How to create a detailed buyer persona

Threecolts
Kennedell Amoo-Gottfried
Published
September 22, 2022
Modified
September 22, 2022
detailed buyer persona

Data by itself is useless unless you organize it. You can learn about your customers’ age, location, occupation, gender, income level, interests, or any other demographic factoids, but until you can bring all that together into a cohesive profile, you won’t be able to act on it effectively - that’s what a buyer persona does.

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a fleshed-out, detailed, and actionable picture of who your customer is. A majority of the most successful businesses in the world have gotten that way through a customer-focused mission. It is widely accepted that the best starting point to solving most problems is “what does the customer want and what would they like to see?”.

Unless you only sell a very niche product, chances are that you’ll be dealing with multiple buyer personas. Figuring out who these are is crucial to your business - it will help you focus your efforts across your entire organization. 

Who am I selling to? For the product I’m selling, what kind of customer would yield the highest average sale? Who is most likely to come back for more? Who will be most likely to form a real connection with my company? Who is least likely to churn?

How do I structure my marketing and outreach? Should I even be selling this product or should I make changes to my product line? How should I best organize my customer service? Where can I find my customers? How can I keep my customers? 

These are just some of the questions you can only have a real answer to if you have a detailed buyer persona, each of which will have a different set of wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and buttons you can push to drive a sale. 

Of course, a persona is not an exact replica of its intended customer - different customers will line up with different parts of it - but it should be an accurate representation of the ideal customer, and be the best illustration possible of the subset of your clients it is trying to represent. 

You won’t just be creating personas for your ideal customers. Sometimes, it can be just as important to have a good idea of who you definitely don’t want to be targeting, preventing yourself from wasting time and money to win them over. 

So, broadly speaking, how can buyer personas be used throughout your business? Several ways!

  • Marketing strategy:
    Everything from messaging to ad copy, content distribution channels, promotional events, and keyword research can be heavily influenced by different personas. It will also help determine how best to reach customers at different stages of their journey - for example, you could win over a certain persona with the concept itself, making them want to find out more, but you may need a different message to persuade them to pay more than they usually would. 
  • Products roadmaps:
    The best products are designed with the customers in mind from the very beginning - buyer personas can be hugely helpful in determining what needs your product should be designed to solve. Along the way, they will also inform the way products are modified or upgraded, helping development teams prioritize which elements need changing. 
  • Customer support and sales:
    Whether you’re trying to get a new client on board or working to support and retain an existing one, having a good understanding of who they are and what they want will help support and sales teams improve their pitches and problem-solving processes. 

Having detailed buyer personas will let you create far more personalized, and ultimately impactful, content. It’s one thing to write a blog, put a brochure together, or create a video and hope that the right people see it, it's another thing entirely to use your ideal customer as a starting point and tailor the content to what would excite them. 

Where do I start?

So here’s the bad news: there’s no standardized list of buyer personas. There’s no real resource you can go to and find a long catalog of potential personas and just hope to stumble upon one that will perfectly fit your business. Each business is unique - its customers can be very similar, but will also ultimately be unique. 

The good news is that creating personas, while challenging, is not as hard as it may seem at first, and once you have them you open up a ton of avenues for growth. 

To create a great persona, you will need a combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The first you can get through customer surveys, questionnaires, or just talking to them on the phone. while the second you will need to put a bit more work in - carrying out research like questionnaires and surveys where your customers can give you more in-depth information. 

