A buyer persona is a semi-fictional outline of your ideal customers based on data and research. These personas help you focus your efforts on qualified prospects, guide product development to meet the needs of your ideal customers, and align all work from marketing to sales to service. Once you successfully create buyer personas, you’ll attract high-value visitors, leads, and customers. The best part is that you’ll most likely retain these customers if you put in the time to construct your buyer personas correctly. Furthermore, possessing a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to just about everything associated with customer acquisition or retention.
Okay, so we’ve covered why it’s essential to develop, refine, and maintain our buyer personas. You’re likely wondering now, “how the heck do I create one?”
Ah, yes – the million-dollar question. Thankfully, creating a buyer persona isn’t too difficult. It really boils down to how you obtain your market research and customer data. Once you have that data, it’s all about how you present that information throughout your company.
Before we walk through the buyer persona-creation process, let’s pump the brakes for a second. We need to discuss the impact of a well-developed buyer persona on your business, specifically your marketing efforts, first.
Why Is It So Important to Create Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas help you understand your ideal customers and prospective customers. This makes it easier for you to develop content, messaging, product development, and services to meet the unique needs, behaviors, and concerns of your target audience.
For instance, you may know that your target audience consists of caregivers. However, do you know what their unique needs and interests are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to develop a full understanding of what makes your ideal customers tick, it’s vital that you develop detailed personas for your business.
The most effective buyer personas are based on market research and insights you gather from your actual customers via surveys, interviews, etc.
Depending on your business, you could get by with creating one or two buyer personas, or you may require ten to twenty. If you’re new to personas, start small. You can always develop additional personas later on if necessary.
“Negative” Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customer, so a negative or “exclusionary” persona is a profile of who you don’t want as a customer. For instance, a negative persona could be professionals who are too advanced for your product or service. Students who only engage with your content for research purposes are another example of a negative persona. Lastly, some potential customers are simply too expensive to acquire and aren’t worth the time or effort.
How Can You Use Buyer Personas in Marketing?
In the most basic sense, developing buyer personas allows you to generate content and messaging that appeals to a specific segment of your audience. Creating buyer personas also allows you to target your marketing efforts for different segments.
For instance, you can segment by buyer persona instead of delivering the same nurturing emails to every lead in your database. This, in turn, allows you to customize your messaging to what you know about each of them.
Furthermore, when combined with the lifecycle stage, buyer personas allow you to map out and create highly targeted content.
If you take the time to create negative buyer personas, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to segment out the bad leads from the rest of your contacts. This can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer, which, in turn, yields higher sales productivity.
Different Types of Buyer Personas
When you first start to work on your personas, you may ask yourself, “what are the different types of buyer personas?” From there, it would be simple to tweak a basic framework for your business…right?
Well, sorta…but not really. There isn’t a set of universal buyer personas from which you can select. Nor is there a standard for the number of personas your business requires. This is because each business is unique. For this reason, their buyer personas should be unique to them, too.
This is why identifying and creating your buyer personas can sometimes be rather difficult. If you get stuck along the way, don’t hesitate to use a tool like HubSpot’s Make My Persona, which will help simplify the process of creating different buyer personas.
Across the board, companies will have the same, or similar, buyer personas (e.g. marketer, HR rep, IT manager, etc.). However, the different personas your business has and the number of them your business requires will depend on who your target audience includes and what you offer to your customers.
Are you ready to start creating some buyer personas? Let’s go!
How to Create Buyer Personas
You can create buyer personas through research, surveys, and interviews. It’s important that you draw your data from customers, prospects, and those outside your CRM who might align with your target audience.
Here are a few practical methods for obtaining the information you need to create effective buyer personas:
- Scroll through your CRM to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- Use form fields that capture core persona information when creating forms on your website. For instance, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about their company size on your forms.
- Consider your sales team’s feedback pertaining to the leads they’re interacting with most. What overarching statements can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
- Interview customers and prospects to identify what they like most about your product or service.
Now, how can you apply the above research to create your personas?
Upon completing the research process, you’ll have a pile of raw data about your potential and current customers. So what do you do with it? How do you sift through all of it so it’s easy for everyone to understand all the data you’ve collected?
The next step is to use your research to identify patterns in the answers to your interview questions. From there, you need to identify at least one primary persona and share said persona with the rest of the company.
From there you need to organize the information you’ve gathered pertaining to your persona(s). Next, you need to share these personas with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from the research you’ve conducted and develop an in-depth understanding of the ideal customer(s) they’re looking to connect with every day.
Here’s a more detailed walkthrough of how to create your buyer personas.
In-Depth Walkthrough of the Persona Creation Process
1.) Fill in Your Persona’s Basic Demographic Information
Ask demographic-based questions over the phone, in person, or through online surveys. Remember that some people are more comfortable than others when it comes to disclosing this type of information.
It’s helpful if you include some descriptive buzzwords and mannerisms of your persona that you have picked up during your conversations. Doing so makes it easier for your team to identify certain personas when conversing with prospects.
2.) Share What You’ve Learned About Your Persona’s Motivations
This is where you’ll filter through the information you learned from asking “why” during all of those interviews. What keeps the persona awake at night? Who do they want to be? Most importantly, tie it all together by telling people how your company can help them.
3.) Help Your Sales Team Prepare for Conversations with Your Persona(s)
It’s critical that you include some real quotes from your interviews that highlight what your personas care about, who they are, and what they want. You then need to create a list of objections your team will encounter so they are prepared to address them.
