The Pursuit Of Relevance: Episode 2

How To Use Buyer Personas To Attract and Persuade Customers

Henneke Duistermaat Interview

Do you know who your customers are?

Developing persuasive messages and building buyer loyalty boils down to knowing your customer. By segmenting your audience into the most definable person, you’ll be able to create relevant messages, appeal to their self-interest and motivate them to take action.

In this 26 minute episode, Henneke and I discuss:

  • Why buyer personas are critical for ecommerce sites
  • How to stand out in the sea of ecommerce sites
  • How to position your products for your ideal buyer
  • How to create a buyer’s guide that attracts links
  • How to persuade customers in a non-salesy way
  • Why your value proposition needs to speak to your buyers’ self-interests

Show Notes:

Useful Resources:

Episode Two Transcript:

Hey everyone! Welcome to The Pursuit of Relevance. I’m your host, Darren DeMatas. Thanks so much for spending the next 20 minutes with me. This podcast is for entrepreneurs looking to make their online business more relevant to search engines and – more importantly,  people. 

I wanted to start off my interview series with someone I consider to be a good friend. Henneke runs a website called Enchanting Marketing, where she helps other marketers create engaging content. She’s also written on some super popular websites like: Shopify, Copyblogger,  Kissmetrics, and

I invited her to come on the show because copywriting can make or brake your ecommerce site. If you’re struggling with persuading customers to take action –  like buying your product. This podcast episode is for you.

Let’s dive part into one of the interview.

Darren: Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about you and what your business is about?

Henneke: Yeah, so my background is really in sales and marketing and I worked for small companies and very big companies like Philips Electronics. I quit my job just over two years ago to set up my own business and in those two years I’ve worked as a freelance copywriter but I’m now shifting my business into online teaching. So I sell e-Courses to help people improve their writing.

Darren: Okay. So, now let’s just right into personas. Personas are a description of your ideal buyers. So in your book, this is kind of almost like the first real chapter in your book and it is the first part of a content marketing story. So why is this important for an E-commerce site and how can you get to start it with the process of defining your personas?

Henneke: Yeah so your personas or your ideal buyer or your ideal reader is really the person that you would like to sell to most. And by focusing on one person, you really can make your site stand out and you can speak stronger to your audience because it becomes easier to have a strong voice when you know who you’re talking to.

It’s like when you don’t know who you are talking to then you start sounding quite fake, you don’t know what to say, you use generic words. But if you know exactly who you are talking to then you can make the right jokes, you can use exactly the right words and you can really engage that person. So it’s really a tool for writing better content.

If you look for instance at site like J. Peterman or Man Crates. When you read their copy, you can picture already the person they’re talking to. They have a very strong voice and that’s exactly because that they have a very well-defined persona that they’re trying to target with their business.

So the more niche your business is, the more important it is to have a specific persona that you target.

Darren: So in other words what you’re saying is when you have a specific niche and you have a really specific persona, you can actually stand out from the sea of other E-commerce sites because your site becomes the most useful for that specific person. Is that what it is?

Henneke: Yeah, the most useful, the most engaging, the most persuasive, the site where people feel, “Hey, they understand me and they speak to me.”


Darren: So in your article and books, you write a lot about the importance of benefits focus copy, you mentioned the need to appeal to their self-interest through copy. I was actually taking a look at a book by Philip Kotler, Kellogg on Marketing, where he was talking about people will buy from you based on the fact that they can self-identify you. In other words, they are speaking directly to you and they see themselves in your website.

So once you identify a persona, how can you start to tap into their self-interest?

Henneke: Yeah, so it’s may be useful to stop back a little bit and just understand what is the difference between features and benefits. Because you talk about self-interest what we’re talking about is benefits. So a feature is an aspect of the product. So for instance, an ergonomic design of a saddle. And the benefit is what that does for the customer. So in this case, for an ergonomic saddle, it might be more comfortable to cycle on or you might be able to cycle further or it prevents you from getting a sore butt.

