How to Create an Effective Buyer Persona

One of the most important skills in advertising and media is to put yourself into the shoes of your target group. A great way to change perspective is to create buyer personas.

In Marketing Communication you need to think, feel and communicate like your target group. Click To Tweet

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a fictional character that represents a segment of your customers. It’s sometimes referred to as marketing persona. It could also stand for a market segment you aim for. Simply said, it’s a generalized archetype that stands for your target group.

A buyer persona contains observed behavior patterns, goals, skills, attitudes and needs. Additionally it usually includes personal details that make your persona more realistic and memorable.

What are the advantages of a buyer persona in marketing?

Working with buyer personas offers a wide range of advantages. The first step towards a user-centered marketing and product development approach is to understand your customer. Creating solid personas helps you to get crystal clear about the customer’s needs, wants and desires.

Buyer personas establish a customer-driven mindset in your work environment. Once you have figured out strong personas, you can use them as argumentation aid towards your co-workers and clients. Knowing your audience will lead to more informed decisions. This is true for small and big brands, companies and organizations as well as agencies and media productions.

What effect will strong buyer personas have on your next campaign? Your marketing messages will be much easier to tailor. They are more likely to be effective. Your personas will simplify your marketing strategy. This minimizes unnecessary advertising spending and increases the ROI.

How to create buyer persona for a company or a brand?

Writing effective personas is a question of providing the right amount of information. When you don’t gather enough information, you likely miss out on important facts. Taking too much information into account instead? Not a good idea, because you run the risk of getting paralyzed by an information overload.

For the beginning I recommend determining how many general target groups you have. To keep it simple start out by creating personas for the three best-performing target groups. Be specific and focus on the things that matter.

A persona tells you who a buyer is, what they want, what they value and how best to address them. Click To Tweet

The strongest buyer personas are based on insights you gather from the existing customer base. You can add data from market research to make it more meaningful.

To enjoy acceptance try to make your buyer persona as handy as possible. The last thing you want to create is a large document that nobody likes to use. Make your persona beautiful. Lay some effort into the design. Give your character a face and condense all the information down to one page.

This is how your personas can look like.
This is how your personas can look like.

Buyer Persona Checklist

Use this checklist to create effective buyer personas that help you to stay focused.

Name and Photo

What is a typical name for someone in your target group? What does the person look like?

Every buyer persona needs a name and a face. People within your organization will relate much easier with the character this way. It makes your persona more authentic and much easier to talk about.

Example:

Let’s pretend one of your major target groups is a group of young male creative producers. A common name could be David Lubars.

Secret Weapon:

A good way to come up with a name: Talk to your sales managers. What’s the first name that pops up their mind? You can also check your customer lists for names.

Useful websites to find names and photos for your personas are UI NamesUI Faces and Random Users Generator.

Background Information

Who is your character?

Besides a name you need to add some background information about your buyer persona. This will make your character more vivid. Think about the typical age, gender, job, education, location, and family situation of your buyer persona. Try to find archetype information that shapes your fictional character.

Example (List it with bullet points):

  • Age, gender: 31 years old, male
  • Job: Creative producer
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in advertising and PR
  • Location: Los Angeles (CA)
  • Family situation: Single
  • Archetype: Straightforward Advertising Professional

Who is your character?
Who is your character?

Quote

What quote summarizes the character of your buyer persona?

Try to formulate one statement that represents all the values, goals and challenges of your buyer persona. Make it look like a real quote. This helps everybody relate to your buyer persona without the need to read everything.

Example (statement)

“I don’t care working long hours, because I love to create innovative campaigns for my clients. Sometimes I wish the communication process with my clients would be easier.”

Goals

What are the person’s goals when looking for a product or service?

Clearly state the goals your persona has when using a product or service. What does your character try to accomplish buying your product or service? Look for real insights on your target group here. These objectives represent the key drivers of your buyer persona. In most cases they are not as clear and obvious as they seem at first sight.

Example (3-5 bullet points):

  • Wants to get promoted
  • Is eager to win awards for his advertising campaigns
  • Wants to build great relationships with all of his clients
  • Wants to be in control
  • Looking for tools to be more effective

Challenges, Fears and Problems

What problems does your buyer persona face right now?

Try to figure out the problems your persona has to solve. Get clear about the major challenges and fears. When does your persona struggle? Think about the work environment, the social environment, outer appearance or health. Concentrate on the issues and fears that relate to your product and service.

Example (3-5 bullet points):

  • Feels pressured by his workload
  • Is stressed out by all the emails from clients
  • Struggles to handle the communication between his co-workers and his clients.

Values

What values and attitudes does your persona have?

This is all about the mindset of your buyer persona. Describe how the mental model of your buyer persona looks like. Is your persona a libertarian or does he prefer a stable environment with fixed conditions? What are the beliefs, perceptions and attitudes of your character? Don’t expect the mental model to be obvious. It’s often unarticulated and hidden.

Example (3-5 bullet points):

  • Seeking new ideas
  • Freethinker
  • Loves the art scene
  • Practical minded and straightforward
  • Loves the security of a stable income

Buying Decision Process

How do they make a buying decision?

One important fact you should include in your buying persona is the way buying decisions are made. What is the preferred buying channel of your character? Does your persona trust the referrals of friends or does he read journals to get product information?

