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8 Ways to Build Customer Personas

Tabitha Naylor
Tabitha Naylor

Developing accurate customer personas is key to your company's success.

One of the most important components of any marketing plan or strategy is knowing your audience. Any message, content asset or marketing material needs to provide value to a specific audience to compel them to make a desirable action, whether it's to subscribe to your blog or YouTube channel, follow you on social media, sign up for your newsletter, or, of course, become a customer.

Customer persona defined

It all begins with understanding and defining your audience. This is where customer or buyer personas come in. A customer persona is basically a profile of your ideal customer. It is a research-based, semi-fictional representation with detailed information about your target consumer, including the following:

  • Demographics
  • Consumer behaviors and preferences
  • Beliefs, attitudes and values
  • Pain points or challenges
  • Unmet needs and how it relates to your product or service
  • Channels where they go for information or entertainment 

Your customer persona helps you frame your marketing messages for a specific audience, ensuring that it speaks to their needs, their goals and their preferred channels for content consumption. In fact, according to a Cintell report, 71% of companies that exceed revenue and lead goals have documented persona.

But how do you go about creating customer personas? Again, personas are based on research. While different people have different ways of building customer profiles, many will gravitate toward the same set of questions when doing their customer research. Here is a breakdown of the information you need to define when developing your customer personas.

1. Role and job title

  • What exactly does your ideal customer do for a living? 
  • Do you tend to engage with C-suite members (CEOs, CFOs and other top executives)? 
  • Who do they report to, if anyone?

The answers to these questions depend on your business aims. For example, if your business serves a predominantly B2B market, you can assume that your audience is composed of business decision-makers – individuals in charge of making procurement and purchasing decisions. 

As you answer this question and begin profiling your customers, you can include information such as this:

  • Educational attainment
  • Professional background
  • Skills
  • Position in the organization

These factors, in turn, will help you decide the tone of your messages and what kind of language to use.

2. Responsibilities and daily activities

  • What is a typical day in your customer's life like? 
  • What tasks comprise an ordinary workday for them? 
  • How do they measure the success of their work? 
  • What skills do they need to perform their job? 

These questions allow you to understand the motivations and challenges of your potential customers. Of course, some questions will apply in some situations and others will not. For example, these questions assume that your customers are employed. In this case, feel free to reframe the questions according to your goals.

3. Media consumption habits 

  • How much time does your ideal customer spend on social media? 
  • Where do they get their news? What type of content do they consume most on a daily basis – videos, articles or social media posts? 
  • What is their favorite social media platform? 

These questions help you figure out what kind of content your ideal customers consume regularly and where they go online for news and information. The answers to these questions can be the difference between your business creating mostly video content or blogs or posting on LinkedIn or Facebook.

4. Demographics and firmographics

  • What is the average age of your customers?
  • Are they single, married and/or parents? 
  • For organizations, what kind of industry are they in? What are their verticals?
  • What challenges do the firms face?

Demographic data may seem unimportant, but it can help you frame your messages for a specific age group. For example, millennials tend to care more about price and would rather splurge on experiences, like vacations, concerts and live sporting events. 

Firmographic data, on the other hand, lets you discover whether the organization has an unmet need that your business can solve. This data is especially useful for B2B firms.  

5. Purchase factors they care about

  • What factors push your customers into making a purchase? Bargains? Limited-time offers? Convenience?
  • What product factors catch the attention of your customers? Features, benefits or price?

Your research in this area will help you frame your message to prioritize things like product features or benefits, depending on what your customers care most about. If they value price, your marketing messages can position your business as providing the best value for money. If your audience values after-sales support or value-added services like free shipping, you can adjust your marketing messages accordingly.  

6. Goals and motivations

  • What are your customers' professional goals?
  • What are their personal goals?

Like any other person, your potential customers are driven by personal goals and motivations. Taking the time to understand these goals allows you to see how your business's marketing goals align with theirs. The more things your goals have in common with theirs, the easier it will be to craft marketing messages that align with your audience. Not to mention this actually helps you solve your prospects' problems, guaranteeing satisfaction in your offering.  

For example, assume that your persona, Sheila, is a procurement officer for a small graphic design company. Her job goals include maintaining solid communications with suppliers and getting the best prices on raw materials and B2B services. 

7. Values

  • What values and principles do your customers believe strongly in?
  • What are the characteristics of your customers' personalities?

You can dive deeper into the qualities that define your potential customers' personality, world views and values. Also known as psychographics, these factors fill in details that allow you to identify your customers' attitudes, perspectives and ideals. 

Psychographic data is particularly useful for creating marketing messages that appeal to the heart and soul of your audience – something demographic data can't quite capture. These qualitative factors will help you know what your audience cares about and how your brand can use this to connect with them on an emotional level.

8. Pain points and challenges

  • What factors prevent your customers from doing their job successfully?
  • What problems do your customers frequently encounter at work, at school or in their personal lives?

Aside from goals and motivations, it's also important to find out what factors frustrate your customers. Once you figure this out, it becomes easier to understand what exactly will win your audience's hearts and minds.

Going back to the Sheila persona, her challenges may include quality assurance of purchased goods, the turnaround time of ordered goods and communication problems with suppliers.

One of the biggest reasons to build customer personas is that it encourages teams or organizations to think about communicating the benefits of their product or service in terms of the actual people who will use it. It forces you to think of them as people, not just users or customers or some abstract concept. This also helps you think about how to provide real value to your customers, which is ultimately what they care about. 

Completing your persona is just the beginning. There's still a lot of room for improvement, especially as you get to know your customers more. Over time, be sure to add or change factors like skills, influences, favored brands, and even the tech your persona uses to make your descriptions more detailed. 

Image Credit: leungchopan/Shutterstock
Tabitha Naylor
Tabitha Naylor Member
My Objective: to develop and implement marketing campaigns that are effective, ethical and deliver positive ROI for my clients. I am a qualified, experienced and enthusiastic sales & marketing professional. My passion for marketing excellence finds its roots not only in my accreditation's but also in the application of this acumen in my own business. This has rendered me a success to both myself and my clients. I appreciate the importance of high quality marketing and I deliver my services meticulously and comfortably. My services comprise every facet of marketing consulting: I thoroughly assess the current inbound and outbound marketing procedures of an organization and provide comprehensive solutions that increase brand awareness, quality leads and sales revenue, while enhancing ROI on their marketing efforts. Additionally, I employ the proficiencies of a dedicated team of independent contractors with whom I partner and communicate intimately to ensure that the services I deliver meet the highest standards and produce the best results for clients that retain me. I pride myself on being approachable, flexible, detail-oriented and results-driven. I enjoy the work that I do and I believe this marries well with my work ethic to produce high quality deliverable that actually generate the one thing all business owners need... results.