How to Create Buyer Personas in 4 Steps

How to Create Buyer PersonasIf you’re reading this post, you probably know that buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer.

You probably also know they’re important because they humanize your demographics without pinpointing one specific existing customer.

Not only are buyer personas important, I’d venture to say that personas are the most important factor in business success.

Your personas should inform everything you do in business.

OK, now you’re probably thinking: Yes, that’s why I’m reading this. I’m tasked with creating buyer personas and just need to know how to do it.

Let’s get right down to it.

Develop accurate and effective personas in 4 steps.

  1. Compile Your Customer Demographics

Most businesses know their customer demographics – age, income, lifestyle, etc. Ya know, the generic numbers.

These will help you get the basics for your buyer persona profile.

Will your fictional customer own a home and have children?

Of course, your business can also help fill in the basics of your buyer persona, like their job function, title and company.

For example, if you’re a B2B company selling marketing automation software, you’re probably looking at marketing managers and directors as the decision-makers.

Your second persona would be marketing specialists and coordinators, who will use the software and might have input into the buying decision.

  1. Ask About Your Customers (And Actually Listen)

You caught that “and actually listen” part, didn’tcha?

Watching someone talk is easy.

For some, pretending to listen is easy.

So easy, in fact, that you might not realize you’re doing it until you realize you have no idea what the other person just said, and now you’re too embarrassed to ask them to repeat themselves … and, oh no, he just said something else that I didn’t hear because I was worried about the last thing I didn’t hear!

Did I just transition to an “I” there at the end? Weird – I totally wasn’t speaking from experience there. I was just pointing out your flaws. 😉

So, have your coffee before asking anyone about customers for persona development. It’s important to process and take note of everything your team and customers have to say about the customer experience.

With that, here’s who you should talk to.

  • Ask Your Team About the Customer

Ask your customer service team what complaints they get the most. This will help determine product- or service-related pain points.

Ask your product engineers (yawn – friendly listen-up reminder) to describe any user experience issues they’ve had to improve on or features they’ve needed to add.

Ask that fount of knowledge at the front desk what he or she hears customers complaining about in the lobby.

(And before you get distracted over me typing “fount” instead of “font,” there’s a poll about it.)

Ready?

Talk to anyone and everyone you work with about your customers. Every person in every department will have valuable new perspectives and input.

  • Ask Your Customers About Themselves

There’s no better way to get a horse’s age than straight from its own mouth.

OK, probably don’t ask your customers their age, but you can ask them a bunch of other helpful stuff, like; their biggest work challenge relating to your product or service, their business goals and anything else you can think of that’d help out.

To gather persona information directly from customers, you can:

  • Schedule a weekly or monthly call with some of your customers just to chat
  • Send surveys to your email list
  • Find out where your customers and potential customers hang out online and check out what they have to say. You can even ask them questions in forums.

Be creative here. What other ways can you think of to gather input from your customers?

  1. Develop a Persona Profile

Now that you’ve gathered all of this information, use it to create a persona profile.

This won’t be a collection of all of the data you’ve gathered, although you will, of course, want to save that and keep it handy.

Your persona profile is a story you create about your fictional customer.

You can even find an image to represent the character to help bring him or her to life, but don’t use a picture of an actual customer. This “person” is a compilation of customer attributes.

Start off by giving your buyer persona a name that helps you identify the persona because you’ll ideally create more than one. One of HubSpot’s personas is Marketing Mary.

Then, using the data you’ve collected from your peers and customers, craft a story about your persona.

Where does she live? What is her morning like? What does she worry about at work? What gives her hope and joy in her life? What does she wish was better about her job and her life in general?

Tony Zambito, the guy who literally (ooo, unintentional pun now intended) wrote the book on buyer personas, has a post on buyer persona story mapping.

You can also list out her challenges and goals for quick reference.

HubSpot offers some gated buyer persona templates.

Or you could patiently wait until I create one and give it away un-gated. Ummm … I love myself but maybe don’t wait for that. (I do intend to do it, though.)

  1. Use Persona Profile Document in Everything

Now that you have personas, you should use them to help plan your business goals, create content, develop sales plans, improve your product or service and more.

Use them everywhere!

And don’t forget to share your buyer persona profiles with the rest of your team for their feedback and to help them keep the customer in mind in everything they do.

The Biggest Mistake is Not Creating Personas

Congratulations on taking this step.

A lot of businesses don’t create buyer personas, either because upper management thinks they have to be perfect the first time so they never get done or because executives don’t know how valuable they are.

The biggest mistake with creating buyer personas is not starting.

You don’t have to have a perfect persona the first time. Create one, test some marketing initiatives out by creating content that that persona would enjoy – and see how it goes.

You can always modify your personas – and you should update them every few months or so depending on if the technology or news sources they use change.

Once you have one persona, work on another one. It’s rare that a company will just have one type of ideal customer.

For example, while most Bath & Body Works customers are women, they also get a lot of men in there buying gifts for wives and girlfriends – and they’re the easiest marks who usually spend the most! (Can you tell I used to work there?) So, they’d be wise to have a Boyfriend Bob persona.

Most importantly, these are people.

They’re YOUR people.

So, don’t look at personas as a chore.

Have fun with it!

Do you have any other suggestions for creating buyer personas? Let’s discuss them in the comments below!

Modified image thanks to Vladimir Pustovit under a Creative Commons license.

Tracy Mallette is the founder of Content Newsroom, a website dedicated to helping you get more customers through the quality content that your website visitors deserve and Google demands. A journalist turned Internet marketer, Tracy uses her writing and editing skills to help B2B and B2C businesses succeed with content marketing. She has done work for Content Marketing Institute, SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting, Brookstone and more, and has contributed to Kapost, ISOOSI and other industry-leading blogs.

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