How Developing Personas Can Help You Understand Your Customers


Your customer base is both the sturdy foundation that keeps your company aloft and the wind that propels it forward. However, simply supplying them with quality products and services is not enough. In order to keep yourself relevant in a world overflowing with the competition, you need to know your target audience. Segmentation is an extremely useful tool in knowing your ideal customer. However, an even more effective tool is creating key customer personas. That’s what developing personas is really all about.


What is a Key Customer Persona?


Think of a customer persona as a rough sketch of some of the different demographics in your customer base. Customer Personas are fictional representations of your real-life customers. These personas have real-life goals, fears, influences, and obstacles. It gives you a better idea of who your customers are, how they act, and what drives or repels them. It is suggested that you make 3-5 personas to accurately represent different types of customers in your base.


These personas are derived from user research including social media activity, keyword research, even direct customer interviews, and other direct interactions.



Real People, Potential Customers


So what sort of information would you gather from these sources while developing personas? 


  • Social Media Activity – Social media is where many different aspects of our personal lives come together. We follow organizations and people who support our values. We create events that show our interests within our communities. There is a plethora of information readily available that can allow you to decipher political affiliations, lifestyle ideologies. From social media advertising, you can also discover what sort of ads these customers engage with and for how long, and which ones they ignore. 


  • Keyword Research Keyword research is another invaluable resource in creating these personas. What associated search terms are potential customers using to find you? For instance, if you notice “discount” or “sale” pop up frequently, what conclusions can you draw? Knowing that your customers put a high value on price can help you more accurately market yourself. It can even inform your product or service.

  • Direct Customer Interaction – One huge mistake that companies will so often make is generating all of their information from the inside. When you make up who your customers are without actually talking to them, you’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle. We can make predictions until we’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t equal a real person. Direct interviews with recent buyers/subscribers or a periodic survey will reveal a lot of useful information. Developing personas in this way will build much more accurate personas.


How is Developing Personas Different than Segmentation?



What’s in a Name? Persona Template

Okay, so what exactly is a customer or marketing persona? Maybe the best way to clearly define it is to first explain how it’s different than our segmentation.


Market segmentation is the process of turning your entire customer base into more manageable segments. Knowing that so much of your audience is from a certain geographic location or age group is important. However, just because you have 5,000 customers in the same major city doesn’t mean they value the same things.


A marketing persona seeks to (literally) give a name and a face to individuals inside of your segments. But what exactly does that look like? Let’s take a look at what comprises a customer persona:


  • Name – Give the persona an actual name. It helps to make this persona feel like a real person. Someone you can gear your advertising, products, or services towards. Let’s call our persona Michelle
  • Demographic characteristics – What are some of the most general descriptions of Michelle?
      • Where does she live?
      • What is her occupation?
      • Is she married or single? Does she have children?
      • How old is Michelle?

  • Motivating Factors – What are Michelle’s goals in life? How does your product or service help Michelle attain those goals, both big and small?
  • Obstacles – What stands in Michelle’s way of getting to her goals? Are they societal or geographic factors? How can you help Michelle avoid or overcome those obstacles?
  • Personality/Hobbies/Behaviors/Influences – Does Michelle own a TV? What are her sources for news? Is she a vegetarian? Does she play a musical instrument? This is a big part of what makes Michelle a “real” person and gives you the ability to predict what would help or hinder her.



Process of Creating Buyer Personas


Let’s take a moment to indulge in the process of creating a buyer persona. Here’s developing personas for “Michelle”.


  • Michelle is a 28-year-old construction worker
  • Michelle is single and has no kids
  • She lives in the suburbs of a major city and commutes an hour to work every day in her 4-door sedan. 
  • She has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and earns $45k/year
  • Michelle’s five-year goal is to earn 10k/year more while commuting less. 
  • She wants to achieve this by moving up from a construction worker to a construction manager
  • Michelle wants to go back to college to get her Master’s Degree in Project Management, but she doesn’t think she would have the time between work and her hobbies.
  • On the weekends, Michelle participates in a community garden as well as a tennis league


So you can see how going from the very broad features of our segmented demographic to the very specific persona of Michelle is eye-opening. 28-year old women in the suburbs could be just about anybody. We have no idea what motivates them or what they want.

However, we know almost exactly who Michelle is. The next step is to put yourself in the picture. What can you do to help Michelle achieve her goals? How can you help Michelle avoid her obstacles of feeling like she doesn’t have the free time? What is your elevator pitch to Michelle?



Building Key Personas for a Better Tomorrow


Developing personas for your customers makes your business better. It lets you spend your limited resources in more effective ways. It can also inform your product development. Discovering who your customers are in theory and in their own words will only make you better at serving their needs. Buyer personas let you know the pleasure and pain points of your consumers, what motivates them and what gets in their way. If you want to have a real-life view of who your customers are, the best way to do it is to build key personas for them.



Dan Bosco
Content Writer & Editor
dan at heartbrain dot marketing


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