(Why and) How to Create a Buyer Persona
Written by Linda Rolf on 9/27/2017
Tips for Creating Personas That Your Teams Will Appreciate and Use
I have to start with a confession. When we first began this "who is our customer and what are we doing for him" quest, the notion of buyer personas was met with more than a little exaggerated eye rolling. Some serious snickering was heard around the room. Who makes up stories about fictional people except preschoolers with uninhibited imaginations?
In spite of the obvious skepticism, we pressed on. It was time to get serious about where we were going, and we needed to get back to the basics. A funny, and completely predictable, thing happened as we lived a day in the life of our fictional buyers. We began to think like our customers. Our products and services were reframed with the customer's eye.
As we began to jump into the strategy journey, our new semi-fictional friends were on that trip with us. At each stop along the way, we quite literally asked ourselves "What will Skeptical Outsourcer think about this idea?" "Will Market-Ready Mark see value in this service?"
With that think-like-a-customer mindset, we have stayed true to our customer value appproach. Our buyer personas have been used to validate ideas early on avoiding costly wandering. If your team welcomes buyer persona creation with the same guffawing we did, press on anyway. You won't be disappointed.
What is a Buyer Persona?
The buyer persona is a semi- fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and actual data about your existing customers.
Depending on the size and scope of your organization you might have just one or two personas or many more. Don't let the potential number of personas overwhelm (or discourage) you. Just start with one or two and add to them as you go.
The Buyer Persona is sometimes called the Marketing Persona.
Why Are Buyer Personas Important?
It's tempting to skip this step and to jump right in with creating marketing materials and campaigns. However, without a clear picture of your ideal customer you won't be able to answer these key questions.
Who are you going to talk to?
Why are you talking to them?
What are they saying to you?
What will you say that is relevant to them?
Why will they listen to you?
Each persona is an essential tool for eveyone within your organization.
What To Include In Your Buyer Personas
1) Persona name
Rather than an actual person-name, create a short descriptive name that everyone in the organization will immediately recognize. It gives this persona a unique personality. Go ahead and have some fun with this!
2) Day-in-the-life scenario
Staring at this question can feel more than a little overwhelming. You might even think it's just plain ridiculous. "How on earth do I know what his day is like?" Don't let the temptation to skip this one win. Once you start thinking like your customer, the story becomes easy to tell.
This should be a well-constructed narrative that engages the reader. I recently saw a persona that one of our clients had written. A very brief two sentences isn't a day in the life of anyone. Put some thought into this because it will become the story you refer to often.
Write your persona's story in the first person. Let your buyer speak to you and tell it in his or her own words. Use "I" instead of "her" or "she".
3) Persona's objectives
Make the buyer's objectives specific, not vague statements. For example, it's easy to say "I want to increase our revenue", but that doesn't tell you what the customer is really thinking and why. A more targeted answer might be "We want to expand our customer base by launching these three new services this year."
Your team will be able to more clearly speak to your target buyers when they have more quantifiable insights.
4) Problems the buyer wants to solve
Again, make the description specific. For example, "the software doesn't work right "is more meaningful when stated as "the lack of efficiency and repeatable tasks leads to delays and unnecessary errors".
Listen to the words your customer is using. It's tempting to use words and lingo from your vocabulary, but they might not be what the customer understands. For example, we think "inbound marketing" when our customer may not know what that means. Translate the customer's vocabulary to yours, not the other way around.
5) Place in the organization
This is a critical piece of the buyer persona. Having clear specifics about the buyer's connection within your organization will help your teams more accurately speak to your buyer.
This goes beyond the job title. What you want to understand are such factors as the buyer's commitment to his or her organization, leadership qualities, how he or she influences others. The typical org chart doesn't do justice to the roles that many buyers assume without specific assignment.
For some unexplainable reason, it is often suggested that you include kids, marital status, pets and income. Unless you're selling homes, this seems like pointless fluff.
6) Where does the buyer go for information
Knowing this will help you more accurately segment your buyer into the most effective communication channels.
Expand this to include sources he uses for information unrelated to your products and services. You may discover channels you hadn't considered before.
Uncovering a little-used channel that your buyer prefers and few are using can be a real competitive advantage.
7) What are the expectations for your product or service?
Be careful with this one. It's easy to assume internally-spun features and benefits are the big winners. You really want to tell this from the customer's perspective using her words. This is where real-world research and feedback are critical. Take time to ask some of your valued customers why they do business with you. If you actively listen without assuming you know the answer, you might be very surprised.
I was working with a client recently, and we began the "what value does your organization deliver to your customers question." The client was quick to say they knew exactly what they delivered and why. After an hour or more of being sure, they literally said "Wait...this is exactly what we do! It's not that at all.". Those are the real moments of discovery that make this so rewarding.
8) What are the most common objections to your product or service?
This is where both the sales team and customer support can provide valuable insights. Don't let pride-of-ownership cloud your perception. Again, go to the source and ask your customers. None of us wants to hear the negatives when we're so closely invested in what we deliver every day. The surprising upside to asking is a renewed sense of loyalty from your customers. We all need to be asked and listened to.
Are You Ready to Start Creating Your Buyer Personas?
We've created this free, simple-to-use Buyer Personal Template
To keep things organized as your personas change and grow, we've also included the Buyer Persona Workbook
for you. As you begin building your marketing campaigns, this will be a valuable reference for your entire team.
Get Your Free Buyer Persona Workbook
has traveled the technology landscape for more than three decades. She has designed and developed enterprise applications for a wide range of industries including insurance, healthcare and private member communities. Linda sees unexpected connections among everyday business and the ever-evolving technologies, propelling Quest Technology Group's clients to new growth successes.
Linda is a passionate entrepreneur, avid learner, creator and connector of ideas and people.