How to Build Buyer Personas 

By Madison Taylor
April 7, 2023
Wooden Blocks in a staircase pattern

There’s an old joke about a drunk man stumbling around under a streetlight. A police officer approaches him and asks what he’s doing, to which the drunk man replies that he lost his keys. The officer asks, “Where did you lose them?” The man replies, “Across the street, but the light is better over here.”

There’s a real danger in the marketing world of becoming the man under the streetlight. Companies with a limited budget or limited marketing resources tend to spend their money where it’s easiest to track — where the light is best. That means paid ads, PPC search results, and Meta social ads.

But while those ads are easy to buy, easy to design, and easy to measure, they’re not necessarily the best way to reach the people you want to talk to. That’s why buyer personas are so important.

What’s a Buyer Persona?

We’ve advocated buyer personas for years — they’re the foundation of all your marketing efforts. What is a buyer persona? It’s a hypothetical customer of your company that you create based on who you think is buying from you and who would make the best fit.

When you create a buyer persona, you lay out everything relevant about them — job titles, income, age, location, demographic info, interests, and hobbies, whether they own or rent their home, what kind of car they drive, and any of a hundred other potentially useful factors.

Included in that list are their internet habits. Do your customers use social media apps? Which ones? How much time do they spend on those networks? What time of day do they generally log on? Where do they get their news? What do they do for entertainment? Do they use a desktop, laptop, or mobile device?

How to Build Buyer Personas

How do you answer those questions? The first way is by asking your customers themselves, either directly or indirectly. The most direct way is to ask your customers. Send out surveys with their receipts, asking them how they found out about your product, what their buying experience was like, and so on. Ask them what’s working and what they’d like to change.

To get a sense of your existing customers indirectly, you can also ask your sales team what patterns they’ve noticed. What features of your product are most appealing? What are the biggest reasons people don’t close the deal? Who tends to be the best customers, and who tends not to renew their subscriptions or make repeat purchases?

If you’re starting out and don’t have enough customer data to draw real conclusions, start building personas from whom you’d like to see buying your products. If you make enterprise software, you probably don’t want to sell to low-budget startups. If you make industrial manufacturing equipment, you don’t want to waste ad money on people who can’t afford it. If you offer a service in person, there’s no point in advertising to people who live far away. And so on.

Even if you can’t answer all of those questions for your real customers, you should be able to answer them for your personas. That way, you can tailor your marketing strategy, messaging, and placement to appeal to the right people — finding them where they are, not where it’s easiest to look.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Build a Buyer Persona:

  1. Collect Demographic Information:

Start by gathering basic demographic data about your customers, such as age, gender, location, income, education level, and job title. This information provides a foundational understanding of who your customers are.

  1. Analyze Behavior and Interests:

Examine your customers’ behavior, interests, and hobbies. This includes understanding what they do in their free time, what websites they visit, and what social media platforms they use. This helps in crafting targeted marketing messages.

  1. Identify Pain Points and Challenges:

Talk to your existing customers, conduct surveys, or analyze customer support inquiries to identify the common challenges and pain points your customers face. Understanding their problems helps you position your product or service as a solution.

  1. Determine Goals and Objectives:

Find out what your customers are trying to achieve with your product or service. Are they looking for cost savings, convenience, productivity improvement, or something else? Understanding their goals allows you to align your marketing messages accordingly.

  1. Discover Buying Motivations:

Understand why your customers chose your product or service over alternatives. This can reveal key motivators, such as price, quality, brand loyalty, or unique features.

  1. Consider Communication Preferences:

Determine how your customers prefer to be contacted and receive information. Some may prefer email newsletters, while others prefer social media updates or direct mail.

  1. Create a Persona Profile:

Compile all the information you’ve gathered into a detailed persona profile. Give your persona a name and a face (use a stock photo) to make it more relatable. Include all the relevant information about demographics, behaviors, challenges, goals, motivations, and communication preferences.

  1. Segment Your Personas:

If you have multiple types of customers, create distinct personas for each. This ensures that your marketing efforts can be more precisely targeted.

  1. Use Your Personas:

Once you have your buyer personas, integrate them into your marketing and sales strategies. Craft content, advertisements, and messaging that resonate with each persona. Tailor your product offerings and customer support to meet their needs.

  1. Iterate and Update:

Your buyer personas should not remain static. As your business evolves and customer data accumulates, revisit and update your personas regularly to ensure they continue to reflect your audience accurately.

Building and using buyer personas following these steps can significantly improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by helping you speak directly to the needs and interests of your target audience. Remember that while personas are based on data, they are still generalized representations, so it’s essential to continually validate them with real customer feedback and insights.

Negative Buyer Personas

Finally, it’s worth your time to create a “negative buyer persona.” This is a hypothetical customer that you don’t want for any number of reasons. Maybe they can’t afford your product, maybe they’ll need too much help using it, maybe they live too far away, or maybe their budget is too small. There are many reasons that someone might not be a good fit for your company, and it’s a good idea to spell them out.

Keep in mind that personas are fluid. You might build a persona and start marketing, only to realize that your customers aren’t who you thought they were. Or you might find that you need multiple personas to encompass numerous distinct types of customers. That’s fine! The important thing is that you’re asking the right questions to find out how your customers are likely to interact with your brand.

Final Thoughts

It’s all too easy to stumble around in search of customers, much like the drunk man under the streetlight searching for his lost keys. Many companies, particularly those with limited budgets or resources, often gravitate toward the well-lit paths of paid ads and easily measurable marketing strategies. However, this approach doesn’t always lead to reaching the right people. This is where buyer personas come to the rescue. They shine a light on the path toward understanding and effectively engaging your target audience.

In the end, building and refining buyer personas empower your marketing strategy to navigate the dark alleys and find your customers where they truly are, not just where it’s easiest to look.

Remember, your personas are your guiding lights in the ever-changing landscape of marketing. They illuminate the path toward meaningful connections, efficient marketing campaigns, and successful customer engagement. By asking the right questions and continuously updating your understanding of your audience, you can ensure that your marketing efforts lead you to the right customers, helping your business thrive in a dynamic and competitive world.