State out the channels your fictional character uses to gather information. Check the product lifecycle to get a deeper understanding. Figuring out if your buyer persona is an early adopter or a laggard makes it much easier.

Innovation Adoption Lifecycle
Innovation Adoption Lifecycle

Example (3-5 bullet points):

  • Always busy, works long hours
  • Prefers to gather his information online
  • Believes in product referrals of bloggers
  • Hates to get bothered by sales calls

Part of the buying decision process is to define what product adoption group your buyer persona belongs in. Our sample character David Lubars belongs in the group of the “Early Majority.”

Solutions (Optional)

How can you help to solve the problems outlined? How can you help your buyer persona to reach his goals?

You identified the core problems of your character? Now it’s time to state your solutions. What can your product or service do to overcome these obstacles? What does your fictional character need in order to reach his goals?

Be sure to address the deeper problems, not only the obvious ones. Bring your solutions in line with the values and the buying decision process of your character.

Including a practical solution to the problems of your buyer persona is optional. From my own experience I can tell that it is useful and helps to give more focus.

Example (1-3 sentences):

  • Filestage streamlines visual content reviews with clients and co-workers. The web app helps David to cut long email threads to capture all his client’s feedback in one organized workspace.

How to gather data to create a buyer persona?

Talk to your customers

Talking to customers is by far the best way to win meaningful insights. Prepare an interview with questions about values, decision-making, goals and problems of your audience. Execute these interviews either in person or over the phone. Talk to good as well as bad customers. As painful as this can be: Unhappy customers are a great source to win new insights.

Is your product not quite ready, or are you just new to the market? No problem at all. Just interview potential customers instead. Sometimes people have trouble reflecting their own behaviors. Use the “5-why-technique” to get to the core of their motivation.

5-Why-Technique

5 Whys is a question-asking technique to get to the root cause of a problem. By repeating the question ‘Why?’ five times you can dig deeper to uncover underlying problems. Each answer forms the basis of the next “Why?” question. Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries, developed this technique. Sure, you won’t ask “why” 5 times in a row to your client. But you get the point. This technique is a thought-provoking impulse for client communication, isn’t it?

Set up a survey

Create an online customer survey. Send it out to customers within the target group. Keep the whole survey short and simple. No more than 10 questions. An old rule of thumb in market research says:

The longer your survey, the less people will take part. Click To Tweet

You can mix qualitative and quantitative questions in your survey. This means you can include some multiple-choice questions as well as open questions. You can ask a closed question to get the age span for example. Or you can ask open questions like: “What challenges do you currently face?”

Quantitative questions are easier to analyze, but often provide fewer insights. Open questions in contrast have a higher likelihood of provoking dropouts.

Check your (site) analytics

A good data source can be found within site analytics. Analytics give you a great overview about typical visitors. You can easily reveal the desires that led the audience to a website. Where did your visitors come from, what devices did they use, what sites and keywords did they search before?

Furthermore, you can check tracking data on advertising. This is a great way to see to what messages your target group responds to the best. Besides that you can also use any internal data, such as sales data.

Research on social media

Social media is a great source because it’s staffed with insightful data about your target group. Surf the profiles of your most active followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and all your other social media profiles. You will find great information about job positions and personal interests of your target group. Do you use social media monitoring tools already? These tools are great for gathering insights about your customers.

You don’t have an active social media marketing now? No worries, you can check out the followers of the closest competitors as well.

Interview customer support and salespeople

A good starting point for customer data are team members that interact with customers on a daily basis. They often have a deep understanding of their clients. You can set up personal interviews, a group discussion or a survey to ask them about the customers.

It’s an easy way to gather data for your buyer persona. But be warned: Employees are often stuck in a routine. In many cases they are just not able to identify the real problems of your target group anymore.

Distill your Research Data

Before you use your research data to build your buyer personas, you need to take an important step. Distill your data to its core. The best way is to look for patterns. Filter out the commonalities in your data. The more things your data has in common, the more important it is.

Distill you research data: Extract the juice from your oranges.
Distill you research data: Extract the juice from your oranges.

Takeaways

Buyer personas are a great way to understand customer needs. They help a brand or organization to tailor their marketing messages and make them more effective. The best way to create meaningful personas is to keep them short and precise. You can sharpen your characters by extracting insights from your market research data.

Make your buyer personas visual. A beautifully designed persona that fits on one sheet of paper works best.

To build a great buyer persona you should include these pieces of information:

  • Name & Photo
    •  What is a typical name and face for someone in your target group?
  • Background
    • Who is your character? Think about age, gender, residence, income, education, job and family situation.
  • Goals
    • What are the person’s goals when looking for a product or service?
  • Challenges and Fears
    • What problems does your buyer persona face right now?
  • Values
    • What values and attitudes does your persona have?
  • Buying Decision Process
    • How do they make a buying decision?
  • Solutions
    • How can you help to solve the problems?

To create a meaningful buyer persona it is important to gather the right data. You can use these approaches to collect customer insights:

  • Talk to your customers
  • Set up a survey
  • Check your (site) analytics
  • Do research on social media
  • Conduct interviews with customer support and salespeople

What experience do you have with buyer personas? I’d love to hear what’s worked for you. What are the points that you include in your buyer persona?

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