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buyer personas

A buyer persona is a composite representation of a specific subdivision of a market segment.

Whereas a market segment represents a collection of customers who share a common need, a buyer persona digs deeper to represent a collection of customers within a particular market segment who have shared demographic data and place a similar value on how those needs can be addressed by purchasing certain products or services.

Why are buyer personas important?

The purpose of creating a buyer persona is to build an approximation of what an ideal customer would look like so brands can direct marketing efforts toward attracting prospective customers that exist in the real world. Typically, a company's target customer base needs to be represented by several personas, each of which is crafted to address an overall target market. For example, one persona might represent customers who prefer to shop online, while another persona would represent customers who prefer to shop in a physical store. Other personas focus on shared pain points that draw customers to products or services being sold.

With this complied information formed into buyer personas, marketing and sales teams can then create marketing campaigns that target potential customers that will ultimately resonate with real people as opposed to a fictitious model of the ideal customer.

How to create buyer personas

Buyer personas are created mathematically, using data gained from market segment analysis and recent customer behavior. The first step is to collect demographic information such as:

  • age
  • sex
  • occupation
  • education level
  • marital status
  • geographic location
  • income-earning power

The next step is to identify information that sets this persona apart from others. This includes information such as:

  • whether they're a final decision-maker
  • how they research products/services
  • what they consider sources of truth
  • how they prefer to communicate
  • when and how they make decisions

The next step is to look at reasons why this persona might be interested in the products or services a business offers. This can include:

  • What motivates the buyer to purchase the product or service?
  • What goal(s) can the product or service meet?
  • What pain point(s) can the product or service alleviate?

Finally, once a company builds a strong set of composite personas, it can use machine learning algorithms to predict future behaviors of real customers the business wants to target.

An important goal of creating personas is to gain insight into how and where a company should deliver marketing messages to a specific segment of its customer base.

Buyer personas are also an important tool for building customer journey maps. As companies use their buyer personas to create their customer journey maps, they should consider factors such as shopping habits for related goods and services, as well as payment and delivery preferences.

Examples of buyer personas

Here is a persona developed by a fitness center chain looking to target new moms seeking to get back into shape:

Key demographics:

  • female
  • between 20 and 40 years old
  • stays at home full time or has a full-time career with maternity leave
  • has sufficient income to spend on monthly fitness center and personal trainer fees

Unique identifiers:

  • looks to social media and online reviews for product and service recommendations
  • seeking to find a fitness center within 10 minutes driving distance of her home
  • requires date/time flexibility in her workout routine

Purchase characteristics:

  • looking to start quickly and is willing to pay extra for specialized training that's unique to her situation
  • requires staff that can help keep her motivated
  • has set weight loss/fitness goals in mind

Here is an example of a business-to-business (B2B) buyer persona. In this case, the persona is a business's IT department that is looking to secure corporate data. The granularity and importance of this buyer persona data set will differ significantly from the fitness center example:

Key demographics:

  • IT manager
  • between 30 and 65 years old
  • college educated
  • earns between $60,000 and $160,000, annually

Unique identifiers:

  • is the final decision-maker on IT-related purchases
  • uses technical resources in-house to help make purchase decisions
  • often reviews industry analysis from trusted tech-focused resources
  • prefers face-to-face meetings with IT product/service vendors

Purchase characteristics:

  • upper management is growing increasingly concerned with critical business data leaking out of the organization
  • willing to look at multiple options before making a purchase decision
  • tends to purchase products/services from partners they've already worked with and trust
  • looking for a product that fits the department's overall technical roadmap

Editor’s note: TechTarget offers ABM and project intelligence data, tools and services.

This was last updated in July 2020

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