Updated: Apr 18, 2022
While every business has a sense of who their customers are, a buyer persona takes that one step further by outlining exactly who they are. Learn more about buyer personas and how to create one for your business.
You might have heard the term “buyer persona”, “customer avatar”, “marketing personas”, or “marketing profiles” before. While you might dismiss these terms as meaningless marketing buzzwords, developing a buyer persona(s) is actually the key to creating a profitable and customer-focused business model.
So what exactly is a buyer persona and why should you care about spending time developing personas for your business? Read more to find out!
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a research-backed profile that shares detailed information about your business’s target customer(s). This profile describes your target customers' demographics, behavior, motivations, goals, challenges, and anything else needed to get a full picture of who your ideal customer is. You gather information about your persona(s) through customer research, data, feedback, and educated assumptions based on your experience.
While every business has a sense of who their customers are, a buyer persona takes that one step further by outlining exactly who they are. Knowing exactly who you are targeting enables you — and anyone you hire or work with — to develop personalized services, solutions, and content.
Why is a buyer persona important?
A buyer persona is important because you need to understand who exactly you are trying to sell to before you try and sell to them. When you have a better understanding of your ideal customer’s needs, you can spend more time focusing on leads that are more likely to convert for your business.
Here are some reasons why developing a buyer persona is important and can lead to greater lead conversion:
Personalizes the experience
Today’s customers don’t pay attention to broad or general marketing messages. They expect targeted and personalized communication. To make your content, messaging, products, services, etc. personalized, you have to know who you are talking to. This way you can understand and empathize with their biggest challenges, concerns, goals, and questions.
By knowing this about your customers this enables you to create content and messaging that seems to read their mind, solve their biggest problems, or answer some of their biggest questions. The brands that do this can build a relationship with their customers centered on trust and understanding. This is what ultimately wins the sale.
Provides a structure for your business
With every decision you make for your business, you can ask yourself: does this serve my buyer persona(s)? And if the answer is no, then it’s not advancing the sale and it’s not worth your time.
This makes it easier to determine your business priorities and goals and saves yourself the time of heading down paths or making decisions that aren’t going to ultimately serve your business. And as a business owner, you know that wasted time is wasted money. When every decision is hyper-focused on your ideal customer and their needs, this makes it easier to only spend your time attracting and retaining that customer.
Aligns everyone in your business to a common goal
It’s important that everyone involved in your business, whether it’s just you as a one-person show or as a large organization, has a good understanding of who your business is speaking to. Publicly shared buyer persona(s) align the messaging across all areas of your business– customer service, marketing, sales, product development, etc.
This allows everyone to work together to create a seamless and personalized experience focused on the needs of your target audience. When buyer personas aren’t shared across the business, or with the people you partner with, this can sometimes lead to mixed messaging or unaligned priorities that could confuse or even jeopardize your relationship with that target audience.
How to create your buyer persona(s)
There is no right or wrong way to create or design a buyer persona. Every businesses’ buyer persona(s) is going to look different because every business is different. The goal is to outline as much information as you can about your target customer or customers so that you can start to create a story about that person.
Depending on the size of your business, you might have as many as 10 to 15 personas or more. But if you are just getting started, I recommend starting with one. No matter what size your business is, it’s important to always check in on your personas and update, refine, and add to them as you learn more and as you grow.
This means that your buyer persona is not set in stone, so have some fun with it! You can always update it at any time.
Elements of a buyer persona
The more details you can add, the better.
What is their name?
How old are they?
What is their gender?
Where do they live?
Are they married or single? Kids or no kids?
What is their highest level of education?
What is their job?
Where do they work?
What are their roles at work?
Are they a decision-maker?
What does a typical day look like for them?
What do they value at work?
How do they measure success?
What are their career goals?
Likes and interests
What gives them energy/gets them excited?
Do they have any hobbies?
What do they like to do outside of work?
What are they passionate about?
How do they make decisions?
What magazines do they read?
What TV shows do they watch?
How do they get information?
How do they like to communicate?
Where do they spend most of their time?
Goals and motivations
What are their specific needs and interests?
Who do they want to be?
What do they need or want?
What do they find important?
Challenges and pain points
What are their biggest obstacles to achieving their goals?
What do they find frustrating about work or life?
What are their biggest fears?
What keeps them up at night?
Where you can learn about your buyer persona
So how do you go about answering all these questions other than making it up? While some of these answers might come from your own understanding of your customers, there are also research-backed ways to learn more about your customers to start to build your buyer persona.
Start with your current customers
The best way to learn about your buyer persona is to talk directly to the people who are currently your customers.
Here are some ways to get their input:
Surveys: Ask questions to get to better know your customers through surveys and polls that you run through social media or your email listserv.
Conduct interviews: Reach out to some of your most dedicated customers or even prospective customers to see if you can get time on the calendar with them. You might have to get creative by offering certain incentives to get them to give up some of their time but the insights could be worth the investment.
Uncover trends in the data: Get your hands on social media analytics, Google Analytics, or any data you can on your current customers. What do you already know about them just by digging into the data and identifying themes?
Capture relevant data through forms or opt-ins
Before someone downloads your free giveaway item, throw in a question or two to ask about their company size or how they found out about this resource. Without getting too personal, you can capture some helpful information through form fields that could support your buyer persona information.
There is a wealth of information out there and sometimes all it takes is a little bit of research on the interwebs to start to learn more.
In my article on How to Do Keyword Research for Free I include some great resources for researching and better understanding your audience.
Just because your competitor is capturing a specific market doesn’t necessarily mean you should, but it could be insightful to see who your competitors are trying to reach through their messaging and content. When you are just getting started this is especially helpful as you build out your own buyer personas.
Talk to your team
Talk to those who have had any kind of interaction with your customers and prospective customers. What do they know about the customers they work with or have interacted with? Add their knowledge to your buyer persona story.
Who are your future customers?
Your buyer persona doesn’t just have to be about your current customers, but about the customers you want to sell to in the future. Maybe you’ve been struggling to capture a certain segment of the market and you need to dig deep to learn more about them to effectively serve them. Identifying a buyer persona for your ideal future customer is a great exercise to learn more about them and how you can pivot your messaging or product/service to better meet their needs.
The next step after you identify your buyer persona(s) is to start creating targeted content for each persona that answers their biggest questions, fears, challenges, and goals. Partner what you’ve learned about your buyer persona with the stage they are in on the buyer’s journey and you are well on your way to creating targeted and personalized content that converts.