The Buyer Persona: meet your future customers for the first time

TL;DR – defining who you want as a client is the single, most important thing you should consider.

I know you are a photographer and you feel your goal is to take photographs. Alas, if you want to have a photography business, knowing your buyer persona is a key element. Every photographer should consider themselves an entrepreneur. This means: valuing marketing and business as much as photography.

A buyer persona is a blueprint for your ideal clients. It identifies their passions, their fears, their problems and how your offer can help them. You should consider designing a buyer persona before trying to get clients. Knowing who you want to sell to, may dictate the way you photograph – to the social media messages you publish.

In this post, I will help you understand how to design a buyer persona. You will also find information on how many details you should consider. Two things that should not be in your blueprint are:

  1. What does the ideal client know about herself?
  2. What does she know about you?

Also, I will give you an overview of what you should be doing after identifying your ideal clients.

PS: if you find the information in this blog post useful, you can download a simple template. I have added an example of a buyer persona which will help you understand how to structure yours.

You may find useful > Principles of marketing: the problems are not your photos

What is a buyer persona?

TL;DR – The “buyer persona” is a set of information that defines the clients you would like to attract.

Let’s say that you are a portrait photographer. The logical assumption is that you want to photograph people. Now, you can’t expect to be in the market as a “generic portrait photographer”. You are going to be the small fish in the big pond. The competition is going to be fierce. Any client with a clear idea of what he or she wants will pick a photographer specializing in that niche.

The buyer persona is a simple document. It lists a set of attributes that define a set group of clients. This will help you focus your efforts on winning them. It should also contain the pain points your photographs don’t. It should focus on giving you an idea of how your services can move them to happiness.

You may find useful > The fundamentals guide on how to make a marketing strategy for your photos

Designing the buyer persona should be the first salvo in your entire marketing

TL;DR – If you know who you want to win, you know what to say and what to show.

To clarify this point, I will start with an example. I will be using something “extreme“.

Let’s imagine that I want to photograph newborns. It is what I know my art is all about. I start shooting (we all love shooting) and as I don’t know anyone with newborn babies, I focus on teenagers. I bring them on board and I photograph them because “it is still in my style“. Then, I publish my website with my amazing portfolio. And even write some blog posts on which camera I have and about the model I photograph. It is interesting.

Guess what? Nobody enquires to me about newborn sessions, even if, on my website, I wrote that I am a newborn photographer!

Can you spot the two incredible mistakes I made?

I did not consider what new mums feel. I’m showing them photographs they will need only 12 years from now! (I am not relatable.)

When I wrote about myself on my website, I wrote something that interests me, not the new mum. She is not interested in the fact that I shoot with a 50mm f/1.4 lens.

The buyer persona should be the first thing you do as it will give you great ideas on what to write about… and how to attract the right people!

You may find useful > Social media and marketing: what you need to do it right

How can I write my buyer persona?

TL;DR -Put yourself in an ideal client’s shoes and ask these questions: What am I trying to accomplish? Why are you the right answer to my questions? What are my objections to your offer? Why should I buy from you, and why now? Consider all possible problems and all possible solutions for your ideal client.

There are two separate trends for building your buyer persona. The first is to start “researching the market”. And the second is to go with your gut feeling and personal experience. Both have their own pros and cons. Please do not let the words “market research” scare you. You can also go to Facebook groups where the people you want to photograph are and ask them a few questions there. (It’s a great place to start!)

The reality is that you need to consider a set of information. Here are some further questions to help get you started:

  • What are your ideal customers’ problems?
  • What do they think possible solutions are?
  • How do you think they feel before buying what you sell?
  • How do you think they feel after buying from you?
  • What are they trying to accomplish?
  • Why are you the right answer to their questions and problems?
  • What are my objections they have to your offer?
  • Why should I buy from you, and why now?

I find it useful to write a list of bullet points, for each of these. I like to have them all in one place where I can see my buyer persona growing.

The last thing you want to do after answering all these questions with as many answers as possible… is to summarise. Write down some demographic details; age, gender and so on. Finish it with a few paragraphs that give a birds-eye view of who this person is. It will be easier to relate to him/her!

You may find useful > Principles of marketing: the problems are not your photos

describing your buyer persona is not the easiest of the tasks, but a cornerstone for your marketing strategy

How many details should I write about?

TL;DR – The more you know about your future clients, the better.

Many photographers find it hard to describe their buyer persona. The main issue is that they don’t want to make decisions, as they fear they’re going to target a too specific type of user. With ten years experience on my shoulders, I can tell you that going in laser-focused is the best option you have. Don’t overthink and, while you write, become your ideal client. Describe their fears, their hopes, and try to dissect your unique selling point… (what makes you special to them).

You want a very specific type group of people to identify you as the thought leader in a niche market. You want to become the big fish in the small pond. The more details you write, the easier it will be to target those people with your content. My only warning is to make sure, after having listed all their traits, is to run a consistency check.

You may find useful > Social media and marketing: what you need to do it right

Why do you need all of this?

TL;DR – Because you want to show them images and write content they will be super interested in.

When I ask upcoming photographers about their buyer persona, I notice three groups. Those who have no idea what a buyer persona is, those who have a vague idea of what it is, and lastly… Those who know it like their best friends. With this question, I can spot the photographers with the highest chance to succeed. They are, of course, the third group.

Do you know why they will be the ones to succeed? They are the ones writing blog posts that will resonate with their ideal clients. Those photographers will be the ones discussing what’s important for the buyer persona. If you want good topics to draw attention to your business, you need to know your buyer persona as if it were a friend.

Connecting to a buyer persona to a very visual level is my dream. Imagine people who want your photos for themselves discovering you, without any networking needed. This is what we stand for at phlow!

You may find useful > The fundamentals guide on how to make a marketing strategy for your photos

Every ideal client can be in a stage of knowledge about you and themselves

TL;DR – Every ideal client may or may not know about you and may or may not know about their own pain points. Remember this when you talk to them.

One of the marketing terms I battled with at length was the “marketing funnel”. To make things simple, I have created a video that demystifies it. You should understand that a marketing funnel is a path your ideal client will go through. This path is what can take your ideal client through a journey of not knowing you, to becoming a client. A buyer persona may or may not know about you, and should or should not be aware of her personal challenges. You can’t sell a solution if your client is not aware of having an issue. In the same way that you cannot sell something to someone who does not know you.

When you consider that the content you are creating: (Social media messages, blog posts, video posts, photos or any other media that you produce)… you need to understand that not every ideal client can apply this knowledge to him or herself.

When defining a buyer persona, consider their issues… but make sure not to define those problems too obviously known. As an experienced Boudoir photographer, I’ve discovered that many women can be self-conscious. Yet, only when they become aware of this, are they able to tackle the problem.

You may find useful > Marketing Funnels Demystified: what you need to know to do it right

What’s next?

TL;DR – Be a Do-er and write your first buyer persona. After that, you can start planning your marketing.

As simple as it gets, those who do are the ones that will reap the rewards. I would suggest you consider reading two blog posts on which will help you. The first covers “the first 5 steps you need to do to win clients” The second is a video about marketing funnels. If you’re interested in your photography career, I’d suggest you give both of them a go!

You can download a simple template, along with an example of a buyer persona. This will help you to understand how I structure it.

You may find useful > photography marketing: the first 5 steps you need to do to win clients

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Creator, photographer, idealist and traveller, in any order you like. Married to the most incredible woman on earth and dad to an amazing boy. The definition of luck!
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