What is a persona?
The first customer persona was created decades ago, and while personas have evolved over the years to include more information, the definition has remained the same: A persona is a representation of your customer base—it brings your customers’ pain points, needs, perspectives, and challenges all together in the context of a character’s life. Some businesses have one persona and some have multiple.
Why should you invest in persona creation?
How can your brand market a solution without understanding how it solves a problem for your target customers? Is it a problem your customers even care about?
Creating marketing personas will have positive impacts on your business, both internally and externally. Personas will give your team confidence in making decisions because everyone will have a clear understanding of your customers’ pain points. Knowing your customers also allows you to position your solution more effectively and really build a relevant relationship with them.
Furthermore, customers conduct research, seek outside perspectives and determine the value of your brand without ever having direct contact with you. What does that mean for you? It means you need to really understand your customers before creating any marketing content, because your content might be potential buyers’ first—and most decisive—experience with your brand.
So how do you actually build a persona?
The best way to get started is to break it down into 4 different steps:
Step 1: What does your ideal customer look like?
Step 2: What would lead them to buy what you’re selling?
Step 3: What does their buying process look like?
Step 4: How can you get yourself in front of them?
6 basic steps to get your persona started
Step 1: Identify Your Persona Or Personas
To help your customers solve their problem and to present your brand as the winning solution, you need to speak to your specific audience—which means your persona should be as detailed as possible. For example, let’s say your product or service targets lawyers. You’re probably not marketing to all lawyers, right? In reality, it’s a smaller group—say, lawyers who service large corporations in North America and who specialize in certain areas of law. Discuss this internally with your team. Learn how to find your target audience in 3 simple steps.
Step 2: Determine Research Opportunities
The best source of information about your customers is—shockingly—your customers. You need to talk to customers on a regular basis. You can also learn a lot from secondary sources, but this research is best paired with insights directly from your customers.
Create a list of all of the research avenues available to your business. This should include:
- Customer interviews (start with at least 10)
- Surveys, which allow you to reach a wider customer group
- Customer feedback provided by your sales team
- Website and social analytics data, which can help you understand the demographics of your audience and what content they’re most interested in
- Social groups where your customers spend time
- Review sites where you can find out what customers are saying about your products—and your competitors’
Step 3: Prepare Questions
Arguably the hardest part of the process is determining what questions to ask, what topics to research and what insights will be most valuable to your brand. Here are some topics to get you started:
- Basic demographics
- A day in the customer’s life
- Their pain points
- Their awareness of solutions
- Where they look for help
- The urgency of the problem
- Their perspective on your brand’s solution
- How they evaluate solutions
- What influences their decision-making
- The challenges or barriers that get in the way of decision-making
Step 4: Collect Research
Before you start gathering information, determine how you will collect and store it. This could be as basic as a spreadsheet or Word document.
Here are a few tips:
- Meeting with customers can be time-consuming, as interviews typically take 30–45 minutes apiece. It’s best to conduct these over video chat because video allows for that in-person dynamic, and you can record your conversations to revisit when writing your persona.
- Surveys can be conducted through many free tools.
- If you find interesting information on a review site or social media channel, take a screengrab and make a note of why you feel this info is important. Collect these screengrabs all in one document. Or, instead of taking a screengrab, use a tool that allows you to extract the data you find into a spreadsheet.
Step 5: Create The Persona
When all your avenues of research have been explored, start looking for patterns within your research, and you will see a character emerge. The research you collected should lead the way, so if you don’t feel confident in your persona, then you likely need to go back to step 3 and try again.
Think of your persona as a story you’re telling on behalf of someone else.
- Give your persona a name.
- Summarize their pain point(s) with one quote.
- Describe their day.
- Be detailed and specific.
- Connect the persona’s problem to your brand and solution.
- Describe the persona’s perspective on the available solutions and what they need in order to validate a decision in your brand’s favour.
Step 6: Share Internally
Personas should inspire the entire team, not just the marketing team. Everyone in the organization should have a detailed understanding of who they are helping and the confidence to make decisions in your customers’ best interests. This kind of confidence is invaluable, because it means your entire team is on the same page and understands the needs of your primary customer in detail.