Darren: I don’t think anybody wants a sore butt.

Henneke: Exactly, well, I don’t know.

Darren: But I think maybe if you were talking about a sore butt and you see maybe people are on forums are talking about that and you can tap into how they described that pain, maybe it’s something that you can use in terms of turning those benefits into features, right?

Henneke: Yeah, so what you can do is really think about who your ideal customer is. And there are customers for whom comfy cycling would be what they are looking for. They don’t cycle very far. They want to get on their bikes. They’re not very competent cyclists maybe and that’s all they want.

Then you have cyclists that cycle like 200 miles. They want to pretend to be in the Tour de France. Well these guys don’t care about a sore butt maybe so much but they want the kind of the feeling that they’ve really gone far and that it’s professional and it’s the same as, I don’t know, somewhat the famous cyclist, the same saddle as a famous cyclist has. So it’s really the benefit really varies depending on who your ideal person is.

Darren: That’s really interesting. So the same product can have two different audiences and two different buyers and that same person could be interested in cycling but the degree of their interest will vary on how you actually approach the content for the page.

Henneke: Exactly, exactly. And this is also very clear in fashion for instance. I mean why do you buy a certain fashion item? Is it to impress your friends because you want to be trendy? Is it to express your individuality? Is it just to feel good and comfy? All these things really depends on your audience.

Darren: So let’s go back to the cycling example. Let’s say you have this idea of your imaginary, your persona. And this person is really not the Lance Armstrong, you know, decided to use a widely known cyclist but he’s not the guy or the person who’s running 200 miles. He’s or she’s a person who just wants to go on a casual ride every now and then.

So once you have this imaginary person in your head, how can you find and attract them through online marketing?

Henneke: Yeah, so you need to understand really what they’re looking for. And there are different ways to find out about this. One thing is of course, if you have a store then any niche shop floor assistant will be able to tell you a lot about the type of customers coming in, what questions they ask, what they want to know, what they’re looking for. And this is really valuable information.

But if you don’t have a store then you might have customer service staff or you might be answering the phone yourself but you also get phone calls and emails of people asking questions about your product.

So what is it they are asking for and what is it they are looking for? What are the words they’re using? This is really important to watch.

The other useful area to look into is product reviews. What are the same products as you sell or other products just look at them and see what it is. Are a lot of people talking about sore butts or are they talking about comfy cycling? And if they are talking about comfy cycling, is that your audience you think or not? I mean it’s not 100% scientific. It’s getting a gut feel for who your real audience is by reading, talking and listening very carefully.

Feedback software can of course help as well where you email people to rate the product as soon as they’ve bought from you.

Darren: I think that’s definitely a good strategy to try to get feedback from customers and use that language in terms of creating your content. Now, is it one of those things where it’s like you get the feedback and if you build it, they will come or how do you actually get them, once you do that feedback and you create this really centric customer centric content in your site, how do you get people to find it? Do you engage on forums or what do you think will work? Is it just keyword research or ….

How do you get people to come to your site once you have that content for them?

Henneke: It really can be different strategies. So you mentioned keyword research which, I mean everything we just talked about to me that’s keyword research. Where you read product reviews or review emails that you get and you can complement that, of course, with keyword planner like Google Keyword Planner to see how many people search actually for these different terms.

Then it’s a matter of what is your strategy? You can build up social media following to get people to your site. You can start a blog with the buying guides to increase your chances of getting linked from other websites. In terms of search engine optimization, what we need is to have links to a website and it’s difficult to get these links to product pages. But if you write the buyer’s guide with information about how to choose a saddle or how to choose a bicycle or how to choose a bicycle for city cycling. If you have information like that or the top 10 bikes for city cycling stuff like that then you’re more likely to get links into your website and that’s a good way to increase your ranking in Google and get more traffic and more interested people to your site.

