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The Definitive Guide to Buyer Personas for Beginners

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In the game I Spy, the spy says “I spy with my little eye something with the color blue.” Then the players must guess what object the spy saw based on that color (or whichever color the spy chooses). 

The game can be difficult, depending on how many objects are in the vicinity with the specified color. Difficult games of I Spy can be frustrating for spies, who can get bored waiting for the player to pick the correct object.

Content marketing is a lot like the game, “I Spy.” Your ideal prospects know your solution is out there, but they’re getting bored waiting for you to identify and target them with the message they expect. Or even worse, it’s likely they’re being bombarded with content from your competitors since 91 percent of marketers are creating custom content today.

If you don’t want to spy with your little eye a bunch of prospects you’re missing out on, then it’s time you to create buyer personas.

Buyer personas are generalized representations of your ideal customers. The process of researching and creating buyer personas makes you understand your customers and prospects. Personas allow you to personalize your marketing campaigns, website messaging and content specifically for your perfect customers, which increases your conversions.

When personas are well researched, the exercise clarifies who your buyers are, the situations they’re in and most importantly, the goals they’re trying to accomplish.

Top performing companies have mapped 90 percent or more of their customer database by buyer persona, and 71 percent of companies that exceed revenue and lead generation goals have documented buyer personas.

The takeaway here is: first comes the buyer personas then comes the content marketing.

In this tutorial, learn how to conduct the proper research to fill your buyer personas with meaningful insights. Also, use our free buyer persona slide template as a guide to put together your first buyer persona. 

Buyer Persona Template
Buyer Persona Template - Slides (free download)

How Many Buyer Personas Should You Create? 

“It’s incredibly difficult to monetize an ‘audience of everybody.’” - Joe Pulizzi

Each buyer persona represents a key segment of your audience; and so the number of personas you need to create depends on the number of segments you plan on targeting.

Most marketers will recommend building between three to five personas, but keep in mind, the more personas you make, the more content you’re going to need to create. So in the beginning, focus on nailing the one key audience segment you need the most help engaging.

How Do You Get Insights into Your Buyer Persona?

Before you build out your first buyer persona, there's some much needed research to perform. Whether you have customer data in hand already or not, there’s a variety of ways to research your personas online and gather more meaningful information. Here’s your options for getting the insights you need to craft a detailed buyer persona from the web.

1. Set up a Feedback Poll on Your Site

Nothing beats actually talking to people. Who do you want to talk to? Your current customers, former customers, your competitors’ customers and website visitors.

Hotjar is a phenomenal tool for interviewing and polling website visitors as well as recruiting beta testers to provide feedback on your offering(s). Using Hotjar’s feedback polls (or any website feedback poll tool), discover the drivers on high traffic landing pages so you can understand why your site visitors are there in the first place.

For instance, if you have an online course site, you’ll want to ask why they want to take the course. Is it for fun, to get a promotion, or something else? Having the answer to this question allows you to make your site’s design and copy more relevant and convincing to visitors. 

Set up a open text (not a multiple choice dropdown) feedback poll that triggers after five seconds. Here’s three questions you can ask. Choose one:

  1. Why are you looking for [insert offering] today?
  2. What’s missing on this page?
  3. Where did you first hear about us?

2. Survey Existing Customers

Again, you can use a survey to ask questions to your customers. Here’s the open-ended questions you should ask your existing customers, recommended by Hotjar:

  • What led you to look for [insert offering]? Explain in as much detail as possible how it will make your life easier / better.
  • What nearly stopped you from using us? List as many items as you can think of.
  • What persuaded you to [insert call-to-action (CTA)]. List as many items you can think of.
  • What could we have done to make your decision easier?
  • How would you describe yourself? e.g. I am a 30 year old male designer that loves cars and poker.
  • How would you describe us to a friend? (This is a great way to get testimonials for your site as well!)

Hotjar suggests keeping surveys short and to the point—asking no more than seven or eight questions. Answers to these questions give you the information you need to construct detailed buyer personas that are driven by real customer feedback. 

