Howard Tillerman is the Chief Marketing Officer for Making That Sale and an award-winning marketing professional.
Updated on August 10, 2023
How to Build a Buyer Persona (With Examples)
What’s a Buyer Persona?
Why is it Important to Build a Buyer Persona?
How to Build a Buyer Persona
Examples of Buyer Personas
Who is your ideal customer? Is it just anyone with a need for your product and the capacity to buy it? If so, your marketing and sales campaigns will be quite vague and ineffective.
Instead, businesses should create buyer personas—semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer—to guide and focus marketing and sales efforts, making your reps more adept at identifying qualified prospects and closing sales.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? If you’re new to buyer personas and don’t know where to start making one, here’s a handy guide on how to build a buyer persona that will enhance your marketing and sales messages and encourage more sales.
A buyer persona is a detailed description of a semi-fictional potential customer for your business.
Buyer personas enhance a company’s marketing and sales campaigns by giving employees a tangible image of a customer to promote to, acting as a benchmark to quickly determine if messages and strategies would be effective or not.
To build a buyer persona, a company should research its current audience, identify customer pain points and goals, augment the profile with detailed characteristics, and align the product and company with the buyer persona.
What’s a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional personification of your ideal customer profile and customer base.
We say semi-fictional because while 90% is based on traits of your target customer identified through market research, the last 10% is fictitious. They’re also called a customer persona, audience persona, or marketing persona.
Rather than a nebulous thought of “we want to sell to this type of person,” buyer personas go one step further: they have a name, demographics, interests, specific purchasing behaviors, and maybe even a fictitious portrait. It’s like a company-wide imaginary friend!
The goal of creating a buyer persona is to enhance your marketing and sales activities by allowing marketing and sales reps to imagine they’re promoting to a real person.
A business will likely need more than one buyer persona: at least one per product, and maybe several for one product, as different types of customers might buy a product for different reasons. But for this case, let’s just stick to creating your first buyer persona for your primary target customers.
Why is it Important to Build a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona structures the company’s efforts: rather than generically creating bland, generic marketing materials and sales pitches, with a buyer persona, employees can easily craft targeted messages to customers.
Humans are social creatures, after all: rather than a faceless-and-nameless collection of analytical data points on a wide pool of potential customers, selling to a perceived person helps employees intuitively craft effective strategies and content by asking themselves: “Will the buyer persona like this?”
Buyer personas help marketers and salespeople humanize their target audience and think more critically about the best ways to communicate with them.
With a buyer persona in mind, employees can quickly determine if their marketing material and sales strategies would be effective or not, saving the company time and money. A company-wide buyer persona also aligns the marketing and sales department by crafting one best prospect profile to create a comprehensive sales methodology and a customer-facing brand image.
This is especially important for social media campaigns, where content and ads must seem organic and appealing.
How to Build a Buyer Persona
Eager to make your first buyer persona? Follow these steps to make a comprehensive and effective buyer persona.
1. Research your audience
The first step to making a buyer persona is to conduct market research and audience research to gain a thorough understanding of who you’re supposed to be selling to. After all, your buyer persona will be useless if it doesn’t accurately represent your ideal customer profile!
At a bare minimum, your customer research should cover the following:
Online behavior (communication channels)
If you’re a B2B seller, these will be useful as well:
Size of the business
Purchasing agent’s job title and position
Purchasing agent’s role in the purchasing process
You can obtain this information by surveying and interviewing your customers and combing through their feedback. Your sales reps and customer support team may also have some insights to share, since they interact with customers the most. It may also be worthwhile to observe who competitors are targeting, depending on how different your products are.
If you use social media, tools like Facebook Audience Insights or Google Analytics can analyze your followers to generate these demographic insights for you.
As your profile takes shape, another useful tool is to think about the reverse: who would not use your product? Who do you not want to sell to? This is called making a negative buyer persona, and helps you narrow down on your prospective customer by trimming away the excess.
2. Identify customer goals and pain points
Next up is to identify your customer’s goals and pain points.
For goals, identify what motivates them: do they want to succeed in their personal or professional life? What problems are they hoping to solve? What’s their dream for the future? Knowing your prospects’ aspirations will allow your company to associate your product with what your customer cares about.
The customer’s pain points are the things holding them back from these goals: persistent problems in their life that affect them physically, emotionally, or logistically. In other words, pain points are needs that haven’t been met yet.
Just as you did for the last step, interview your existing customers and consult your sales and customer service teams to learn more about your customers’ goals and pain points. Check online and on social media platforms to see what people are saying about your company and what issues they use your product or service to solve.
3. Create your buyer persona
You’ve gathered a lot of information about your customer base’s profiles and goals: now, find common characteristics, distill them into one character, and flesh them out.
Give your buyer persona a specific name, age, hobbies, home, and anything else that will make them seem like a real person within the bounds of your target customer base. Imagine that you’re setting up a profile on a dating site!
But unlike a dating site, when you create your buyer persona, you’ll need to go into great detail about the persona’s goals, pain points, and concerns based on the research from the previous step. This is the crux of your buyer persona: the specific need they have that can be solved by your product.
You could also give them an epithet to help reps remember them by: for example, if you’re selling paper towels, your buyer persona for clumsy people could be named “Klutzy Karl.”
4. Align your product and company
Now that you’ve created a comprehensive picture of who your buyer persona is and who they want to be, describe how your company can help close the gap, connecting what your product does with what customers want it to do.