Darren: That’s awesome, that’s really good advice. So you’re trying to sell this products and the thing I’m hearing from you mostly right now is you really need to make it about your customers, your key messages, and your keywords for research. Everything is about your customer really not your product.

So how can you execute that through all levels of your content not just your product descriptions in your blog but through your value propositioning and all that the whole nine yards.

How can you keep that consistent key messaging throughout your entire site?

Henneke: Yeah, that really is about maintaining focus on your ideal customer and to really think about what it is that your ideal customer wants to know.

It’s really easy to get stuck in our own mindset but we know our products so well that we forget often to think about what’s in it for the customers. The customers don’t know all this expert language. They don’t necessarily know what all these features mean.

So it’s really a matter of thinking about it, who is this customer, what do they know, what do they want to know and which language do they speak, so that you can have a real conversation with them.

Think about it.

If you were in a bricks and mortar store, even if you don’t have a bricks and mortar store, but imagine meeting your customer in the store, what would they ask you and how would they ask you and how would you talk to them?

Would you joke with them, would you be quite serious, would you be very formal or very informal? Yeah, if you imagine a real life situation then it becomes much easier to think about, “Okay, this is how we want to write it on our website.”

Because we are not talking to pixels or the internet or something. We’re talking to our customer with the words on our website.

Darren: Interesting. So how does that tied back into a value proposition? When I take a look at E-commerce sites especially homepages, I know if you have a site your homepage is going to be the most traffic site whether people get through your you know your blog post and then they click over to the homepage or whatever. It’s generally it’s your most traffic page. So when I look at a lot of E-commerce sites, I noticed that they have mostly products or latest offers. They may even have like a dizzying slider that you can’t even really read because it’s changing so fast. When you’re talking about your homepage in developing your value proposition, how important is it to actually develop a value proposition and tailor that message to your audience versus just trying to get your products in people’s faces?

Henneke: Well, I think you always have to tailor your messages to your audience. But the question is what do this people come to do on your homepage? Are they coming there to find out about who you are and what’s different about your site or are they going there because they want to see the latest product offers? I think in most cases, they want to go to under the latest offers or the most popular categories. So I think that’s really the top tasks that people want to do so that’s what you need to serve them. And if they want to look into more about your background and who you are, they probably will click through to your about page. So that’s where you can differentiate yourself more and explain what’s different about you compared to other E-commerce stores that you compete with.

Darren: So interesting. So you’re saying that the way you describe your products on your homepage should naturally kind of be written towards that persona but then you’re saying that the actual value proposition should be geared more towards your about page?

Henneke: I think your about page is the, for E-commerce, it’s probably the main area where you, as a total store, can explain what’s different about you. Not on a category level or on a product level but on a website wide level.

What’s different about you, why would people buy from you, what do you offer that’s special? It depends.

It’s very difficult to say generically because if you have quite a small niche store then in some cases, homepage will have a strong value proposition. I think Man Crates might have a strong value proposition on their homepage, I’m not 100% sure but I think so. But many other back E-commerce stores will just show the most popular categories because that’s what people want to do.

Darren: I was actually taking a look at a site called DODOcase and I thought that their value proposition was kind of interesting. They have an image of a guy and he’s holding… what DODOcase does is they have handmade iPad cases. And you know just cases from all types of different electronics. I just said iPad but they have for all different types of electronic devices. And the guy’s in flannel. He’s in front of a brick wall fireplace. And it’s talking about “handcrafted stylish protection.”

The guy, he has a wedding ring on. And to me, this is really a strong value proposition. Because here is this guy, he’s married, he wants to be manly but he also wants to be stylish. He’s wearing this kind of this outdoors rugged type of clothes and he is in this outdoor rugged environment but he’s trying to be stylist too. So I think that’s really who their persona is and they are developing all their content around that. And I think it’s kind of a neat idea and they have it on their homepage.

