Ultimate Guide to Defining Buyer Personas & Why It’s So Important

defining buyer personas

A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer or target audience. It’s a marketing strategy that uses research, data, and consumer psychology to build a fictional model of the people who make your potential customers. Personas help marketing teams understand prospective customers and help inform marketing messaging decisions.

Defining buyer personas is an essential aspect of any modern marketing strategy. It helps sales and marketing teams:

  • focus their energy on qualified leads or prospects
  • guide product development to meet the needs of their target audience
  • create a consistent customer experience across the entire business

When done right, your company will gain a clear picture of the type of person who needs your product or service. In essence, a buyer persona should be a general portrayal of a real person who buys your solution.

Buyer personas are one of the best marketing strategies to help you create content that drives customer acquisition.

You can create a buyer persona using a free persona template or simply draw one up yourself.

Contents

Why is using buyer personas vital for your business?

Buyer personas help businesses better understand their prospects and existing customers. Creating representations of the people who need your product or service can provide excellent information for the go-to-market team:

  • sales teams
  • marketing teams
  • customer success teams

For example, your product or service might appeal to people in the accountancy industry. But do you understand the unique audience segments within that sector? What are the different types of accountants, and what are their particular pain points? What are the factors that drive their purchasing decisions?

If you want to know how to speak directly to this audience, you need to understand how they think about your solutions. Creating customer personas is an excellent way to ensure you produce a harmonious message that resonates with your potential customers.

Building an excellent buyer persona requires market research, website analytics, and information from your existing customers. You can gather this data through interviews, surveys, and analysis of your buyer’s journey.

Why a buyer persona is essential to your marketing strategy

A buyer persona helps your content marketing teams target specific segments of your audience. It can also help you personalize your content strategy to be more effective.

For example, let’s say you are using a nurturing email sequence. You can send the same sequence to everyone on your list, or you can personalize each email to speak to the specific concerns, pain points, and psychology of each of your potential clients.

This process works for the sales funnel too. As each target persona moves through your buyer lifecycle, you can target them with the type of relevant content they need to move to the next stage.

Additionally, you can use negative personas to identify and exclude customer personas that you don’t want. For example, people inside your segment who are unlikely to convert, don’t need your product, or are too costly to acquire.

By identifying high-value visitors and prospects, you can ensure your marketing efforts are spent on customers who will help you meet your business objectives.

Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning (STP)

Buyer personas also allow you to implement a Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning (STP) strategy. This communication method works in three simple steps.

  1. Segment your market based on specific characteristics (income, job title, likelihood to convert, etc.)
  2. Evaluate which segments have the highest potential for conversion and revenue generation
  3. Design detailed and personalized product positioning for each segment
persona template

What are the different kinds of buyer personas?

There are no set rules when it comes to buyer personas. What works for one business may not work for the next.

The number of buyer personas you have depends on your particular product or service. When conducting market research, you should pay attention to how your product or service appeals to specific parts of your audience.

How to create buyer personas that work

Creating buyer personas requires a lot of market research and information gathering. You should target your existing customer base alongside your potential customers.

Here are some of the best ways to get the data you need for creating buyer personas.

  1. Go through your contact list and identify patterns in how your list engages with your content
  2. Capture relevant information on your website via forms or short surveys
  3. Ask your sales team members for their thoughts about the different leads they talk with
  4. Reach out to customers and prospects and interview them about your product or service
  5. Use social listening to gather relevant customer thoughts and opinions expressed on social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Once you’ve gone through this information-gathering process, you should have a lot of data about your prospects and customers pain points. You should understand how they think and talk about their problems and what they want from a solution.

Patterns should begin to emerge from your research. They could be about price, features, or functions. Additionally, demographic information should start to become apparent.

Once you’ve captured some of this data, share your research with as many people inside your company as you can. Remember, this stage of the research process is about getting as much input as possible, and anyone in your business can potentially provide valuable insights into the type of customers that your solution attracts.

Next, we’ll look at the steps you can use to create a buyer persona for the type of individuals who use your service.

#1. Basic demographic information

If you have a buyer persona template, the first step is to populate it with demographic information. You can download free templates or even create your own buyer personas document. What is most important is that you capture information about your ideal customer.

Fill out demographic information like:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Income
  • Job title

Most people are happy to share this information; however, don’t be surprised if some people decline.

#2. Motivations

When you conduct interviews with prospects and customers, you should ask them lots of questions about what motivates them. Establish their pain points and find out what they find unsatisfactory about current solutions. Understand their goals and what is stopping them from achieving them.