  • Look through the information you already have:
    The first step doesn’t require going to any outside sources or carrying out new research. Hopefully, you’ve already been building up a list of contacts, customers, and potential leads, as well as gathering some basic information about them such as how they found you and how they consume your content. If you haven’t been doing this, then you really, really need to start - this information is the lifeblood of your marketing efforts.
    One of your best internal resources is your sales team - they’re the ones in the arena every day, talking to people and getting a lay of the land. There’s so much you can learn from a phone conversation if you ask. 
    One of the main challenges with carrying out surveys of existing customers is that it’s difficult to get them to actually take a few minutes to fill anything out. You can at least partially overcome that hurdle by offering them something in return, whether it’s an exclusive discount or some other kind of perk.
    Your business analytics are another great source of data here - even widely available resources like Google Analytics can turn up a trove of useful demographic and other data on your visitors. 
  • Proactively gather external information:
    Using what you already have only gets you so far, at some point you’re going to have to go out and get information.
    One effective way to do this is by making forms on your website for visitors to fill out. These could include basic information such as their name, country, and email address (which is massively useful for a whole host of things). If you’re selling B2B products and services, then you also want to know about their company - how big is it (how many employees)? What sector are they in? What is the person’s job title? What is their purpose in downloading whichever piece of content they need to fill out the form to access? How did they find out about your site or your service?
    You could set these out as open-ended fields for them to fill out, but in many cases you can also give them choices from a drop-down menu. Drop-downs make the subsequent analysis easier because it gives you common categories to work with when forming your profiles. For example, one person could write they are a salesman and another could put themselves down as a sales representative - even though they are effectively the same role, you will need to devote more time on the back end ensuring data hygiene.
    Social media is also a great way to find out what your customers are about - not just their attributes but how they communicate. You want to understand how they talk and interact online - what kind of content do they share? Do they use hashtags? Do they post a lot of images, videos or GIFs?  
  • Find patterns
    This is where the analysis starts. You've gathered information, so how can you now start to glean insights? You begin by trying to identify patterns and common threads between the fields.
    Maybe multiple people from the media sector found your site through the same channel. It could be that many companies with fewer than 10 employees need your product for market research. Perhaps very few of the respondents from the retail sector are executive-level people that would actually have the decision-making power to make a purchase. These are all useful to know.
    Keeping an eye out for patterns is something your sales team should be doing already - if they aren’t, start immediately. It doesn't necessarily have to be some kind of scientific analysis on their part - just by speaking to people all day, they are in a great position to make general observations about who is likely to buy, who tends to stay away, what kind of objections they have, what information they respond to, what their interests are, and what kind of leads are the most promising.
    Get your whole team in on the action - anyone who has interacted with customers will have a useful opinion on what may be included in the personas. Don’t lose sight of the fact that this is a marketing exercise, not a screenwriting one - it’s true that these are fictional personas, but you still need to base them on the research, so avoid giving them attributes that are not supported by the information you’ve gathered. 
  • Craft your message
    So you’ve brought together the information you need, you’ve done your research, you’ve put together the persona, now what? You put it into action.
    Using the trigger points you’ve identified for each persona, align the value proposition of your product with the customer’s needs.
    To the extent that you can, speak to them in their language (you’ll have a better idea of what their language looks like from studying their social media behaviors), but don’t lose your own tone of voice or brand identity in the process.
    This flexibility in your messaging will allow you to put together highly specialized campaigns, which in turn enables you to run multiple specialized tracks simultaneously, depending on if you’re trying to grow your sales in multiple segments. 

So what will your buyer persona look like in practice? First of all, it will be based on data and research, but it won’t be entirely real. They will be idealized versions of your various types of customers - you could have your average shopper, the returning customer, the skeptical purchaser,  your company executive, your B2B marketing manager, your decisive buyer, your hesitant buyer, and many more. 

Talking to enough people, you start to realize that a lot of those that are in similar situations are facing similar problems, that may need similar solutions, and you can begin making inferences about different “types” of customers.  

Oh, and you won’t be referring to them as “Persona 2” - they will have names. Influencer Ian, Decisive Dan, Student Sam - there are all archetypes of the people you do business with, they may not be real themselves, but the people they stand in for and represent are. 

For each persona you can include, among other things: 

  • Age
  • Location
  • Marital status
  • Income and finances
  • Online behaviors
  • What she is looking for in a purchase
  • Where they consume content
  • Interests
  • Ambitions and goals
  • Frustrations, turn-offs and pain points
  • Quotes that represent them as consumers

The goal is to convey a sense of personality - who is this person? 

You might be wondering what the point is of going through all the trouble to make up these fake people - that’s fair enough, at first it does seem useless. The reason you need to make them as human as possible is simple - you’re dealing with humans.
The truth about us is that we’re an emotional species - it’s not good enough to know what customers do, we need to know how they feel, what motivates them, and what will push them away. The gut is oftentimes even more important than the head when making a purchase. 

B2B vs B2C

One important distinction you need to make early on is whether your persona is a B2C customer, who will be buying for themselves, or a B2B customer that is making a purchase on behalf of the company.

Because they’re buying for themselves, B2C customers will be more receptive to emotional messaging - they’re looking to fulfill their own needs and solve personal problems. A B2B client, on the other hand, has responsibility over a budget that needs to be allocated in the most effective and efficient way it can, so the value proposition of your product must be conveyed with that in mind. 

