How to create a buyer or user persona for your business

Creating a persona doesn’t have to be hard and it will lead to a better product, better marketing, and a better business. In other words, it’s a small investment that can pay off big time.

The 10 basic components of a persona

I’ll give you a few tips for creating your persona in a minute, but first let’s review what makes up a good persona:

  1. Name
    While this may seem obvious, giving your persona a name is a huge step forward in making your persona real. When you persona has a name, they’re easier to relate to as a “real” character and easier to talk about in marketing and product development discussions.
  2. Professional and personal background
    These two elements go together. Specifically, you want to describe what your target customer does for a living and where they are in their career. You also want to expand their background into a quick review of your persona’s hobbies, educational background, likes and dislikes. This background influences your persona’s disposable income and also their brand choices.
  3. Demographics such as age, gender, education, ethnicity, family status, etc.
    Here, avoid dividing up your persona into age ranges or percentage male/female. You’re creating a fictional character for this exercise, so be specific about age, family status, and other details. Once you have created one persona to represent your core customer, you may think about creating secondary personas to represent other customer groups. But, for now, just create one persona with as many specific details as possible.
  4. Goals
    What are your persona’s goals? Oftentimes, user goals are beyond the immediate problem that your company solves. For example, while we sell business planning software, our customers’ goal is to create a successful company.
  5. “I need/want” statements
    What does your persona want and/or need in order to reach the goals you have defined for them?
  6. Concerns
    What concerns does your persona have? Are they worried about security? Are they concerned about potentially difficult return processes? How important is reliability and long-term access to your product or service?
  1. Past buying behavior
    Do most of your customers buy from you repeatedly? Or is their purchase a one-time purchase? Does your customer have brand loyalty? How have they solved their problems and achieved their goals in the past?
  2. Environment, including physical, social and technological environment
    Often overlooked, your persona’s environment is a critical aspect that defines who they are. If you’re building an online application, is your persona going to be mostly using your site from home? From work? Maybe on their mobile phone? What is their home or work environment? Is it noisy or quiet? Answering these questions will create a full picture of your persona and how they will be interacting with your site.
  3. A quote that sums up what matters most to them
    A user quote should be just one or two sentences that sums up what matters most to your persona. For example, our persona Garrett says, “I want a simple planning solution that will impress my investors and not take too much time away from actually building my business.”
  4. A photo

To complete your persona, add a picture. After all, your buyer persona should be real to you and your team and adding a picture accomplishes this. It may seem counterintuitive to just focus on one person, but focusing on just one customer that is a good representation of your core customer base will make your marketing and product development much, much more effective.


5 steps to create a persona

Now that we know what a persona is, it’s time to create one. Here are five steps to create your persona:

  1. Survey your existing customers
    If you have customers, put together a survey, get on the phone, or talk to them in your store and get to know them better. If you have email addresses for your customers, you can even use services like Rapleaf to automatically gather demographic data. If you don’t have customers yet, find people who you think are going to be your customers and talk to them.
  2. Get out of the building
    This seems obvious, but it can be a huge hurdle for many marketers. Your biggest advantage over your competition is to get to know your customers in their “native habitat”. Seeing where your customers live and work gives you the real-world picture of how your customers will be making decisions. You can also observe what other brands your customers choose to surround themselves with.
  3. Research online
    If your customers are all from one location, or from a single industry, you can get a lot done online. If you’re trying to learn about a location, Wikipedia is a great resources to learn about the region your customers are from. Do they live in a college town? Where are most people employed? What are the prevailing politics?

If you are researching a particular industry, turn to YouTube. You’ll be able to find industry experts talking about the industry as well as videos showing workplaces, locations, etc.

  1. Analyze your data
    Once you have collected all of your data, you need to synthesize it into one persona, as I described above. Over time, you may end up building multiple personas, but even having just one persona to work with gives you a huge advantage over many businesses that just do “shoot from the hip” marketing and product development.
  2. Share
    Since you’ve now gone through all the effort of researching and creating a persona, now is the time to share with your entire company. This is not something that should only be presented to the management team. Everyone in the company should know who your ideal customer looks like, how they make decisions, and what kind of interactions they expect from your company. Some companies have even made posters of their personas and put them up on the walls of the office so that everyone knows exactly who they should be trying to design for, market to, and sell to.

Keep in mind

Finally, here are a few mistakes to avoid when creating your first persona.

  1. Don’t base your customer persona on one real customer. It’s tempting to go out, meet one customer, and then write a bio of that customer for your persona. A good persona is a composite of all of your core customers and will bring in elements from multiple real customer profiles.
  1. Don’t base your customer persona on stereotypes. This is similar to mistake #1, but you might not even realize you’re doing it. Don’t make assumptions about your customer persona’s interests and needs based on their age, gender, or location—do your research, and let your customers tell you about themselves.
  2. Inconsistencies make your persona unrealistic. Your persona should be as real as possible, so try to avoid inconsistencies. If your persona is a Portland hipster, they probably don’t also drive a BMW.
  3. Don’t be generic. As a counterpoint to mistake #1, don’t be too generic when you create your persona. Your persona shouldn’t be “between 30-45 years old.” They should have an exact age, specific interests, etc. You may find that you need to create multiple personas to represent different customer segments. Just make sure that each one that you create is specific and represents one of your core groups of customers.

Taking the time to create a customer persona will accelerate your marketing, sales, and product development efforts. The time you take to create a solid persona will pay off many times over in the growth of your business, so make the time and watch your business take off.

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