ready.

The same factors that create a good shopping experience are also what make a good website experience. Everyone who visits your website is looking for answers, and they’re looking to you to bring clarity to their confusion. Yet not all visitors have the same questions.

That’s why it’s so important to design your website with buyer personas in mind.

The buyer persona process is the difference between knowing exactly where to go when you walk into a store and wandering down a dozen aisles that don’t interest you before you find what you need.

Buyer personas are in-depth profiles of the different types of customers who are considering your product or service. They’re not just demographics or assumptions about your target audience. This degree of understanding about your customers is what really sets your marketing strategy apart from your competitors. It should drive everything you do, from the development of your website to the creation of your content.

At Kuno, we prefer to spend at least a month doing this foundational research before we dive into a website project. First we interview a company’s sales and marketing staff to discover how customers are finding them, what happens in a typical sales cycle and what questions those customers are asking as they make decisions.

Then we have candid conversations with customers, including some who considered buying but went with a competitor for any number of reasons.

We often find the people we think we’re targeting aren’t actually the key decision makers. For instance, a senior-level executive may be driving the charge to purchase a new software system, but it’s actually a purchasing manager or HR professional who is researching the options and making a recommendation. They may also be the end user the majority of the time.

In some ways their priorities are predictable; above all, they want to make their lives easier and make their boss happy. But what motivates them to make decisions could depend on a number of things.

We recently designed a website for INSIGHT2PROFIT, a company that helps B2B companies improve profit margins with more effective pricing strategies.

One persona we explored was that of a private equity partner, who has the challenge of demonstrating growth at a newly acquired company within a short period of time. Pricing strategy is important to a private equity partner as he researches good acquisition opportunities, looks for ways to create value and then considers the sale.

As we interviewed private equity professionals, we considered factors such as:

  • Their education and background
  • What motivates them
  • What role they have in the decision-making process and who else influences them
  • Where they look for information
  • Their primary and secondary goals
  • The challenges they encounter in achieving their goals
  • What hesitations they may have about using a price management 

We went through a similar process to find out more about three other types of buyers we identified: company executives, pricing and product managers and sales leaders.

Then we used our findings to create web copy that would speak to the needs of each buyer.

Here’s what that looked like:

Insight2Profit_website

We wanted each type of buyer to know exactly where to look for the information that interested them as soon as they arrived at the website. Then we invited them to explore more by offering calls to action specific to their needs, such as the Private Equity Insight download on this page:

Insight2Profit_web_design2

Designing the website this way not only makes it easier for buyers to find what they need; it also makes it easier for us to understand who is visiting the site. When someone downloads Private Equity Insight, we can follow up by sending more content that speaks to their needs rather than guessing what they want to see.

Web design based on buyer personas shows customers we understand them. And, at the end of the day, whether we’re shopping for software or shopping for shoes, isn’t that what we all want?

Check out more examples of buyer persona-based website design by visiting our gallery.

What’s driving your next website design? Tell us in the comments below.

Conquering Content Marketing

Additional Topics: Content and Design
The Author

Annie Zelm

As the content manager, Annie manages a team of brand journalists and is the driving force behind the content strategy for companies in a wide range of industries, including healthcare, technology and professional services. Relying on interviewing skills she developed in her seven years as a journalist, she uncovers insights about what motivates buyers in these industries and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars.
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