#3. Give your sales team members the information

Give your sales team access to your buyer persona research. Ensure they know:

  • who your personas are
  • what do they want
  • what are their major concerns

Share any common questions and objectives from each buyer persona. These details will help your revenue-focused teams prepare for interactions with prospective customers.

#4. Adjust your messaging for each buyer persona

As you do your research, you’ll begin to understand how prospects talk about their pain points and problems. Keep a note of words, phrases, and the industry terms and concepts that your ideal customer uses. You can use these to inform your content marketing, messaging, and sales.

Each buyer persona might have a different way of thinking and talking about your product or service. More likely, there will be some overlap.

#5. Give each persona a name

Pick a name that describes each persona. Use something illiterate and memorable, and feel free to get as cheesy as you want. Some good examples are:

  • Student Steve
  • Director Diane
  • Marketing Mike
  • HR Helen
  • Customer service Carl

These names will form the basis of your buyer personas. They will become a shorthand for how your entire company talks about the different personas that make up your audience and target audience.

interview participants

How to find interview participants

As you can see, interviews with your target audience play a crucial role in creating your buyer personas.

But how do you find the contacts you need to flesh out your buyer persona templates?

Here are some of the best ways to find that information.

#1. Your existing customer base

Your current customers are a fantastic source of information for building a buyer persona. After all, you already know that they are the type of person who is interested in your service.

The best thing about canvassing your current customers is that you’ll already have their contact information and an existing relationship, which makes speaking to them far easier.

Chatting to customers that love your product is a must. But you should also speak to customers that are on the fence. You can unearth amazing information if you ask your customers to explain why their current solution doesn’t work for them.

While gathering this data is primarily about building buyer personas; it can also double up as a valuable product or service feedback.

#2. Prospects

Your prospects are another great source of information to help you create a buyer persona. People who don’t know about your product or service can give you excellent insights into your target audience — and in particular, the reasons why people might not have converted.

You can use interviews or other information that you’ve captured along the way, like leads, analytics, or customer inquiries.

#3. Other useful sources

Current customers and prospects will be your primary source of research. However, you can also fill out your buyer persona template with referrals and even third-party sources.

So look towards your network to see if you can identify and interview people who you believe would make up your ideal customer. Online research companies and user testing platforms can be great to get data for your marketing personas.

How to secure buyer persona interviews

Some people will be happy to talk, while others will require some encouragement.

Here are some tips for getting enough buy-in for your buyer persona interviews.

#1. Make it clear that it’s a research call — NOT a sales call

Getting data from prospects who aren’t already customers is important. However, some may object if they believe you are getting in touch to sell them your product or service. So be clear about your objectives and assure them this is only about getting research.

#2. Offer incentives

A buyer persona interview can get quite detailed. As such, it might take a little time. If you need the opinions of busy people, you can convince them by offering an incentive, like a gift card or cash.

#3. Make it simple

Work your buyer persona research around your interviewee’s schedule. Let them dictate the time or choose from a slot.

target audience

How to perform buyer persona interviews

Any process starts with making a clear plan. And defining buyer personas is no different. One of the key things you need to do is figure out how many interviews you need. There’s no right number, but you should aim for about 3-5 interviews per buyer persona.

Additionally, make sure you get as much representation for the different areas we’ve outlined above, like existing customers, prospects, and, where possible, referrals and third-party sources.

What questions to ask your target audience

At the most basic level, you need to ask the right questions to get the right answers. You want to populate your buyer persona template with relevant, rich data that brings your company closer to understanding your audience.

Here are some groups of questions you should use to make sure you create the best buyer persona you can.

Job role

Asking questions directly related to your prospect’s job will help you understand who your audience is and what their job entails. It will also let you know more about the types of businesses that benefit from your product or service.

Ask questions like:

  • What is your job role or job title?
  • What skills do you need to survive in your business?
  • What tools do you use in your job?
  • Who do you report to in your company?

Company

These interviews are also an opportunity to learn more about the typical company your customer persona works at. Some questions we recommend are:

  • What sector does your business work in?
  • How many employees does your company have?
  • What revenues does your company generate?
  • What is your company culture?

Goals

Understanding your prospects’ goals will help you create content and marketing materials that resonate with your audience. To ensure you’re on the same page as your buyer persona, ask them questions like:

  • What are your goals?
  • What is stopping you from achieving your goals?
  • What do you need a product to do to help you achieve success?
  • What does success look like for you?

