How to Create Comprehensive Buyer Personas for Your Brand

12 minutes

Are you able to identify the buyer personas of your business? Do you know anything about them?

It is essential to understand who your customers are before you can sell to them. 

What are buyer personas?

Based on data and research, buyer personas (a.k.a. “customer avatars”) are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers.

Consumers today pay more attention to personalized marketing messages relevant to their individual experiences than to impersonal advertising. Because of this, buyer personas can be a powerful way to meet customer needs while streamlining the sales and marketing process to ensure you only focus on leads that are most likely to convert.

Actionable buyer personas are more than just profiles of your target audience or a map of their journey — they provide insight into the motivations and attitudes of your potential customers. They are based on honest conversations with real people. You’ll learn what they think and do as they consider the options for resolving their problem by purchasing the products your offer.

Buyer personas are integral to a well-developed inbound marketing funnel. You can have one to two personas depending on your business, or 10 or 20. If you are new to personas, you should start small. You can always add more later.

Once you have buyer personas, you’ll be able to attract customers, leads, and high-value visitors to your business, which will make it more likely that they’ll stay with you for the long term. They can also improve your customer service and product support — along with ROI.

This guide will walk you through creating buyer personas and show you how to use them to maximize your inbound marketing campaigns.

How do buyer personas help with marketing?

The most fundamental reason to develop personas is that they enable you to create content and messaging that appeals specifically to your ideal audience. They also help you personalize and target marketing initiatives to different segments of your audience.

When you’re ready to write a blog post, email, or product description (or even develop a new product or service), you’ll know precisely which buyer persona(s) you are speaking to, and you’ll have much higher conversion rates.

You can get insights from your buyers about how they feel about doing business with you, as well as verbatim quotes from people who have solved a similar problem. These activities will help you align your marketing decisions with your buyer’s expectations, from messaging and positioning to content marketing and sales enablement.

What kind of buyer personas do you need?

You might ask yourself, “What types of buyer personas do I need?” as you begin. It can be challenging to identify and create them.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a list of universally recognized buyer personas to choose from. There is also no standard for the number of personas your business needs, either — the types of personas how many you have will depend on your target audience and what you offer to your customers. And because each business is different, their buyer personas must be unique.

Consider more than your traditional customers.

Here are a few examples of other personas that you can create and use in various ways:

Detractors

Negative or “exclusionary” personas represent customers you don’t want. These detractors are people outside the buying cycle that can stop the sale from going through — this is especially common for complex B2B sales that involve multiple parties and longer sales cycles.

These could also be people who are too advanced for your products and services or students who only engage with your content to do research. Also included in this category are potential customers who are too costly to acquire because of their low average sales price, propensity for churn, or inability to buy again from you.

Influencers

Influencers are people who significantly influence others’ buying decisions.

Per Influencer Marketing Hub, an influencer has:

  • The power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of their authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with their audience.
  • A following in a distinct niche with whom he or she actively engages. The size of the following depends on the size of their topic of the niche.

Social media influencers have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They own the relationship with their followers. They post regularly about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views.

Brands love social media influencers because they can collaborate to create trends and encourage their followers to buy products they promote.

Anti-personas

Anti-personas are the exact opposite of buyer personas. They are fictional characters who represent people that are not your target customers. Classifying people this way doesn’t mean you will actively prevent them from using your product — it just means that you won’t focus your marketing efforts on acquiring these people. 

One example of a situation where an anti-persona is useful is when the price of your product is more than your customer’s budget can handle. It’s unlikely that a small business owner will be able to afford a $3,000 monthly point of sale package unless it is integral to their success. You can avoid wasting your marketing efforts by creating an anti-persona and learning about factors such as where they hang out online

How to create buyer personas

When creating buyer personas, the first thing to do is research existing customers (if any). These are people who actually purchased from you, so they’re the best people to target.

As a starting point, check with your marketing and sales team to get their insights about your existing customers’ demographics and other characteristics. But to get the most accurate information, you’ll need to conduct a survey.

How to find interviewees to research your buyer personas

You will need to interview some members of your target audience to understand their motivations. Finding people to talk with is one of the most important steps in establishing your buyer personas.

How do you find the right interviewees for your target audience?

Make use of your existing customers.

Because they have already purchased your product and are engaging with you, your existing customers are the best place to begin your interviews.

Don’t merely talk with people who love your product and want to rave about it for an hour. Unhappy, dissatisfied customers will reveal other patterns that will help build a solid understanding of your personas.

Customers like to be able to influence the products they use. Because of this, they may become more loyal to you if you include them in interviews. Let them know that you are reaching out to them to obtain their feedback because you highly value them.

Use your prospects.

Interview people who aren’t familiar with your brand or products and have never purchased from you. Because you have their contact information, your current leads and prospects are an excellent option.

Use the data you have already collected through lead generation forms and website analytics to determine whether they might be a good fit for your persona research.

Use referrals.

Referrals are a great way to find people that fit your target personas. This can be especially important if you’re looking to enter new markets or don’t yet have customers or leads.