3. Look for Public Reviews

While I don’t recommend skipping the above two tactics, you really could create a fairly well defined persona simply from Googling what your customers and your competitors’ customers are saying about your offerings.

Where do people review businesses like yours? These places are customer feedback gold mines. Here’s a few places to starting browsing reviews:

  • For local businesses, visit sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Local, Better Business Bureau, The Chamber of Commerce or any of these other local business review sites.
  • For niche businesses, such as wedding planning offerings, check out places like theKnot and WeddingWire.
  • For app developers, visit iTunes and Google Play.
  • For startups, visit places like Product Hunt, GetApp, AlternativeTo and Software Advice.
  • For all small businesses, check social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, and Google your business name and/or unique offering + reviews.

When you find these reviews, look for key identifying phrases that show what your customers want and expect from you. Phrases may include:

  • “I wish…,”
  • “When will you add…,”
  • “Competitor X lets me…”

4. Utilize Forums and Communities

Sites like Quora and Reddit can also provide useful information when creating your buyer personas. You can ask the community questions or you can browse already answered questions that are helpful to your business offering.

5. Listen Online

Listen for key insights from your personas, even after you’re done creating your buyer persona. Use a free tool like Mention, Google Alerts or Talkwalker Alerts to get notified of specific phrases that’ll help you personalize your content even more. 

I find Twitter Advanced Search especially useful when looking for customer or prospect feedback. Or track hashtags that are important to your industry using tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck.

Twitter Advanced Search
Twitter advanced search

My last helpful listening hack is to browse the comments on popular industry blog posts. Use AllTop if you don’t already have a list of blogs in your industry.

How Do You Craft Your Buyer Persona?

All this research is what feeds into creating detailed buyer personas. 

When you research personas well, it helps you target your buyers better, understand what's important to them, the goals they are trying to accomplish, and how your product can better meet their needs.

Download our Buyer Persona Template for free, and let's get to work with taking the customer research you've conducted and transforming that into your first buyer persona. 

Buyer Persona Slide Template
Buyer Persona Slide Template

In this section, we use the example of a freelance internship marketplace to craft relevant questions and demonstrate the process. Our template focuses on these eight sections:

  • Demographics
  • Pain Points
  • Priorities
  • Values
  • Research Habits
  • Identifying Factors
  • Psychographics  

And it's segmented into these key slides: 

  • Persona Example
  • Personal Background 
  • What? 
  • Why?
  • How?

While this template is based on the example of research done for a freelance internship marketplace, it's compatible with multiple business types. It includes an easy to customize section in addition to the sample in the download, so you can tailor your buyer personas to your businessadding or removing sections that fit your company best. 

Now to dive into each section and review the types of questions that will help you craft your first buyer persona. 

Persona Slide

But first, let's review the persona slide, before we dig into deeper details. After you've collected information about your customers, then it's time to craft a representative buyer persona, which is slide 3 in the template. In the example below, we target an upbeat young professional that is reflective of our research: 

Buyer Persona Slide Example
Buyer Persona Slide: Example

Here you can customize the template and replace the character avatar placeholder with an image reflective of your target buyer persona.

Step 1: Personal Background

Demographics

Demographics let us know who our personas are. It tells us things like their age, gender, salary, location, education and family.

Ask these types of questions:

  • What’s their name?
  • How old are they?
  • Are they male or female?
  • Do they have children? If so, how many?
  • Where are they located?
  • Are they married or single?
  • What level of education have they completed? (Use Alexa to find out)
  • Which school(s) did they attend and what was their major? Be specific.

Fill in the Personal Background and What? slides to narrow in on your persona's background details, goals, and demographic information. Then use that to clarify how your product or service will solve your customers needs. 

Buyer Persona Slide Personal Background
Buyer Persona Slide: Personal Background

Keep in mind, that the details you pull from questioning your customers and your research will take a fuzzy view of who you're targeting and bring it into focus.  

Buyer Persona Slide What
Buyer Persona Slide: What?

Career

In this example, we want to know about their current position, career aspirations, and goals. You may have another focal point here for your business.

