How I Won a Culinary Contest Using Buyer Personas

I’m no chef. My culinary experience involves sandwich making and mixing a nice bowl of tuna. My greatest culinary inspiration is the Philly cheesesteak. So when IKEA Restaurants presented my MBA class with a contest to develop a new menu item for an underperforming location, I was undeniably intimidated. I overheard my classmates talking about Asian fusion salads, vegan meatball sliders, and fancy latte stations as they began working on the project. With no ideas immediately coming to mind, I decided to go to the struggling IKEA Restaurant and try to better understand their buyer persona and their motivations for a purchase.

Understanding buyer personas means putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and asking questions.

As I sat in the restaurant watching people purchase food, I began to notice some patterns. Many of the patrons were parents with kids and almost every kid got either chicken fingers or IKEA’s famous Swedish meatballs. Additionally, adults with kids seemed to linger much longer at the table after the meal was done than adults without kids. I conducted interviews with families to determine why they chose to eat at IKEA and how they chose their selected meals. The results were revealing.

Clearly define your buyer personas

The interviews revealed 4 common factors that impacted the decision to eat at IKEA: Convenience, good tasting food, inexpensive prices, and fatigue. While I expected the first three answers, it turned out that fatigue was an extremely important factor in the actual menu selection process.

Fatigued parents were more likely to choose a menu item their kids were familiar with (i.e. – chicken fingers, meatballs, etc.) rather than try to convince their kids to try something new, like a cold salmon wrap. Most parents felt guilty about giving their kids something they viewed as unhealthy, but were too tired to try and force their child to eat something healthy that they may not like. With this information in hand, I developed a very specific buyer persona: Mrs. Smith.

Mrs. Smith is a value conscious family shopper who wants a healthy meal her kids are familiar with and will enjoy.

Using buyer personas to win

Armed with my buyer persona, I set out to create a menu item that any tired mom would feed their kid in a pinch. After considering a few options, I landed on the perfect product: A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s right…I won a culinary contest with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Why I won is an important lesson for marketers. I took the time to understand how my client’s customers make purchasing decisions and developed my solution around the buyer’s needs. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is inexpensive, healthy, and enjoyable to most kids. For tired moms who still have shopping to do, it is an easy decision that makes them feel good about their purchase. Because my competition developed meals that they would like rather than what the customer would want, they lost. Having a deep understanding of a client’s buyer persona is critical to the success of any traditional or digital marketing campaign.

Do you need help understanding and defining your buyer personas? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

All marketing tactics should be thought of as part of a larger whole, rather than separate pieces. By strategically integrating all marketing tactics, the marketing program becomes more effective and cost efficient. As a B2B agency, we developed B2B 360 Integrated Digital Marketing to meet this improved performance need. To learn more about B2B 360 and how it will benefit your business, download our free eBook: The Better Path to Top-Tier Tech Marketing.

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