B2B customers, on the other hand, may not be buying for themselves, but they are still individuals with their own opinions, criteria, and ambitions within their business - you need to know how to best make decision-makers choose you over a competitor. 

Example of a B2C customer persona

Unlike a B2C customer, who you consider in their personal capacity, for B2B customers you need to consider their professional capacity - who are they at work, as opposed to in the rest of their lives? This doesn’t mean their personality doesn’t come into it - you still need to know what motivates them, but more often than not that will be in the context of what they want from their career and for their company. 

Customer name: Value Victor

Personal background

  • Age: 26-30
  • Location: US Midwest
  • Education: Undergraduate degree
  • Income: $600 per week
  • Occupation: Office administrator
  • Marital Status: Long-term relationship

Financial behavior

  • Doesn’t make many unnecessary purchase, but will spend larger amounts if it represents value for money
  • Debit card is preferred payment method
  • Keeps detailed expenses and budgeting
  • Loves a bargain
  • Does research before making any purchase

Interests

  • Sports (both watching and playing)
  • Live music
  • New experiences and foods
  • Travel (primarily budget flights and hostels)
  • Meeting friends after work

Ambitions and goals

  • Buying own home
  • Professional advancement

Fears and worries

  • Falling into debt
  • Losing employment

Preferred media

  • Twitter
  • News apps
  • Video streaming
  • Music streaming
  • Email (for marketing communications)

Brands they associate with

  • Decathlon
  • Microsoft
  • Android

Name: Social Sharon

Personal background

  • Age: 21-26
  • Location: UK
  • Education: Undergraduate degree in visual arts
  • Income: $800 per week
  • Occupation: Video producer
  • Marital Status: Single / casual dating

Financial behavior

  • Does not shy away from big purchases
  • Uses credit cards for the perks
  • Regularly pays for purchases by installments
  • Associates price with quality

Interests

  • Travel
  • Live music
  • Comedy
  • Sharing experiences with family and friends
  • Luxury experiences
  • Keeping up with the latest fashion trends

Ambitions and goals

  • Establishing passive income
  • Growing social media following
  • Gain high-profile clients for her videography business

Fears and worries

  • Losing social media following
  • Public embarrassment
  • Loss of status

Preferred media

  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Pinterest
  • Video streaming
  • Music streaming
  • Email (for marketing communications)

Brands they buy

  • Gymshark
  • Charlotte Tilbury 
  • Apple

So what does this profile tell us about how you could sell to both of these? 

Firstly, neither of them would buy just any old junk. Victor will want to know that what he is buying represents value for money, but that doesn’t mean he wants the cheapest thing out there. If he has two options of the same product, he will take the cheapest one if the quality is roughly the same, but he will also pay good money for a high-quality product that will last him years.
Always on the hunt for a bargain, Victor will be highly susceptible to the sense of urgency that comes from offers and discounts, especially for high-quality or premium products. Vouchers, sales events, seasonal sales, or other exclusive promotions are good routes to take.
He is a firm believer that if you buy cheap, you buy twice, so he’s willing to pay a bit more if he determines that an option would pay itself off after a while. 

This type of customer is all about the value proposition - they need to clearly be shown the functional benefits of your product.

You’ll have the highest chances of reaching him through email, PPC ads (as well as display ads because he often browses but does not make a purchase, making him ripe for remarketing campaigns), and even over-the-top marketing. 

Sharon, for her part, will be just as receptive to lifestyle imagery and appeals to emotion as she would be to functionality-based marketing. Social media is her domain, and she can function as both a customer and a multiplier of your marketing efforts if you target her correctly. If your product can somehow be used in her content and has the potential to generate views for her, she is likely to use it. 

