How to Create and Use Buyer Personas
by Lauren Ryan on June 2021
As our friends at HubSpot put it, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
To help you start your journey with buyer personas, we’ll walk you through the following.
The Importance of Personas
Personas may at first seem like a nonessential marketing exercise. But, buyer personas actually lay the foundation for how you approach your customers as an organization. Buyer personas help you understand not only who your customer is but also how to talk to them. In addition, they give you insight into your customer’s goals and motivations as well as your approach to connecting with them. So, let’s break down the ways buyer personas support your objectives.
Identify wants and needs
By creating personas, your team gains insight into the wants and needs of your customers. This process allows you to take a fully customer-centric approach to how you do business. Your personas should guide how your teams interact with your customers and provide direction when developing new products or services.
Understand purchasing decisions
Knowing why your customers choose to do business with you creates the perfect path to converting prospects into customers and closing deals. Conversely, if you don’t understand why they want to work with you, it will be much harder for your team to connect with customers and convince them to do business with you.
Gain behavioral insight
If you’re not sure where your customers live online or how they get their information, it will be nearly impossible to connect with them. For example, suppose your customers only look to LinkedIn for information on new services for their business, and you’re running advertisements on Instagram. In that case, you’re wasting budget on a source that will never convert, and your customers are running to the competition.
Inform targeted content
We’ve all stared at a blank Google Doc trying to figure out what to say to our customers. Buyer personas take writer’s block off the table. For example, setting out to write an article that will make customers buy your product is a pretty broad objective. However, writing an article that answers your top persona’s question about how your product helps her team qualify and convert webinar leads in under two weeks practically writes itself!
Enable data segmentation
We’ve all received an email that addresses us as “Dear Valued Customer” and goes on to share completely irrelevant information with us about something we’ve never needed and will (probably) never need. Don’t be that sender. Developing personas allows you to segment your email marketing audience and craft meaningful messages that speak directly to your customer’s individual needs and pain points.
What Buyer Personas Aren’t
Before we share how to craft a persona, let’s review a few mistakes organizations make when building personas.
If after this exercise your team presents “LinkedIn Larry” and “Facebook Franny” as your organization’s buyer personas, you’ve failed.
Focusing on one customer behavior or attribute and fabricating a persona full of assumptions around that will not serve your organization or your customers. Remember that your personas are a way to build a full view of your customers, not a way to lump them into categories based on limited information.
If your personas are not driven by data and observations from your actual customers, you’ve failed.
Unless you’re a brand new organization without any existing customers, your personas need to be derived from your organization’s experience with your customers. Be sure your personas are founded in data and not brainstormed in a 30-minute meeting.
Set in stone
If you finalize your buyer personas and never revisit them, you’ve failed.
A buyer persona serves as a guide for how to best serve your customers based on what you know now. But, what you know will change and expand over time. As you learn more about your customers, revisit your personas regularly to see if you’ve miscalculated or missed key information.
Your perfect buyer
If you’re only designing personas that represent your ideal buyer, you’ve failed.
Personas should serve as a representation of all customers, even the ones you wish you didn’t have. While it’s good to prioritize the ideal personas, it’s important to invest time in defining the negative personas as well so you can quickly identify them (and may avoid them) in the future.
Just for marketing
If your marketing team are the only ones using your persona, you guessed it, you’ve failed.
Your customers do not interface with marketing alone and your personas are designed to support your customer’s experience with your entire organization. Your sales, service, and marketing teams should all reference your personas as they work to attract, convert, and delight your customers.
How to Create Buyer Personas
Take the time to comb through your CRM and look for patterns in behavior. Run reports on your new customers in the past 6 months and see where they first met your organization, how they navigated the sales process, and what tickets they’ve submitted for help since converting. Then, do the following.
Get to know your persona
You’re on a first date and it’s time to really get to know the person across the table. Except you’re not dating and there isn’t a table. Head to your CRM and answer the following!
Start with these questions and take away or expand on them based on your industry.
- What is their profession?
- How do they spend their workday?
- What do they read while sipping their morning coffee?
- Whom do they need to sell internally to get a new product or service for their team?
- What are their values?
- How is their success measured?
- What are their goals personally and for their team?
- What systems do they use to get their job done?
- Do they prefer self-service or 1-1 support (via email, chat, or phone)?
Determine how they get information
If you’re not where your customers are looking for you online, well, they’re not going to find you!
Here’s some direction on where to look.
- Where did they first find us? (LinkedIn Ad, Webinar, Organic)
- Were they referred to our organization?
- Have they used our chatbot?
- Are they part of industry organizations?
- How large is their LinkedIn network and how active are they?
- Are they subscribed to our newsletter?
- Are they engaged in our emails?
Identify how you can best serve them
Take a peek at the products and services these customers have purchased from you and answer the following.
- Which product or service did they first purchase?
- Have they upgraded/downgraded since becoming a customer?
- Have they made feature requests that we have been unable to accommodate?
- What questions have they had since becoming a customer?
- Are they frequenting our blog or knowledge center?
Create a skills inventory
Vendorsplaining (our take on mansplaining) to customers that already know what they’re doing is a major turn-off.
Work with your sales team to answer the following and give your personas a rating for each category.
- How much training did they need to get started with your product or service?
- What other tools are they familiar with that overlap with your product or service?
- What is their comfort level with technology?
- How proficient are they with knowledge of your industry?
Prioritize your personas
Repeat this process for all relevant customer groups, but be sure not to overdo it. Some organizations have up to 20 personas while some stick to 1 or 2. Start small and build as needed.
Put Your Personas to Use
Now that you have new, shiny, data-driven personas, integrate them into your marketing, sales, and service teams and start elevating your customer experience.
Market to your personas
- Segment your email list by persona and deliver targeted offers
- Revisit your website and see how it speaks to your personas
- Refocus your keyword research and optimize your copyrighting for SEO
- Evaluate your advertising and ensure your messaging and platform selection appeal to your personas
Sell to your personas
- Reference persona preferences when sending emails, making phone calls, or meeting with your customers
- Integrate personas into your prospecting strategy and get personal with your messaging
- Adjust your presentation style leveraging their persona’s skills inventory
- Coach your team on personas and increase your win rate
Serve your personas
- Approach your customer’s questions with their persona in mind
- Know your customer as more than just the question at hand and take a holistic approach
- Take their skills inventory into account when explaining your solution
- Understand the impact this issue is having on their day to day using their persona
After building your personas and empowering your teams to fully leverage them in their day-to-day, consider creating a customer journey map. A customer journey map helps you understand the journey each of your personas takes with your organization and identifies the gaps they may be experiencing.