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Buyer Personas: What are They and Best Practices

A buyer persona is a fictitious description of your “ideal customer,” for the purpose of figuring out how to market to your best audience. The persona is based on demographics and other data you collect, as well as educated guesses about your customers’ behaviors and lifestyle.

How to get started with building buyer personas

In order to identify your buyer persona, you need to research current and former customers as well as potential customers. Surveys and interviews will help you find out who your customers are, what they value and what solutions they need.

Here are the key details that you’ll need to define about each fictional character in your marketing audience:

  • Demographics - age, gender, income, location

  • Professional information - job title, company size, industry, goals and challenges

  • Learning patterns - where they spend time online to learn about new topics

  • Behaviors - hobbies, interests, why they like what they like, relevant buzzwords, values, what turns your buyer on and off

  • Purchasing criteria - how they make decisions about what they buy

  • Pain points and the customer’s journey - what needs they have as they get to know your solution

After you have identified your buyer persona, create a story to tell your marketing team. Your persona should ideally have a picture and a name, along with some kind of life story and personality quirk details that make him or her seem real.

Once you’ve got one persona built, consider adding more. Focus on one persona or just a few. Don’t be tempted to create ten different ones - that will only lead to confusion and mixed marketing messages.

However, remember that buyer personas are works in progress and need to be reviewed regularly and revised as you learn more about your real audience. Continually updating your personas based on the latest research and data keeps your marketing efforts focused on the correct audience.

What to do with your personas

Your buyer personas should drive all of your marketing efforts from here on in, with all content creation aimed at addressing the needs and preferences of the personas. Decide how you will describe your solution to your personas and use that language throughout.

Choose your marketing strategies and tactics according to the information you have gathered about your buyer. For instance, if your buyer flips through his emails while riding the subway to work and then ignores them for the rest of the day, schedule your email to pop up in his inbox at 8:00 AM. If your buyer is connected only when her baby is asleep, send emails in the early afternoon or in the evening.

When designing a website, your buyer persona is likewise key. Understand what your customer is looking for when he comes to your website and what information is most useful to him. Content which is of most interest to your readers should be placed in the top navigation so it is easy to find.

How Lean Labs used personas to go mobile

When we invested in our new website, we built it to look great and function perfectly on all devices by designing first for smartphones and tablets. Our website content was created using our buyer personas to help us make decisions.

We looked at the ideal and realistic visitors who would come to our website and thought about what they were looking for, where they lived and what their job role was. We went through this process early on, so we could build a content strategy around what we were trying to achieve with the new website.

The buyer persona helped us understand which sections of the website would most interest our visitors and what our site could offer that would assist them professionally.

In this way, we were able to create a better website. We didn’t focus on just a pretty website for both desktop browsers and mobile devices. We used our buyer personas to tailor the website experience to address their needs, wants, and fears directly.

This is the real value of personas. When you need guidance on formulating and presenting your brand messages, all you need to do is think about these specific individuals and what will resonate best with them.

Written by Ben Jacobson / August 6, 2014

A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.

Articles by Ben Jacobson