What are customer personas?
Picture your ideal customer in your head. Think about what they enjoy, what motivates them, what they’re looking for in their personal and professional lives. Where do they live? What do they do? How old are they? What might their daily routine look like?
This, in its simplest form, is what creating customer personas is all about. Customer (or buyer) personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer.
It’s likely that you want your brand to appeal to more than one type of customer, especially as you grow. As you expand into new products, markets and territories, you’ll add to your collection of customer personas. If you’re new to the concept of customer personas, it’s best to start with one that represents your core market.
Although customer personas are fictional, they need to be based on accurate data. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating a dream customer who may not exist.
Why are customer personas important to your business?
Customer personas are integral to your understanding of both your existing customers and new prospects. They influence how you tailor everything from your inbound marketing content to your new product development.
To stay relevant to your target market, every aspect of your offering should be tailored to the needs and behaviours of your target audience.
Where to start when creating customer personas?
Taking thousands of individuals and trying to narrow them down into a single persona can be a daunting task. But you can simplify the process by taking a formulaic approach. We’re going to take you through six key steps:
- Identify your core target market
- Begin your deep research
- Map out your customer persona profiles
- Convert your data into a narrative
- Create sales and marketing strategies for each customer persona
1. Identify your core market:
It’s crucial that customer personas aredetailed and specific but trying to cover all bases at once is guaranteed to makeyou lose focus. Simplify your first step by thinking about who you first designedyour product or service for. Even if you didn’t go through the process ofcreating a customer persona, you had a rough image in your head of the kind ofconsumer you were targeting. Consider, “What is the key commonality forthe majority of my customers?” If you’re a B2B service, ask yourself “whowithin the company tends to make first contact and who is the final decisionmaker?” Researching the key customers for your competitors can also provide agood first starting point from which to dig a lot deeper.
2. Begin your deep research:
You hopefully have access to a growing pool of data via your existing customer base. From your initial customers, you should have a good idea about some of their common characteristics.
- In a B2B business, you can start to analyse whether your customers have similar job titles or work in similar industries.
- In a B2C business, you may start seeing trends around gender, age-ranges and location.
This data must be interrogated when creating your buyer personas. Ultimately, your customer profile is going to take the shape of a basic grid formation, which will cover a variation of:
- Persona name
- Demographic traits
- Values / Goals
- Consumption habits
- Career aspirations (B2B)
Broadly theming your research around these headers from the offset will help you when funnelling the data into the most useful insights for your persona grids. (We’ll go into more detail on this grid development in the 'Map out your persona profiles' section). It’s important to remember, that you can also ask your users to help fill in any data gaps you have. You can do this via various marketing techniques, outlined below
- Use lead magnets to capture customer data. Consumers are increasingly sensitive about what data they share with brands. So, how do you get prospects to volunteer their data willingly? By giving them something for (almost) nothing. Lead magnets are a form of exchange between brands and their prospective customers. They offer access to high-value content in exchange for filling in a lead capture form. This content can take whatever form you wish. It could be a white paper, an e-book, a webinar, a free trial, a product demo, or anything else that will be of value to your prospective customers. It helps if this lead magnet is something you’ve created yourself. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to showcase your unique knowledge, skills and expertise. When you’re asking the right questions in your lead generation forms, you can tailor them to provide the raw data you need to create your customer personas.
- Think harder about your form fields. Consumers generally don’t like filling in long forms. And they’re certainly sensitive about what information they choose to volunteer. So you need to be targeted with the fields you include in your lead capture form. If you were simply looking to generate more leads, you’d use a short and very simple lead capture form. But here you’re looking for quality customer insight data rather than volume. As such, you need to find a sweet spot when it comes to the length and level of detail within your forms. AB testing is a useful way to find this balance. Create a short form, with fields that require the bare minimum of information to build your customer personas. At the same time, create a longer form that has more fields to better flesh out your customer personas. See whether the length or level of detail impacts your conversion rates. You can even take an iterative approach, using forms of different length to find the perfect balance.
- Use exit surveys. If you want detailed qualitative data but don’t have the time to generate your own content, exit surveys can be a useful tool. An exit survey can be used after any interaction a customer or prospect has with your brand. Many businesses incentivise customers to participate in an exit survey by offering them something beneficial like a discount on their next purchase. Exit surveys not only help you to flesh out customer personas, they also help you to identify ways in which your product could better match their needs.
- Do they use your product to its full functionality?
- Has the price point become untenable for them?
- Does the customer feel fully supported by your brand?
- Has the customer found another product that is better suited to their needs?
Properly used, exit surveys can be an invaluable way of keeping in step with your customers’ needs and enable you to fine-tune your offerings so they continue to be of value.
- Talk to your team. Your customers aren’t the only source of useful customer data. Your sales team is an invaluable source of anecdotal information. Which leads do they have the most interactions with? What commonalities do they share? Do they notice that they have most success with a particular type of lead?
