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Creating a buyer persona: The essentials

10 min read
Ready to make your marketing targeting even more precise? We’ll outline what a buyer persona is, why you need one, and most importantly - how to create one successfully.

Whether you’re B2B or B2C, buyer personas are a vital asset for any business. This is because rather than selling to a whole market, having detailed buyer personas ensures that your targeting of potential customers is a lot more precise. And with that, it increases the likelihood of an actual purchase.

By having well-researched buyer personas that accurately reflect the customer segment it represents, your business will be able to determine where there are opportunities and what areas it should focus its time.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character that represents your perfect customer, based on customer insights and market research. Every business has a target audience, and in most businesses, these are separated out into customer segments.

Not every customer is the same or has identical needs, so it helps to separate different types of buyers. Creating a buyer persona brings a customer segment “to life” and turns a particular customer segment into a person of one, with the belief that it is then easier to create a successful strategy given you’ll have a better understanding of exactly who you’re targeting with that persona front of mind.

What are the benefits of creating a buyer persona?

Creating buyer personas for your business help you to bring your marketing strategy to life. It’s all well and good having a plan to sell to your potential customers, but often that plan is just a piece of paper.

By creating buyer personas, you make that plan more real.

Laser focused marketing

As a result, the targeting of your marketing plan is much more focused and you can be confident that the right people are seeing the right content.

Why does this matter? Because then you know that the content being served is meeting the needs of the customer segment for which it is intended, and that the message and positioning of your business will resonate. People have different needs and preferences, which is why customer segmentation is so helpful because it allows you to separate them. You can then create a tailored approach that doesn’t rely on “one-size-fits-all” in the hope of getting lucky.

Creating content for a single buyer means that it’s less likely your content will be vague and ambiguous – because you know exactly who it is intended for, what their challenges and goals are, and how your business can meet those needs.

Customer-centric culture

Persona buyers give you a deeper and more informed understanding of the customer. One of the most common mistakes businesses make is assuming that your target audience are all the same – that they have similar motivations and needs, and therefore can be grouped as one.

Going through the process of creating buyer personas that represent your customer segments helps to dispel this myth, because you will see exactly what matters to your customers, and how these expectations may vary. You can then create a tailored approach with these buyer personas at the heart of what you do.

More qualified leads

By knowing more about who you’re targeting, you can better plan what you say and do, to meet their needs. A more personalised approach means that they’re more likely to convert because your messaging will resonate too. By talking directly to the audience you want to reach, you will also filter out those where your brand isn’t the perfect fit, meaning the leads you do bring in will be qualified, and higher quality.

A better customer experience

With detailed buyer personas, you can make sure your customer care teams are one step ahead. By training your frontline staff on the types of customers your business has, they’ll be able to deal with problems more effectively because they know the customer’s underlying motivations, challenges and how your business can help.

Give frontline staff a head start on improving customer experience with XMDirectory.

The elements of a buyer persona

Buyer personas are based on customer insights and market research. They typically include the following information:

  • Demographic information such as age, gender, income, location, family situation, annual Income and education
  • Personal background including hobbies and interests
  • Professional information such as industry, job title and company size.
  • Values and goals – what do they believe in? What do they want to achieve professionally and personally? What are their aspirations? How does their personality drive these?
  • Challenges – What are their pain points? What keeps them up at night? What do they want to fix?
  • How your product or service fits into their life
  • Identifying information like social media use, role as a leader/influencer, and communication preferences
  • Any objections or barriers to purchase they might have, and their role in the buying decision process.

How do you create a buyer persona?

1. Start with your marketing segments

Most businesses will already have segmented their customer base into broad groups.

Find out how to do that in our guide to customer segmentation.

Use these as the starting point for your personas, as each one will reflect the people you’re basing the personas on.

2. Choose which customers to talk to

For each of your segments, identify a group of customers you can work with, either by sending them surveys or interviewing them directly. Refer to your CRM system to make sure you get a broad range of target audiences.

3. Establish a panel

A research panel is the cohort of people you will approach, and you should set one up for each of your segments. Bear in mind that your panel should represent a good cross-section of customers across different demographics, budgets, frequency of transactions and business size, so you get a really rounded picture in your results.

4. Design your survey

Use 5 key categories as a framework for your survey. For each one, include plenty of questions and cover both factual items, such as a choice between two product features, and drivers, covering the customer’s motivations, values and goals.

For each section of your survey, use open questions and free text fields to gather qualitative information in the customer’s own words.

Learn more about survey design

5. Field your study

Send the survey out to your panel, along with a reminder about any rewards you’re offering. You may also want to set up a system of completion-reminder messages to help you get as many responses as possible.

6. Analyse your data

Working within your segments, review your data to establish where there are trends and correlations. It may be helpful to bring in data from elsewhere, such as your CRM system and sales figures, to strengthen your conclusions and test out different possibilities. Tools like Qualtrics iQ, which uses predictive intelligence to recommend which data trends to explore, can help you uncover even more knowledge.

7. Translate your data into buyer profiles

Using the knowledge you’ve gained from your data analysis, draw up a persona buyer for each segment. Therefore the more complex or detailed your segmentation, the more buyer personas you will have.

Each persona should be relatable as an individual person, with enough detail to help make business decisions aligned to their needs. They may be text-based or illustrative with photographs and quotes, and are around one page in length.

You may also want to give them a name, to help bring your buyer persona to life. That way, when you’re targeting a specific segment, a name will come to mind and you know exactly which buyer persona you’re targeting.

How to use buyer personas in your marketing

Buyer personas should be more than a piece of paper, they should be a very real part of your plans, and organisation. Doing so ensures you remain customer-centric and you take the right actions.

So how do you use them?

Firstly they should be used to help sense check your marketing strategy. You’ve got buy-in from your boss, but remember – you are not the customer, or the end-user. But your personas are. So use them to sense check your plans.

Would your personas resonate with what you’re proposing? Does it meet their needs? Solve their challenges? It could even be as simple as questioning whether they will understand the terminology that you use. If not, use terminology that they will.

Other examples of using buyer personas in your marketing include:

  • Tailored content – When you’re writing an ebook or a whitepaper, who is the reader? Will it appeal to them? Is the content relevant?
  • Tailor your ad spend – Getting a better ROI focusing on a particular persona? Adapt quickly to maximise the impact of your spend
  • Separate your contact list by personas – We talk about a tailored approach, and a really simple way of doing this is to align your contacts to a certain persona. That way you can be sure that your communications and messaging to certain prospects are accurate.
  • Prioritise your personas – getting the most success with a particular persona? You might want to think about understanding why that persona is more effective than others and try to replicate it.

Use Segmentation to Build Buyer Personas