Use your network (such as coworkers, current customers, and your social media followers) to help you. Although it may seem challenging to find a large number of people, you will likely be able to obtain some high-quality interviews as a result.

LinkedIn is an excellent resource for finding people that fit your target personas. Check to see if you are indirectly connected to them and reach out to your connections in common for introductions.

Third-party networks are a great resource.

There are several third-party networks that you can use to recruit interviewees from outside your company. For example, Craigslist allows you to post ads for people interested in participating, and UserTesting.com enables you to run remote user testing (with some follow-up questions).

Although you won’t have as much control over the sessions run via UserTesting.com, it is a great way to recruit testers quickly.

Tips for recruiting interviewees

Here are some tips to increase your response rates when you reach out to potential interviewees:

Make use of incentives.

Incentives may not be necessary in all situations (e.g., customers who are already interested in speaking with you may not need them). However, incentives can motivate people to attend interviews if they do not have a relationship with you. Gift cards are great for this and are easy to obtain.

Make it clear that this is not a sales call.

It’s essential to clearly state that you’re not trying to sell something, especially when dealing with non-customers. Be clear that you are doing research and only want to learn from them. You’re not trying to get them on a sales call for an hour — instead, you want them to tell you about their lives, jobs, and the challenges they’re facing.

Make it easy for people to say yes.

Take care of your potential interviewees. Give them time options, but be flexible. Then send them a calendar invitation to remind them to reserve the time for your conversation.

Decide how many people to interview.

How many people should you talk to? It depends. For each persona that you are creating, start with 3 to 5 interviews. If you already have a good grasp of your persona, that may be enough. However, multiple interviews with prospects, customers, and people unfamiliar with your company may be necessary.

When you begin to predict what your interviewee will say during this process, it is a sign that you have interviewed enough people to identify and internalize patterns.

Decide which questions to ask your interviewees.

Now it’s time for the interview! 

Your questions should address these elements:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Marital status
  • Family composition
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Online sources of information
  • Favorite shows (TV, Netflix, etc.)
  • Social media accounts
  • Goals
  • Desires
  • Passions or causes
  • Frustrations or challenges
  • Type of company (for B2B)
  • Job title (for B2B)
  • Who they report into (for B2B)
  • First-person statements

Steps to creating buyer personas

1. Prospect/Customer Survey

Having a one-on-one conversation is the best approach. In addition, using Zoom or Skype creates a personal connection, making it more likely that you’ll gather helpful, concrete information.

If you don’t have customers yet, you can reach out to your email subscribers, social media followers, or other leads. Tell them that you’re researching to serve your customers better, and then ask if they are available for a short 10-15 minute call.

If you don’t have any leads, take a look at your competitors’ customers. Online reviews are available. You can also track down these people on social media. Now, let’s move on to the next step.

2. Online Research

Although a one-on-one conversation is the best method to research your ideal customer, there’s another way: online research.

You can select a person who regularly posts about topics in your niche and find all of their social media profiles, publications, and websites. LinkedIn and Facebook are great places to find this information and complete your buyer persona.

Keep track of all the information you find about that person as you do your research. These links will be available for you to refer back to later when you create your customer avatar.

Don’t look just at the surface. It would be best to dig deep to understand what makes someone tick (not what just what they want the rest of the world to see).

3. Customer avatar exercise

Once you have gathered all your information, you’re now to begin your customer avatar exercise. During this exercise, you’ll need to record all that you know about your ideal client.

Free Buyer Persona Tools and Templates

The templates and tools below can help you establish an avatar that everyone in your company can use for better understanding your target customers.

Digital Marketer’s Customer Avatar Worksheet

Digital Marketer’s Customer Avatar Worksheet is a PDF that can be filled out on your computer and contains all the necessary areas to focus on.

Digital Marketer's Customer Avatar Worksheet

HubSpot’s Buyer Persona Template

HubSpot’s Buyer Persona Template includes five sections for answering the crucial questions: who, what, why, and how. It also has a guide to help you get started.

HubSpot Buyer Persona Template

“MakeMyPersona” Buyer Persona Generator

MakeMyPersona is a buyer persona generator by HubSpot. Click on the button to “Start Making My Persona,” and it will ask you questions about your ideal client. When you’re finished, you’ll receive a PDF with your avatar and a headshot.

Single Grain Buyer Persona Template

Single Grain’s Buyer Persona Template is an easy-to-use PDF template. All you need to do is for each persona is enter a bio, demographics, challenges or pain points, biggest fears, goals and motivations, hobbies, and common objections.

Single Grain's Buyer Persona Template

Xtensio’s User Persona Creator

Xtensio’s User Persona Creator is a neat app that allows you to enter your buyer persona’s demographics, goals, frustrations, bio, motivations, preferred channels, and brands. You can add modules to your avatar as you wish. Register now for a free account and get started.

Buyer persona examples

So far, we’ve looked at how to create a buyer persona, buyer persona templates and tools, and a list of topics to cover in your interviews. Now, let’s take a look at some concrete examples.

Buyer Persona Example 1
via Buyer Persona Institute

Now it’s your turn.

Go ahead and follow the steps above to create your own buyer personas and get a clear vision of the customers you’re serving. 

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