Your employees should already know the specs of your product and what it tangibly does, but take it a step further up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and describe the benefit and value it provides to customers on a more significant level. How does your product solve customers’ pain points and help them achieve their goals? How will it make them feel to use your product?
Defining these higher-tier emotions and associations helps reps create marketing messages that appeal to the buyer persona (and customers) on a deeper level, making more persuasive promotions.
A one-sentence summary of this benefit is called your product’s value proposition, and a summary of how your product differs from competitors is called your Unique Selling Proposition.
Additionally, think about how you’d target someone in your buyer persona. What words appeal to them? What marketing channels are they most likely using? How do they research before purchasing? What qualifications do they look for in a product?
Let’s go back to our example of Klutzy Karl: maybe he’s an aspiring home chef and consistently makes a mess in the kitchen, leading to a perpetual need for paper towels to clean up.
To appeal to his pain point, reps could say that your paper towels absorb five times more grease than other brands. To appeal to his goals, they could say that nine out of ten professional chefs use and approve of your paper towels; in other words, if Klutzy Karl wants to get closer to his goal of cooking like a professional chef, he should purchase your product. Finally, because he’s likely watching a cooking video or listening to a cooking podcast while he’s in the kitchen, your business would want to invest in ads on platforms like Youtube or Spotify.
See? More focused and persuasive already!
Examples of Buyer Personas
To help explain, let’s look at some examples of buyer personas and why they’re effective.
1. Go-Getter Gina
Gina is a 40-year-old entrepreneur who started her own tax software company 10 years ago. She has a Ph.D. in computer science and a Master’s in accounting, lives in Palo Alto, California, and decided not to get married in favor of focusing on growing her business. Her hobbies are rock climbing and self-improvement. Her goal is to take her company public and launch an IPO in the next five years, but her sales department hasn’t been scaling the way she needs it to.
Gina is an example of a B2B buyer persona who might be used by companies selling sales software solutions such as a CRM or ERP, which would solve Gina’s pain point of scaling her sales operations.
With Gina —the business owner and key decision-maker— in mind, sales reps would know to focus their messages on how the product benefits the company as a whole rather than merely focusing on improving the sales department. They would highlight how their solution could improve sales efficiency in under a year so Gina can meet her goal of an IPO in five years, and provide analytical insights that will let her strategize better. Finally, though she has expertise in the product development side of her business, Gina might struggle with the sales and marketing aspects – this tells reps to keep sales jargon to a minimum.
2. Thrifty Thomas
Thomas is a 27-year-old stay-at-home father of two young children, aged six and two, in a single-income middle-class household in Denver, Colorado. When shopping, his goal is to use coupons and discounts to save as much money as possible to save for his children’s college funds. Thomas often clips coupons from local newspaper fliers and checks online for sales, comparing prices and making sure he gets the best value before heading out to the store.
Thomas’ persona could be used by a variety of B2C companies that target budget-conscious consumers: the most important thing about him is exactly how he’s receiving his coupons, namely by using local fliers and online research. A local supermarket would then know to invest more in these promotional channels and explicitly compare their prices to those of competitors in order to draw in more customers like Thomas to their store.
3. Healthy Haley
Haley is a 45-year-old doctor, married to another doctor with one teenage child. Haley feels like she’s getting older, and she wants to remain fit and healthy by investing in premium health and wellness products and services.
Haley has a fairly high income, so rather than price, health food and fitness club companies who would use Haley should focus on product quality instead. Because Haley has a background in medicine, companies selling health products to medical professionals should use a bit more specific medical terminology in their promotions, naming the specific vitamins their product contains and organs their product targets in order to convince Haley of their efficacy.
A well-constructed and detailed buyer persona hones your business’s marketing and sales efforts, brings to light effective strategies to promote your product and appeal to potential customers, and creates an appealing and comprehensive customer journey.
Once you’ve created your buyer persona, disperse their profile across your organization to put everyone on the same page and align your company’s selling efforts. With a company-wide vision of an ideal buyer, you can expect to see a higher return on your marketing and sales endeavors as customers begin to feel seen and understood by you.
FAQs on Building a Buyer Persona
Should I use a buyer persona template?
If you’re making your first buyer persona, it may be helpful to use a buyer persona template to make sure you don’t forget anything.
What’s the difference between a buyer persona and an ideal customer profile?
An ideal customer profile (ICP) is a description of the perfect company or customer to buy your solution. Buyer personas are semi-fictitious human personifications of a company’s ideal customer; it takes research data on the company’s best customers and adds details to make a living, breathing person.
Though both cover the company’s ideal customer, a buyer persona is a bit more tangible: a buyer persona takes the ideal customer profile and attaches more detail to it, making it a named character with their own life and story. It’s useful to create buyer personas in order to enable better marketing and sales messaging.
How often should I change buyer personas?
As your business grows, you’ll likely need to update your buyer persona or make new ones entirely – it would be best to do so in order to continuously improve your business. How often you change or update your buyer persona depends on your industry: the more volatile, the more often you’ll need to change it. But at the very least, review your buyer persona every year, and update it every three to five years.
What are some best practices for building a buyer persona?
When building buyer personas, don’t think you have to merge every customer detail into one persona: recognize when you need to create a separate persona for each type of prospect. Additionally, focus your first persona and sales efforts on the most salient market segment; there’s no point in focusing on a small niche of customers! Prioritize your buyer persona creation and efforts on the customer segment most likely to bring a profit.