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How to localise your buying personas for different markets

What are buying personas?

A buying persona – sometimes referred to as a customer persona, audience persona, or user persona – is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, created by using real customer data and educated insights. Buying personas not only represent demographic characteristics, but also behaviours and beliefs which shape how customers interact with your product or service. They are examples or archetypes of real customers and can be used to guide content creation, media buying, user journeys, and sales strategies.


Why localise buying personas?

Many businesses use the same buying personas globally, which can make sense if your customers are uniform in different markets and your product is homogenous across regions. However, it’s more likely that your customers vary across markets – with different cultural, linguistic, and digital nuances – which means that creating localised buying personas makes better commercial sense. Taking a localised approach to personas allows you to create a real connection with your audience, maximising conversions, sales, and brand growth.


What determines whether you need to localise your buying personas?

To decide whether you need to localise your buying personas for different markets, consider the following:


Does the audience speak a different language or dialect?
Language is the most obvious factor when considering localisation, but even if the spoken language is technically the same, you might find market variations. For example, Portuguese is spoken in both Portugal and Brazil, but there are clear differences between them. Marketing to a Brazilian audience with traditional Portuguese language ads (for example) could make your brand seem out of place and damage brand perception.


Does the digital landscape differ?
Social media, content platforms, and even search engine preferences can vary from market to market. Your product offering and marketing may be perfectly localised but if you’re promoting it on channels that your target audience doesn’t use, then your efforts have been wasted.


How mature is the market?
Markets can develop at a different rate, which means audiences in one market may have a different understanding of your products or services than others. This is often most apparent in B2B or consumer products related to technology. Where understanding of technology or processes vary by market, you need to tailor your messaging accordingly.


Do payment and shipping preferences differ?
The answer to these questions is almost certainly yes. There are key differences in how consumers in different markets like to pay, as well as in their expectations of shipping costs and speed. For example, German consumers prefer to pay through trusted third party payment processors like PayPal, rather than directly with their own card details. Some markets prefer the flexibility of delivery to a local store or later collection over fast delivery to their home. It’s important to understand these preferences and adapt your messaging accordingly.


How do economic levels vary?
Factors such as income per capita have a significant impact on how an audience prioritises products or services when making a buying decision. How price sensitive your audience is will influence your market strategy and potentially change the buying journey.


How to adapt your existing buying personas for different markets

If you decide to create localised personas for each market, you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. By carefully researching your target markets, you can adapt your existing personas with relevant information for that area – work/life behaviours, linguistic and cultural nuances, and digital preferences.

Remember that localised personas should extend beyond demographic information, so really delve into detail. Don’t skip the research and default to stereotypes – the more authentic your personas, the more your content and media targeting will resonate.

Talk to customers or partners in your target markets to learn their views and ways. Consult a Local In-Market Expert (LIME) – that is, someone who lives in market with knowledge of your sector and who can help you to understand important cultural differences. At the most basic level, LIMEs can help you determine whether your products or services are suited to your target country (which is not always a given).


LIMEs will be able to consider:

Audience research:
Who are your likely customers? What digital platforms do they use in your target markets? What are their online behaviours? LIMEs may be able to compile audience data using various analytics tools to focus on details like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Language
  • Spending power and payment preferences
  • Interests
  • Challenges
  • Stage of life
  • For B2B: The size of businesses, who makes purchasing decisions, and the factors which shape decision-making

They will probably be able to determine who your competitors are targeting using free or paid-for online tools.


Customer goals and pain points:
Depending on the products and services you sell, your audience’s goals might be personal or professional. What motivates your customers? What’s their objective?

It’s also important to consider pain points. What problems are your potential customers trying to solve? What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals?

One way to answer these questions is by engaging in social listening and social media sentiment analysis. Setting up search streams to monitor mentions of similar brands and products can provide a real-time look into what people are saying online. You can learn why they love products like yours, or which parts of the customer experience are not working.


Understand how you can help:
Once you understand your customers’ goals and struggles, it’s time to define how you can help – thinking beyond just the features and analysing the true benefits of your product or service for customers in your target markets. Again, customers in different markets may value different benefits over others.

Consider your audience’s main purchasing barriers, and where your followers are in their buying journey, and then ask yourself: How can we help? Ideally, your answer can be expressed clearly in a single sentence.


Create your localised buyer personas:
Once you have compiled your research, you can start to look for common characteristics. As you group those characteristics together, the basis of your localised customer personas will start to emerge.

As with your core audience personas, you can bring each persona to life by giving them a name, a job title, a home, and various characteristics to make them seem like a real person. It’s important to think of your localised customer in a human way, and not merely a collection of data points. Thinking about how your customer is now and who they want to be will help you think about how your products, services, and messages can be tailored to them.


Remember to review and update your personas regularly

Once you’ve created localised personas, it’s important to revisit them regularly. Markets don’t remain static, which means that what you thought was true about your localised buyer personas can go out of date. Economies, technologies, and generational cohorts all evolve, and so too do consumer behaviours. Shifts might include:

  • Buyers you used to engage with on one social platform have now migrated to another
  • The balance between Boomers versus Millennials and Gen X has now altered
  • Seismic events such as pandemics or socio-political disruption have caused new behaviours or preferences to emerge
  • In B2B, technology may create new job roles that now have a major influence on buying decisions for what you sell
  • Dark social may limit your visibility and insights that used to flow from trackable data
  • Persistent inflation or an economic downturn can cause consumers to reallocate spending

These kind of shifts in your target market can quickly make your messaging less relevant. What worked yesterday may no longer work today. So it’s important to revisit your buying personas for each market regularly to check they are still current.

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Looking to grow your business internationally? Oban can help. Get in touch to find out how.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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