How to Create Effective Customer Personas

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Effective Customer Personas graphic

Do you know who your ideal customers are? If you have a general idea but few specifics, creating buyer personas is an extremely useful way to better understand your target audience.

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona or customer persona is a fictional profile of a specific ideal customer, created using market research, insight, and actual customer data.

What is the Purpose of a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona is a tool that helps segment and define your audience, focus your sales and marketing efforts, direct product development, create stronger marketing campaigns, and build connections and trust with your target audience.

A buyer persona identifies what potential customers are thinking and doing, and gives you insight into how they make their buying decisions, what types of products and services they’re looking for, and what will prompt them to do business with your brand.

What Your Buyer Persona Should Include

Buyer personas range from bare-bones descriptions and basic demographics to richly embellished profiles that cover everything from a customer’s imagined thoughts and feelings to their daily habits.

As a general guideline, your customer personas should include:

  • Demographics including age, gender, geographic location, income range, education level, background
  • Psychographics such as habits, beliefs, likes, dislikes, values, and hobbies
  • Motivations including goals, concerns, priorities, desired outcomes, and daily problems that need solving
  • Challenges including pain points, common objections, and perceived barriers to purchase
  • Buying behavior including spending patterns and a map of the customer journey
  • Online behavior including most-visited websites or social platforms, preferred news sources, and favorite blogs
  • Decision-making criteria including which aspect of your product or service is the most important consideration in deciding whether to do business with your company

7 Tips for Creating Buyer Personas that Work

  1. Get to know your audience. Learn more about your current customers with surveys, website analytics, and social media monitoring, and talk to both your customers and your customer-facing employees to find out as much as you can about your customers.
  2. Stay focused on your brand. Including random facts unrelated to your business won’t do anything to increase your sales, so be sure to relate everything in your customer personas to the products or services you sell.
  3. Use quotes from actual customers. Buyer personas are not meant to be profiles of real people, but quotes from your actual customers can be very helpful in enabling you to create a realistic portrait of your ideal customer.
  4. Focus on a few key personas. There’s no need to create a profile to represent every type of customer you’ve ever had. Having too many buyer personas can actually be counter-productive, because it dilutes your focus on what should be your prime targets. Aim for one to three personas for your top customer types and build more as needed.
  5. Be specific. Rather than using general terms like “concerned about efficiency” or “looking to grow sales,” use specific scenarios that provide real insight into your personas’ feelings, motivations, and challenges.  
  6. Don’t get too crazy with details. In an attempt to create a persona that has depth and seems “real,” some companies go too far, building personas with so many specifics that they no longer represent a wide enough slice of the target market. Your personas should focus on the shared commonalities of that particular ideal customer.
  7. Consider creating negative personas. Why spend time building a profile for a customer you don't want? Understanding who NOT to target can actually save you time and money in the end, because you won't waste your efforts on people you've already identified as less-than-ideal customers.