4.) Craft Messaging for Your Persona
You need to tell people how to talk about your product/service offerings with your persona(s). This includes the best vernacular for each persona, as well as a more general elevator pitch that positions your solution in a way that resonates with the persona.
Doing so will help ensure that everyone in your organization is speaking the same language when conversing with customers and leads.
Finally, ensure you give your persona(s) names so everyone internally refers to each persona the same way, allowing for cross-team consistency.
How to Find Interviewees for Researching Buyer Personas
One of the most vital steps here is finding individuals to interview to identify the characteristics of your buyer persona(s).
This means you’ll need to conduct interviews to get to know what fuels your target audience. But how do you find these interviews? There are a few sources you can draw from:
Your CRM is the perfect place to start because they’ve already purchased and engaged with your company. At least a handful of them will embody your buyer persona(s).
You don’t just want to speak with people who love your product and want to spend an hour praising it. Unhappy customers will show other patterns that will help you form a series of sound buyer personas.
For example, you might find that your less happy customers have bigger teams and need better collaboration capabilities. Or, you may find that they find your product difficult to use. In both cases, you learn something about your product and your customers’ challenges.
Another perk to interviewing current customers is that they may not require an incentive to do so. Customers often like having their voices heard. Interviewing them provides them a chance to share their side of the story, their challenges, and their honest input regarding your product.
Customers also like to influence the products they use. So, as you involve them in interviews, you may find they become even more loyal to your brand. When you reach out to customers, make it clear that your goal is to gather their feedback, and that their feedback is valuable.
Make sure you interview people who have not converted and don’t know much about your brand. Your current prospects and leads are a great resource since you already have their contact information. Use the data you already have about them to figure out who might fit into your target personas.
You’ll likely also need to rely on a handful of referrals to engage with people who fit your target personas. This is especially true if you’re heading into a new market or don’t have any leads or customers yet.
Use your network, such as your co-workers, existing customers, and social media contacts to find people to interview and connect with. It may be a challenge to get a large number of people this way, but you’ll likely get a handful of high-quality interviews out of it.
If you don’t know where to begin, try searching on LinkedIn for individuals who may fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you. Then, reach out to your common connections for introductions!
For interviewees who are totally removed from your company, there are a few third-party networks from which you can recruit. Craigslist allows you to post advertisements for people interested in any kind of job. UserTesting.com also allows you to run remote user testing and even allows for some follow-up questions.
You’ll typically have less control over the interview sessions if you opt for UserTesting.com, but it’s a great resource in a pinch.
Now that you know how to identify interviewees, let’s look at some tips for recruiting them!
Tips for Recruiting Interviewees
As you reach out to potential interviewees, here are a few tips on how to improve your response rates!
You may not need them in all scenarios, but incentives give people a reason to take part in an interview if you don’t already have a relationship with them. A simple Amazon.com gift card often does the trick!
Make it Clear that This Isn’t a Sales Call
This is of great importance when dealing with non-customers. Make it clear that you’re conducting research and that you just want to learn from them. You are not getting them to commit to an hour-long sales call, you’re getting them to commit to telling you about their lives, jobs, and challenges.
Make it Easy to Say Yes
Take care of everything for them! Suggest times but be flexible. Allow them to pick a time right off the bat and send them a calendar invite with a reminder to block off their time.
Decide How Many People You Need to Survey
Unfortunately, the answer is – it depends. You should start with at least 3-5 interviews for each persona you plan to create. If you already know a decent amount about your persona(s), then 3-5 interviews may suffice. You may need to do multiple interviews within each category of interviewees (customers, prospects, and people who don’t know your brand).
The general rule of thumb is when you start predicting what your interviewee is going to say, it’s probably time to stop. Through these interviews, you’ll start to notice patterns.
Once you begin to expect and predict what your interviewee is going to say, that means you’ve interviewed enough people to find and internalize these patterns.
Determine Which Questions You’ll Ask
Finally, it’s time to conduct the interview! After the normal chit-chat and pleasantries, it’s time to jump into your questions. There are several categories of questions you’ll want to ask when conducting a persona interview in order to create a complete persona profile.
20 Questions to Ask in Persona Interviews
The following questions are organized into eight separate categories. However, you’re free to customize this list and remove/add questions that may be appropriate for your target audience.
- What is your job role? Your title?
- How is your job measured?
- What does a typical day look like?
- What skills are required to do your job?
- What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?
- Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
- In which industry or industries does your company work?
- What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
- What are you responsible for?
- What does it mean to be successful in your role?
- What are your biggest challenges?
Watering Hole Questions
- How do you gather new information for your job?
- What publications or blogs do you read?
- What associations and social networks do you participate in?
Personal Background Questions
- Describe your personal demographics (if possible, ask their age, whether they’re married, and if they have children).
- Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?
- Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?
Shopping Preference Questions
- How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in-person)?
- Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?
- Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?
The “Why?” Question
This is the number one tip for a successful persona interview.
The follow-up question to pretty much every question in the above list should be “why?” Through these interviews, you’re trying to understand your customers’ (or potential customers’) goals, behaviors, and motivators. But keep in mind that people aren’t always great at reflecting on their behaviors to tell you what drives them at their core.
You don’t care that they measure the number of visits to their website, for example. What you care about is that they measure these visits as a way to show their higher-ups that they’re doing a good job.
Start with a simple question — for instance, “What is your biggest challenge?” Then spend a good amount of time diving deeper into that one question to learn more about that person. You learn more by asking, “why?” than more superficial questions.