So when I am thinking value proposition, I tie it back into the whole concept of really just connecting with that person’s self-interest. I always go back to that because that’s really what is going to make someone buy stuff. I’m this guy and I’m a married guy and maybe I want to be more stylish, maybe my wife you know just told me the other day that you know my case looks kind of terrible. I know she likes to be stylish so maybe I want to be stylish too. And so I need to get a new case for my iPad that doesn’t have Spiderman on it or whatever. This would appeal to me and this would really fill that self-interest.

So how can you have that self-interest being filled throughout all your elements on the homepage? I know that’s not really like a set in stone answer but there’s really a lot of different approaches here that I’ve seen people take where they do an approach like DODOcase or we do an approach where it’s strictly product driven and so how do you decide what approach to do?

Henneke: I would say that DODOcase is very targeted, isn’t it? They have a very clear audience, that have a relatively limited product range and it’s very aspirational lifestyle focused so then the value proposition becomes more important. If you have a huge portfolio of products like you’re an outdoor store and you sell everything from bikes.

Darren: like REI?

Henneke: Yeah, for instance, then I think you would more likely have a product focused homepage where your buyer persona might vary depending on what product category you’re selling. The buyer persona will be different for your recreational bikes, you’re racing bikes, your road bikes, for instance, and your mountain bikes might be somebody else again.

Darren: That’s a really interesting concept because I was actually going to ask you this. If you have a big site that has a lot of different product categories and you need to develop some sort of value proposition, when I say value proposition, I mean you know a headline, some context in terms of additional copy and then an image. If you’re trying to create that appeals to that persona’s self-interest and you have all these different categories and you’re trying to maintain consistency in your messaging in your brand and also you know target completely different products or different people, how do you do that without sounding like you’re all over the place?

Henneke: Yeah, in that case, on some website, you might see a lot of slang or things like that. So that’s fine if your target a specific audience. But on a site like that, you would just use in the main simple language, common words and you won’t use a lot of slang, a lot of jokes and things like that. Because as soon as you go into jokes or little stories then it becomes more difficult to maintain a consistent tone of voice.

It’s a little bit like if and now that was on the E-commerce site but if you think about, for instance, Evernote or DropBox, the language on their sites is speaking to quite a wide audience and their clients. It’s simple language, it’s to the point but it doesn’t have a huge number of personalities, that’s fine.

Darren: So it’s almost like if you have a larger product mix, you have to be cognizant of not being too specific?

Henneke: Well, it depends on whether you talk with more personas or not. You could have a huge range of products and still talk with one persona.

Darren: Okay, like you’re married outdoors guy, you can target that person. You get to have that to be your persona but still have, you know, maybe you could sell this person bicycles, maybe you could sell them canoes and kayaks and all that type of stuff. You’re selling different products but you still have that same idea of customer of who you’re selling to.

Henneke: Yeah.

Darren: I almost think it’s more important when you have a big product offering to have that persona because then you have the opportunity to connect with them through email marketing and establish some buyer loyalty.

Henneke: Yeah. But if you have a really wide range then with your email marketing, you probably want to segment your lists as well and find out what the products are they’re interested in.

Darren: So I hope you enjoyed part one of the interviews with Henneke. She’ll be back on the next episode to talk about how to create an effective blog for your E-commerce site. Thank you so much for spending the last 20 minutes or so with me. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe to my show or leave a comment below. Your feedback is super important as I try to grow this podcast. Thank you again so much.

Darren DeMatas

Darren DeMatas

Darren has an MBA in Internet Marketing and 10+ years of experience marketing retail, manufacturing and Internet marketing corporations, 7-figure brands and startups online. Follow him on TwitterLinkedIn to learn ecommerce.

1 thought on “How To Use Buyer Personas To Attract and Persuade Customers”

  1. Surveys definitely play a great role in creating a buyer personal for your marketing strategy. Hence, choosing the right questions for your survey or interview really matters a lot.
    A great podcast indeed. Thanks for sharing.

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