What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a composite representation of a specific type of customer in a market segment. A market segment represents a collection of customers who share a common need. A buyer persona digs deeper into a subset of potential customers who have shared traits, such as similar demographic data or reasons for purchasing a certain product.
Buyer personas make clear who in an industry would need a certain product or service, what they need it for and why. They help organizations to better understand their customers and prepare for future customer interactions.
Businesses building customer personas should include information such as age, gender and income -- any trait that might influence the potential customer's purchasing decision. Personas also include details about the customer's profession, whether they make purchasing decisions as part of their job and what they consider reliable sources of information when learning about new products.
For this reason, a business selling manufacturing raw materials would want its buyer personas to distinguish between certain customer job titles, such as design engineers, who might make buying recommendations but not decisions, and procurement officers, who would make buying decisions.
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Why are buyer personas important?
Organizations create buyer personas to build an approximation of what an ideal customer or various ideal customers look like. These customer profiles help companies direct their marketing strategy toward attracting prospective customers that exist in the real world.
For most companies, their target audience is represented by several personas, each of which is crafted to address a piece of the overall target market. For example, one persona might represent customers who prefer to shop online. Another persona would describe target customers who prefer to shop in a physical store. Having a better understanding of buyer personas increases the likelihood of a positive customer experience (CX). Other personas focus on various shared characteristics or pain points that draw a group of customers to the products or services being sold.
Buyer personas help product development, marketing campaign management and customer support teams execute product development, marketing efforts and support initiatives. Personas ensure these efforts adhere to customer expectations, meet specific needs and resonate with real people as opposed to fictitious, idealized customers.
How to create buyer personas
Businesses typically build large collections of customer personas, creating one individual persona at a time. The process is expedited with the use of a buyer persona template. There are four parts to this creation process. Three of the following entail gathering essential information to be included in each persona, while the fourth is a guideline for analysis on large quantities of personas:
- Demographic information. Buyer personas are created mathematically, using data gained from market segment analysis and recent customer behavior. The first step in creating one is collecting demographic information, such as age, sex, occupation, education level, marital status, geographic location and income.
- Unique personal attributes. The next step is to identify information that sets this persona apart from others. This includes information such as the following:
- Whether these customers are final decision-makers.
- How they research products and services.
- What they consider sources of truth, such as advertisements or word-of-mouth recommendations.
- How they prefer to communicate.
- When and how they make decisions.
- Interest in product or service. The third step is to look at reasons why this persona might be interested in the products or services a business offers. This can include the following:
- What motivates this type of buyer to buy the product or service?
- What customer needs does the product or service meet?
- What pain points does the product or service alleviate?
- AI and machine learning analysis. The final step entails using machine learning algorithms to analyze their data, glean insights and identify patterns that can help predict future behaviors of real customers.
Buyer personas are also an important tool for building customer journey maps, which guide a marketing team on how and when to deliver marketing messages to a specific segment of its customer base. As a company uses its marketing personas to create customer or buyer journey maps, it should consider more in-depth attributes, such as shopping habits for related goods and services, as well as payment and delivery preferences.
Examples of buyer personas
What follows are two buyer persona examples created based on market research done by two different types of businesses. The first is a retail setting involving a fitness center trying to expand its customer base by targeting new moms wanting to get back into shape. The second is a business-to-business setting, where a data security company is targeting IT departments looking to secure their organization's data.
Example 1: Fitness center targeting new moms
- 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.
- Looks to social media and online reviews for product and service recommendations.
- Wants a fitness center within 10 minutes driving distance of her home.
- Requires date and time flexibility in her workout routine.
- On-site childcare is a plus.
- Wants to start fast.
- Is willing to pay extra for specialized training that's unique to her situation.
- Requires staff that can help keep her motivated.
- Has specific weight loss and fitness goals in mind.
Example 2: Data security company targeting corporate IT departments
- IT management job title.
- Between 30 and 65 years old.
- Earns between $60,000 and $160,000, annually.
- Is the final decision-maker on IT-related purchases.
- Uses technical resources in-house to help make purchase decisions.
- Reviews industry analyses from trusted tech-focused resources.
- Prefers face-to-face meetings with IT product and service vendors.
- 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 and services from partners the company already works with and trusts.
- Looking for a product that fits the department's overall technical roadmap.
Businesses looking to optimize customer experience can develop personalization strategies that let the marketing and sales teams provide relevant content to customers when they need it. Learn how CX personalization works.