Pain points and challenges

Again you need to understand and clearly define each buyer persona’s pain points and challenges. This process will boost your marketing efforts considerably. Questions like:

  • What are your biggest challenges?
  • If a product or service could solve one problem for you, what would it be?
  • Where does your existing solution fall short?

Media consumption

You’ll also want to find out how and where your buyer persona gets their information. This data can help you reach an audience in difficult-to-find places.

  • How do you stay up-to-date on the news about your industry?
  • What blogs or websites do you read?
  • What social networks do you use?

Background

Where possible, ask questions about your customer and prospects’ backgrounds. For example, you can ask questions like:

  • What is your age, marital status, gender, etc.?
  • What is your educational background?
  • What path did you take to your current positions?

Collecting this data will help you create a more accurate and granular buyer persona.

Shopping and communication preferences

Shopping and communication preferences can help your marketing efforts. By understanding how each persona buys products and communicates with companies, you select the best channels for your outreach.

Bonus interview tip

The better the answers you get, the better each buyer persona will be. So ensure that you allocated enough time to drill down on responses.

Getting basic info is essential. However, to dig deeper into your buyer persona psychology, you need to ask “why?”.

Why do they feel a specific way?

Why do they use a particular solution?

Why is XYZ their most significant challenge?

Building a persona is about understanding goals, beliefs, motivations, drives, fears, and other psychological factors.

Make sure your questions unearth the why behind your ideal customer’s decisions.

combine persona with intent

Combine persona with intent for a stronger marketing strategy

Once you’ve collected all your data and compiled it into buyer personas, you can begin to use it to inform your customer service, marketing, and sales approach to reduce friction.

However, to unleash the full potential of buyer personas, you need to consider how you can tie personas into customer intent and personalization.

Are buyer personas accurate all the time?

Some things stay consistent. Defining buyer personas are great for capturing constants that happen on a business or personal level. For example, job titles, business needs, and challenges will stay fixed to some degree.

However, each individual is more complex than any buyer persona we build for them. So, how can we account for changes in mood and situation? Can we make a more dynamic and responsive type of marketing that factors in the motivations behind user action at specific points in time?

Yes, we can. Welcome to the world of customer intent.

What is customer intent marketing?

Buyer personas are representations of the different segments that make up your audience. However, they won’t always give us the best way to define interest and build personalized experiences and interactions because they are fixed.

Customers are a moving target. Sometimes, they can move between personas as they travel through the sales cycle. Intent marketing provides us with a way to:

  • understand each customer’s interests
  • send them the most effective messaging

To use this approach, you need to understand why customers perform specific actions. The research you’ve done when defining buyer personas will be helpful here. You can use your findings to answer these three key questions.

  1. Why are users performing specific actions?
  2. Why do users visit specific blogs or websites?
  3. Why are users searching for specific keywords?

Answering these questions will give you a good idea about the motivations behind each action.

Let’s use an example to show how you can tie buyer persona into intent.

Imagine that one of the personas you defined was Bargain Hunter Bob. He’s not necessarily looking for cheap goods, but he wants to make sure that he’s getting a good deal. In fact, the value of the deal is what best predicts whether he’ll make a purchase. Additionally, customers like Bob will generally do a lot of research to understand where products sit in the overall market.

If Bob visits your site a lot and reads your blogs, he intends to find the best deal possible. Intent marketing looks past his demographic details and looks to personalize sales and marketing materials that will persuade him that your product or service provides value.

So you should have a clear idea of how to reach Bob. Informative blog posts, ads that communicate value, and even limited-time-only deals are all things that could turn him from a fictional representation to a real buyer.

By analyzing what your customers do, be it downloading whitepapers, signing up for trials, or even following you on social media, you can gain insights into their intentions. Once you understand this, you can couple it with a specific buyer persona and deliver the messages you need for them to convert.

From there, you can use this information to create your own strategy for targeting different users based on a combination of persona and intent.

Conclusion

Building a persona for your ideal customers is an excellent way to gain a deep insight into your audience. By splitting your target audience into groups based on common factors, you can create a consistent message across your entire business.

Linking these personas with customer intent derived from user action can help you strategically target prospects and boost your conversions and revenues.

Author
Bryan Philips
Bryan Philips
I'm the Head of Marketing at In Motion. My job is to help your marketing get more leads, sales, and revenue by being a superhero with words. I love to travel, hike and learn new things. As a tech enthusiast, I enjoy learning how to use new software as much as possible.
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