A person pointing a remote at a flat screen TV
PHOTO: Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

A buyer persona is an in-depth, semi-fictional profile of a person (or persons) who represents your target audience. These personas should focus on customers who can drive the most revenue for your business while offering up the least opposition.

A buyer persona typically includes:

  • Name and demographic information
  • Short biography
  • Pain points
  • Goals, or expectations from service or product
  • Factors influencing buying decisions
  • Most commonly used channels 

The ultimate goal of buyer personas is to understand your customers better. Because if you don’t understand who your customers are, how can you effectively market to them?

With an evolved understanding of your audience, you can make messages more relevant and personal, meet customers on the channels they prefer and identify leads most likely to convert. The result is streamlined marketing and sales processes that feed into your bottom line.

Here are five simple steps to get started with buyer personas:

Step 1: Look at (and Talk to) Existing Customers

The first action to take? Keep a close eye (and ear) on your current customers — something you should be doing regularly, according to Hans Kullberg, VP of Product at Pathfinder Health.

“Get inside their head, know what makes them tick, what gets them excited, what will get them to habituate to your product,” said Hans.

Some questions you’ll want to answer include:

  • Who is buying from you?
  • What does that person’s job look like?
  • Does that person have the final say in decisions?
  • What problems does that person want solved?
  • What does that person’s home life look like?
  • How old is that person?
  • Do they have any hobbies?
  • Are they married or single, do they have children?

Hans said at his company, they gather this information through generative interviews, surveys, focus groups and by interacting with users in the target demographic, even in an unofficial capacity. They also use customer behavior tools to understand how users interact with the brand’s app.

Organizations can also gather data from website analytics, social media ads and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

Related Article: A Step-by-Step Guide to Navigating Customer Feedback

Step 2: Talk to Customer-Facing Employees

Next, it’s time to talk to employees, because nobody knows your customers better than the people that work directly with them.

These employees will have a sense of who your customers are, what they like, common problems or concerns they might have and the best ways to ease those concerns.

“When it comes to creating buyer personas, I like to do my homework,” said Toby Dao, marketing specialist at Tigren. “I start by talking to sales and customer service reps to get a feel for the types of questions that our prospects are asking and the pain points that they're trying to address."

Hans seconded this idea, adding, “Customer-facing employees are critical to developing insight into what our customers want and need.”

Beyond sitting down and chatting one-on-one with employees, organizations can also send out surveys and questionnaires to get a pulse on customers.

Step 3: Consider Your Ideal Customer

You’ve talked to real customers and your customer-facing employees. But now it’s time to ask yourself: who would you like to be your customers?

Is there an ideal prospect your marketing team can’t get to convert? Maybe a competitor has had success breaking into a certain segment of the market, and you’d like to break in too.

This is the perfect time to look at your competition. Scroll through their website. Peruse their social media channels. Subscribe to their mailing list for a week. This step lets you get a sense for your ideal customer outside of what’s already going on at your organization.

While your ideal customers may not always align with your real customers, you might be overlooking areas where you can potentially branch out.

Related Article: Personas and Analytics: Unlocking What Motivates Your Customers

Step 4: Split Up Your Buyers

Once you’ve gathered your data, it’s time to analyze it and see what patterns emerge, said Dao. “What do people in your target audience have in common?”

Look for similarities in customer goals and challenges; commonalities in what people are looking for from your company or product. You can also segment your target audience by industry, job title and authority to make decisions.

Keep in mind that many companies have multiple personas. Now is the time to determine how many you might need. (Don’t worry though — you can always go back and add more later.)

“Don't have just one persona unless you have a very niche product,” said Hans. “Many users can use your product for various, widespread number of reasons. Ultimately, understand the why — why is your persona going to use/buy your product?”

Pathfinder Health uses six different personas, each one unique.

“Each persona has different goals, frustrations and needs," he said. "By building features meeting these needs and answering their ultimate question — why would I use this app? — in a scalable way, we're able to satisfy the needs of a large audience.“

William Chan, CTO of Marketplace Fairness, added that it can be useful for businesses starting out to create one or two personas, then gradually add more as they gain insights about their customers.

“The process for creating and using buyer personas is not static,” said Chan, “and it's important to constantly update and refine them.”

Step 5: Give Life to Your Buyer Personas

You’ve separated your target audience into different groups or segments. Now it’s time to breathe a little life into your personas.

“You will want to write a biography for each persona that outlines their interests and needs,” said Dao. “Our persona biography is usually a summary of all the data that we've gathered throughout the process. How in-depth we make it totally depends on how similar our ideal customers are across the board.”

Don’t be afraid to get creative. Many brands even go so far as to add a face (stock photo) to their personas.

Here’s an example of what a completed buyer persona might look like for an online video streaming service:

Woman in business attire
PHOTO: @wocintechchat on Unsplash
Name: Jenna Jenkins

Age: 25

Location: New York City

Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Job Title: Marketing Associate

Bio: Jenna is a single, career-minded professional working in digital marketing. She does not have cable, and prefers to watch content through online streaming. She likes watching documentaries and staying abreast of current events.

Pain points: Not finding the types of content she’s looking for. Not having access to newly released content. Watching ads during TV shows and movies. Apps that are hard to navigate or use.

Expectations: Regular updates to available content so that there’s always something new to watch. No ads. Easy to search for and save content to watch later.

Factors influencing buying decisions: Online reviews, cost, available content, what streaming apps friends and colleagues are using.

Most commonly used channels: Social media and email.

Related Article: How to Personalize Your CXM Strategy

Buyer Personas: A Tool for Any Business

Don’t let your marketing efforts — and dollars — go to waste. With buyer personas, you can be sure you’re making the biggest impact with the right people.

Further, you don’t have to be an enterprise organization to take part. “Overall, using buyer personas can be a valuable tool for businesses of all sizes.” said Chan.