How to build and use your buyer persona

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As you put together your marketing strategy, there are three key areas of focus:

  • Customers — the ultimate decision makers
    You’ll want to understand their needs and personalities so you can speak to them in a way that closes the deal.
  • Company — your brand and resources
    You’ll need to consider what’s unique about your brand and also decide who on your team gets input, who makes decisions, and what you can accomplish with your budget and timeline.
  • Competitors — companies with similar goods or services
    You’ll want to set yourself apart from other offerings in your market and take note of best practices in your industry.

Let's start at the top, with the people you want to turn into customers. By creating buyer personas, you solidify your strategy for moving them along the marketing funnel toward a purchase.

Personas have been around for ages, and they're easy to skip in the rush to get launched. But truth be told, they've stuck around because they play a role in campaign success.

Personas help marketers, product developers and CMOs put a face to the people they often can’t see. Personas often help to:

  • See gaps in the buyer journey
  • Ask questions from a specific point of view
  • Shed some light on the problems their buyers’ face

The trouble is, getting internal consensus on who exactly your buyer is can be a daunting task.

Here’s how you can gather data, customer research, and the expertise of your team to build smart, specific, and data-driven buyer personas.

What is a buyer persona?

Buyer personas paint a picture of the key traits of your audience members, as well as offer insight into what they’re doing as they consider your product or service.

Ardath headshot

“A persona is a composite sketch of a target market based on validated commonalities – not assumptions – that informs content strategy to drive productive buyer engagement (i.e., revenue).”

Ardath Albee

B2B marketing strategist & CEO at Marketing Interactions

Buyer personas can have a significant impact on how people inside your organization view your customers. Here’s what they do:

  • Eliminate personal wish lists, giving stakeholders a reality-based foundation for discussing the critical features and product changes that matter most to customers.
  • Give team members a consistent picture of the target audience.
  • Allow you to walk through what-if scenarios that meet the needs of specific users, helping to avoid costly misfires and mistakes.
  • Put a face on the customer base, fostering empathy and insight rather than preconceived thoughts and beliefs.

Start by collecting information

When building your own buyer persona, first write down the broad-brush vision you have of your customers – the picture you have in your collective head. Do a little poking around. Get some input from customer service, sales, marketing… even the folks in accounting.

From this process, you can develop broad buyer personas like “retail customer” and “wholesale customer.” Then, build upon and humanize these personas. Use qualitative and quantitative research to flesh them out, taking advantage of every resource available, such as:

  • Google Analytics audience reports
  • Facebook Insights
  • Social media listening tools like Hootsuite
  • Customer surveys and polls
  • Industry and market reports
  • Customer interviews
  • In-product analytics

In order to market to them, you’ll need to know how your customers consume information and add that info to your personas. For example, do they prefer to get info online or offline? How often do they access social networks (and which ones)? Who/what influences their content consumption? Whose advice do they trust or seek when evaluating information?

Conduct customer interviews

You can bet that many of your future customers will be a lot like your current customers. That’s why one of the most valuable sources of information for growth comes from interviewing existing customers about their needs and why they love your brand.

Customer interview report

Learn about conducting interviews from our customer interview play and capture the information using a template – like the customer interview template in Confluence. Using a template ensures you get the right questions asked and capture the insights, even if several people are leading the interviews.

When you're taking notes on customer interviews, make sure that you aren't just taking down questions and answers verbatim.

Instead, focus on actively listening and contextualizing their answers into common use cases and problems. By documenting these broader themes in a template, you'll already have some key points carved out for when you start to build your actual personas.

Use buyer research to bring your personas to life

Once you’ve finished your research, centralize your findings. As you delve into the interview data, ask the questions that will bring each persona to life:

  • Who is this person? What demographic characteristics describe her?
  • What are the specific objectives, responsibilities, and obstacles she encounters?
  • What is her role in relation to my company’s buying cycle?
  • What are her favorite ways to communicate, to make purchases, to interact?

Then it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty: Identify common facts about your buyers, and then funnel those facts into specific personas. You could end up with fleshed out versions of your original ideas, or you could discover new personas you didn’t know you were serving.

That’s the beauty of this process.

You want your buyer personas to include the most relevant data about your current and potential customers. So be sure to include facts such as their type of business, job title and functions, and their geographic location. But also look for subtle facts that can give your company an edge – anything that can help you develop competitively relevant products and marketing.

Persona template

You can organize all of this information in the buyer persona template in Confluence.

Keep in mind that buyer personas are fiction. It’s up to you to bring them to life. The more information your team has, the more likely you will be able to understand the people to whom you’re talking.

When you’re finished, you should have a great idea of who your customers are and how to best improve your offerings to them.

Buyer persona example

Persona example including Title, product team, demographic information, personal quote, summary/bio, goals and motivators

How to actually use your buyer personas

Here’s a best practices cheat sheet for buyer personas that you’ll actually use:

  • Numbers emojiNumbers emoji Whittle down the number of buyer personas: between 4 and 7 is usually a good range.
  • Pushpin emojiPushpin emoji Post the personas where you and other stakeholders can see them (some companies keep them posted in the bathrooms!).
  • Handshake emojiHandshake emoji Get to know them. If you find yourself talking to them, wondering what you could do to help them, questioning how you can improve, that’s excellent. (If they start answering your questions, you might want to consider a little time off…)
  • ⌛ Revisit your personas every once in a while. Make sure they still align with where your business and content marketing strategy are headed.

Stop the guessing game

Without buyer personas, some in your organization will have gut feelings about the people you’re targeting. But without research-rooted personas, even the sage advisor on your team will still be throwing content darts at a very large board.

The same holds true for developing a customer journey. Sure, you can jump right over it and get your campaign launched — but you’ll be missing out on insights that might make the difference between wasting your budget and awesome ROI. Get a quick tutorial with our customer journey mapping play and discover the value of a rubber chicken!

Without personas and a customer journey, marketers tend to solve for their own needs rather than suit the specifics that delight potential customers.

With personas and a customer journey, you create alignment across the organization and rally all teams around a customer-centric vision. The results are useful product improvements, as well as messaging that’s clear, consistent across all channels, and effective in building a long-term preference for your brand.

Set yourself up for success with our collection of marketing page templates for Confluence. Not a Confluence user? No worries: they’re available in PDF form, free of charge.

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