Much like a fictional character in a play, book or movie; a buyer or Customer Persona is a “fictional” representation of your target market or audience. The marketing persona plays a role in order to better inform your marketing team on how to promote your product.

This piece will walk you through how to create a persona, the benefits of it, the best practices of using the persona, and the purposes of having one.

The Purpose of a Marketing Persona

Your personas should be based off of qualitative and quantitative information your team gathers from user research, web analytics, and interviews. There are several characteristics of buyer personas:

  • They are real people with values, beliefs, goals and backgrounds
  • They represent different major user groups you are targeting
  • They express and concentrate on the major needs of each user group
  • They are looking for features and products that your product meets
  • They depict a clear picture of how your users are wanting and expecting to use your site and product(s)

The Benefits of a Persona

Personas help to narrow your focus when making decisions on how to design and create your website, as well as other decisions, like where to spend your marketing dollars. Other benefits of building buyer personas include:

  • Writers can assure that all content is aligned with your target customers’ needs and wants
  • Designers can design marketing materials and website features to match
  • Stakeholders and owners can better understand their target market and make more informed decisions
  • Your IT department can better plan, build wireframes, determine scope and align interface behaviors
  • You will save money by knowing when, where and what to spend your marketing dollars on

How to create a Persona: Best practices

  1. Conduct user research – During your user research, be sure to answer these few questions: Who are your users, why are they interested in your product, and what are their expectations of it?
  2. Brainstorm – Take information that you have gathered and put it into different persona groups and then label them. Brainstorm further within each group.
  3. best practicesBuild your persona in a realistic manner – Even though these personas are “fictional” people, they are real in the fact that they are a clone of prime customer. Be sure to build them so you can relate to them from a marketing perspective.
  4. Don’t just make them up – Believe it or not, this is done far too often. Building a persona isn’t as simple as combing through your customer data and polling your employees. You can’t guess on a persona and expect the same results as a persona researched through market data.
  5. Your persona should be built in a way to tell a story about your “ideal” customer(s) – A persona should tell a story about your target customer(s) just like a book first lays out a character. It’s more than just demographic data.
  6. Condense your research – Breakdown and condense your research by finding and linking similar characteristics and themes that are relevant and universal to your personas.

Important Questions to Ask

Define the purpose of your project (website or marketing piece):

  • What are the goals of your project?
  • What is the purpose of your project?

Lay out and define what your user looks like:

  • Personal
    • Age?
    • Gender?
    • Education?
  • Professional
    • Experience?
    • Background?
    • Why will they come to your website or view your product?
    • Where will they come from?
    • When and where will they access your website or information?
  • Technical
    • What pieces of technology does your user use on a regular basis?
    • What software do they use?
    • What type of devise so they usually use to access the web?
    • How much time a day does this person spend browsing each day?

Define their motivations:

  • What are they motivated by?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What are their needs?
  • What are they looking to do?

The Process of Building Your Personas

If you know the right steps to take and the right questions to ask yourself, building a persona isn’t difficult. The biggest step is presenting the information in a helpful way so your company can truly understand your persona and use it to better their sales process. Build a great persona by following the steps below:

STEP ONE: Find people to speak to and interview.

Prospects: Prospects are a great option for interviews because you already have their contact information. Plus, you want to get a perspective from people who don’t know that much about your company and haven’t used your product or service.
group of people
Customers (Good and Bad): Your current customer base is a great place for research because they do know your product and are established with your company. They will be able to give you a realistic view of your product(s), website and are going to fit into your persona.

Referrals: Yet another angle to gather information, referrals will have a positive spin and a more detailed opinion on your product. The quality of this type of interview will be important for a well-diversified persona.

Third Party Data Sources:Remote testing from third party networks is a great solution to gather information from a totally different source. Sites like allow you to run remote testing with some follow up questions.

Questions to ask during the interview:

The below questions should be aligned with your product goals. Decide which set of questions works best for you. Not all interviews will need all questions nor will they all apply: An sampling of questions include:

  • What is your job? Role? Title?
  • What are your personal and business goals?
  • How is your job measured?
  • What skills are needed for your current job?
  • What tools do you need on a day to day basis with your job?
  • What is the size of your company?
  • What Industry do you work in?
  • What are you responsible for in your role?
  • How do you learn about new information at work?
  • What publications do you read? Personal and for work?
  • What social networks or groups do you belong to?
  • What do your personal demographics look like?
  • How do you prefer to interact with vendors (email, phone, text, etc?)
  • Describe a recent purchase and why you needed it.

STEP TWO: Use your research and information gathered to create your persona.

Fill in basic demographic information:

  • Background: Basic information about their role, company, their education and hobbies.
  • Demographics: Gender, age range, income, location (urban, rural, etc.).
  • Identifiers: Buzz words, important reactions or identifier comments.

STEP THREE: List what you have learned about your personas motivations.

  • Goals: Primary and secondary personal and work goals.
  • Challenges: Primary and indirect challenges they are currently facing.
  • How to Help: The ways our products would help solve those challenges.

STEP FOUR: Teach your sales team about your personas.

  • Common Objectives: Gather a list of common objectives in order to present and prepare your sales team.
  • Relatable Information: Include a few quotes here that came right from your set of interviews.

STEP FIVE: Develop messaging around your new persona(s).

  • 30 Second Commercial (Elevator Pitch): Create an easy way to present and describe your product to your persona. Be quick and concise.
  • Marketing Messaging: What is the best way to describe your product or service to your persona?

STEP SIX: Give your persona a name and face.

Your persona needs a true identity. Naming your persona is like naming a child. There are times that you can’t truly agree on a name until you see the child – that’s why this the final step. You need to first gather enough information on your persona to be able to determine what he/she should actually look like and be named. question markets

  • Name: It’s important to name your persona so your team knows which one you are talking about and what project or product it relates to. An average company will likely have more than one persona, and therefore will need to come up with unique names to differentiate them. The name should be one that might likely show up in your list of customers.
  • Picture: Search stock photo sites to find your perfect match for your persona’s demographic data and behaviors (are they well-dressed or casual?).

Final Thoughts

Creating personas is important to developing a marketing plan that appeals to your target market. Develop your personas in a way that makes sense to your team, business and product. Gathering information and creating personas will allow you to target the right market, build an appealing website, and develop complementary marketing materials that will help improve you ROI.

“As a general rule of thumb, build a website for a user not a spider.” – Author Unknown