Example questions:

  • How did they end up where they are today?
  • What industry do they work in? What type of company is it?
  • What is your current job title?
  • What’s your career aspiration(s)?
  • How long have you been in your current position?
  • Who do you report to? Who reports to you?
  • How are you measured at work?
  • What skills are required to do your job?
  • What knowledge and software or tools do you use in your job?

Step 2: Pain Points

We want to know the buyer personas’ pain points because this will help us craft messaging that makes them feel their pain, causing them to move quickly through your purchasing cycle.

Questions:

  • What frustrates you daily or often?
  • Please describe in detail the the worst customer service experience you’ve ever had.
  • What stresses you out?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What is the least favorite part of your job?
  • What does the worst job you can imagine look like?
  • Tell me about a purchase you made recently that you regret.
  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of? Why?
  • What are the top three things on your bucket list?

Step 3: Priorities

What are your personas’ priorities? Is a tight budget their priority? Or are they motivated by what others think of them? Ordering your personas priorities allows you to craft messages that get to the point and convert quickly. For instance, if budget isn’t an issue, focus on the value of your offering.

Questions:

  • What does a typical day look like for you?
  • How much time do you spend at work and at home?

Step 4: Values

Consider: What do your prospects value? Do they care about the environment? Are they hungry to grow their company quickly? Clearly defined values will define how you paint the bigger picture for your audience.

Questions:

  • What type of vehicles do you own and why?
  • Who are the people in your life that are most important?

Pull real quotes from your customer's answers and use them to add dimension to buyer persona in the Why? slide. And clarify what are top objections to the product or service you offer.

Buyer Persona Slide What
Buyer Persona Slide: Why?

Step 5: Research Habits

Are your personas early adopters, or are they late to the Facebook and Twitter party? The best way to find out how your buyer personas find and consume information is through quantitative website metrics. Consider factors like: What are the top three sources of referral traffic to your site? What keywords have the highest search volume and drive the most traffic to your site?

Questions:

  • Where do you go to learn about offerings?
  • What offline resources do you use?
  • What online resources do you use?
  • How do you prefer to shop?
  • Do you look at online reviews? Or do you ask for reviews in person?
  • How important is it to get a deal?
  • Which type of phone do you have?
  • What do you treat yourself to often or recently?
  • Which publications or blogs do you read?
  • How do you learn about new information for your job?
  • Which associations and social networks do you participate in?

Step 6: Identifying Factors

Why do some personas with the same demographics buy while others pull the trigger? It’s tough to say. The easiest way to answer this question may be to go straight to the sales department. What factors distinguish hot leads from okay leads? Identifying factors may be anything from questions asked during the research phase to a company’s organizational chart.

Questions:

  • What do they Google when they look for your offering?
  • How do they talk about your offering? What keywords do they use?
  • What words or phrases make their ears perk up or get them excited?
  • What words or phrases make them not excited or even upset?

Step 7: Psychographics

While demographics tell you who your persona is, psychographics tell you why they are who they are. Psychographics, or “attitudes, opinions and personality traits,” which tell you what your persona cares about. They provide a huge opportunity to craft increasingly personalized, and therefore motivating, marketing content.

Questions:

  • What are their interests?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What do you watch on TV?
  • Would they consider themselves an introvert or extrovert?
  • Would they say they’re spontaneous?
  • What are their attitudes about [insert topic]?
  • What are their hobbies or activities?
  • Are they a risk taker or risk adverse?
  • Do they tend to break or follow rules?
  • Are they mostly optimistic, pessimistic or realistic?
  • Are they more creative or more logical?
  • How easily do they adapt to change?
  • Are they more independent or more dependent?
  • Do they get jealous easily?
  • Do they care about what others think of them?
  • How would their friends describe them?
  • How would they describe themselves?

Use this information to craft your marketing message and targeted elevator pitch in the How? slide, shown below: 

Buyer Persona Slide How
Buyer Persona Slide: How?

It’s Time to Complete Your Template

By now, you’ve conducted your research, asked your customers the right questions, and downloaded your buyer persona template, which means it’s time to fill it in and craft your first buyer persona. If you don’t have the time to complete this now, Pocket this article for later. Good luck!

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