Unlike Victor, Sharon is open to cross-selling and upselling, meaning you can push more premium products

Examples of B2B persona

Name: Ambitious Andy

Personal background

  • Age: 32
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration

Company profile

  • Sector: Retail
  • Company size: 20 employees
  • Annual Revenue: $2,400,000 before taxes
  • Location: London
  • Business: Sells customizable toys for children

Role within company

  • Title: Marketing Manager
  • Responsibilities: Overseeing marketing efforts and advertising strategy
  • Reports to: CEO
  • Subordinates: Marketing assistant
  • Work experience: Four years’ experience as retail store manager, three years’ experience as marketing assistant at the head office, and two years as marketing manager

Objectives and goals

  • Double the current return on ad spend 
  • Target their audience more effectively
  • Be part of a successful company from the ground floor and grow with it
  • Take on more responsibility and manage a bigger team

Issues and pain points

  • Current marketing channels are not reaching as much of the intended audience as they would want
  • Advertising cost of sale (ACoS) is too high and ROAS is too low

Preferred communication channel

  • Email
  • Phone

Name: Collaborative Carla

Personal background

  • Age: 29
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing

Company profile

  • Sector: Retail
  • Company size: 15 employees
  • Annual Revenue: $2,000,000 before taxes
  • Location: Pennsylvania
  • Business: Sells outdoor equipment

Role within company

  • Title: Head of Customer Experience
  • Responsibilities: Overseeing customer service, engagement and experience team
  • Reports to: CEO
  • Work experience: 2 years as Sales Team Member, four years as Customer Service team member, two years as Head of Customer Experience

Issues and pain points

  • Customer service channels are fragmented across multiple platforms, making them difficult to follow simultaneously
  • Too many negative reviews

Objectives and goals

  • Consolidate customer outreach channels 
  • Improve product feedback and minimize negative reviews
  • Improve CRM system

Preferred communication channel

  • Email
  • Phone

What potential approaches can we take from these profiles? 

Adam is, as his name suggests, ambitious. He’s a hard, diligent worker who is not satisfied with his current place and wants more. It’s not just for his own sake, but he also genuinely cares about the success of his company and wants to grow with it.
He’s happy to sign up for free trials, but it’s much more difficult to get him to actually become a client because he will only accept a new service that would have an immediate tangible benefit to his business - one that he can justify to his superiors and be able to demonstrate results for in the short-term.
Just because he needs to justify his decisions doesn’t mean that he looks for consensus, though. He’s decisive, results-driven, and doesn’t mind a bit of conflict if it means getting him close to a win. For you, this means that he’s the only one you need to convince, without needing to think much about what his team might think.

Carla, on the other hand, will want to run everything by her team. She’s probably more personable than Adam and easier to deal with, but it won’t just be her objections that you’ll need to respond to, but those of all her colleagues as well. It also means that decisions will take quite a bit longer and get the sign-off of multiple people. Unlike Adam, who is motivated by getting the credit of having made a winning decision, Carla is motivated by the fear of catching the blame for a bad one. 

Design

You have a lot of flexibility with how you display that information on the profile. You could do it all in bullet points, for example, which is great for conveying information but it takes effort to decipher at first glance. 

Visual aids such as filled bars and sliding scales will go a long way to making a profile more readable and make it easier to make side-by-side comparisons of the difference in strength or aptitude of different traits between them, here’s one example of a B2C persona: 

 

Software Developer

Here are a few more designed by Arthur Chayka via Dribbble :

Procrastinator
Planner
Influencer

B2B personas can also be designed in different ways, such as this one from Fastmarkit’s Suttida Yang: 

Fastmarkit’s Suttida Yang

This one from Cooler Insights: 

Cooler Insight

And this one from Buyer Persona Institute, which also features a series of tabs across the top that open to even more detailed sub-sections: 

Buyer Persona Institute

Beyond just the marketing itself, having a deep understanding of your personas can help you with some bigger business decisions you could make down the line. For example, if you find yourself in a position where you could potentially strike a partnership or collaboration with another brand or an influencer, you’ll have a pretty good idea of whether or not your customers would be on board and the extent to which it would make them do more business with you in the future. 

The name of the game, ultimately, is empathy. The whole point of fleshing out a character for your customers is so that you can put yourself in their shoes and see things their way to work out how best to reach them. 

Remember that nothing is set in stone. All things change with time, including your customers’ preferences, personalities, and habits, so these personas are living documents and you need to be ready to revisit them continuously as you learn more about your clients.

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About the author
Kennedell Amoo-Gottfried
Kennedell is Head of Account Management, Onboarding, and Operations at Threecolts. He began working in ecommerce in 2020 with OldStreetMedia, where he was General Manager. While getting his MBA from London Business School, he worked as part of Manchester United’s media strategy team and Twitter’s Global Content Partnerships team. He also worked for several years in finance departments for the oil & gas industry before turning his talents to the ecommerce sector.