Because this data is anecdotal it can be tricky to quantify. As such, it’s best not to use it as the foundation of your research. Nonetheless, it can serve to reinforce your observations about different types of customers and help to flesh out and solidify your customer personas.
3. Map out your persona profiles:
After mining the above for data, you now have the raw material to construct your customer personas. This brings us back to the basic grid formation. You will have spent hours collecting vast amounts of data but be strict in your review process and include only the key insights in your grid. There are several free grid templates available online. HubSpot, for example, has a free persona builder or you can download a Word template here.
Consider including a variation of the following fields:
- Persona name: this helps to humanise your buyer persona. As you start to segment, try naming your persona with the industry/key characteristic in mind, such as “Founder Fran” or “Student Steph”
- Demographic traits: Factors such as age and education can help you better position your product and marketing messaging to ensure it resonates.
- Career: A focus on your buyer persona’s career and seniority level will help you determine what makes them successful and what keeps them up at night. Consider how their job success is measured, their roles and responsibilities and who they report to. Determine the key tools they require to operate.
- Values / Goals: Identifying what truly matters to your customers helps you develop empathy, which is a powerful force when it comes to engaging them on a meaningful level.
- Challenges: Whether personal or professional, it’s often the things that worry us that take up most headspace. If your business can alleviate a key stressor, your prospects are more likely to sit up and take notice.
- Consumption habits: You need to understand how and where they consume information, such as the social networks they use or the events they attend. You can use these insights to determine where your business should have an active presence.
4. Convert your data into a narrative:
Now it’s time to get creative and convert your personas into a story. This can help you to give your team a clearer idea of who this semi-fictional character is.
Describe a typical day for your customer persona. What’s the first thing they do? How do they get to work? What are they thinking about while they’re on their way? What do they have for lunch? What do they do when the working day is done? Do they have certain hobbies or interests? What values, needs and anxieties motivate their actions? Don’t be afraid to get creative, as long as you can justify your creative flourishes by referring back to your data.
Storytelling can be an extremely effective way of communicating your customer personas to your team. Encourage them to adjust their communications with prospects and customers accordingly.
Creating a clear narrative equips you to start seeing the world through their eyes. You can try empathy mapping, making note of what they see and hear, say and do, think and feel. What are the gratifications that keep them going, and what pain points encumber them in the pursuit of their personal and professional goals?
Sometimes it helps to empathise in terms of:
- Roles: What roles do they assume in their personal and professional lives? Aside from their job title and professional status, do they assume any other roles like parent or carer? How can you assist them in fulfilling these roles?
- Goals: What does your target customer want to achieve in their personal or professional lives? Whether you operate in the B2B or B2C space, you need to be able to communicate how your product or service will help your customers achieve these goals
- Challenges: What challenges do your customers encounter when going about their duties at work and at home? How can you bring ease, simplicity, and assurance into their busy lives?
5. Create sales and marketing strategies for each persona:
You’ve used customer personas to see the world through your customers’ eyes. You know what they want, what motivates them, and how you can bring value to their professional or personal lives.
Now it’s time to put that insight to use.
Learn and speak their language. Are they motivated by facts, statistics, and data? Or do they respond to more emotive messaging? Do you want to speak to their hopes and aspirations, or alleviate their fears and insecurities? Neither approach is inherently right or wrong. But using customer personas will help you discover which approach will be more successful.
From here you can build an actionable strategy for:
- Marketing: Creating marketing copy with your customer personas in mind enables you to deliver more targeted messaging. Different campaigns can be run in parallel to appeal to different buyer personas within your target market. Subtle tweaks to language and images can make copy resonate more strongly with different buyer personas. You should use AB testing with different customer groups to ensure that your copy will be effective before you start your campaigns.
- Sales: Take the time to familiarise your sales teams with different marketing personas. This will enable them to tailor their strategy to deliver a more personalised approach to each lead they try to convert. Buyer personas can help sales professionals to identify which product features to put front and centre in their pitch, or which needs and desires to appeal to when engaging with customers.
- Product design: Your customers’ needs change. And if your offering doesn’t change with them, your relationship with them may come to an end. Buyer personas can be invaluable in the design and development of new products. They can also be used to determine whether products still meet the needs of your customers.
- Customer service: Customer personas can help your whole team to deliver a higher standard of customer service. When you know what matters the most to your customers, you can tailor your customer service approach to their logistical, psychological and emotional needs. Whether they want to be reassured, inspired, energised, or educated, you can adjust your strategy accordingly.
How will you use your customer personas?
Creating customer personasis equal parts art and science. It requires both the ability to analyse andinterrogate hard facts and customer data, and a creative spark to help yourteam relate to your customer personas. Once you’ve begun creating personas foryour target customers, there are a wealth of ways in which you can use them toenhance your brand appeal as your business expands.