Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas (+ Free Templates)
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
The truth is, 80% of your sales will come from 20% of your customers.
The good news is that you don't have to try and appeal to everybody—you can focus on just a few people and make a killing. But it's not enough to just know who those people are; you need to understand them, too.
That's why it's so important to understand who your customers are and who they're not.
Time and time again, I've seen companies try to market to everybody for fear of losing business. Just because you're focused on a key target audience doesn't mean people outside of that group won't do business with you. But it does mean, the more focused you are on your target market and their needs, the easier it will be for you to sell to them in a way that works.
What is a Buyer Persona Anyway?
Before we get into creating a buyer persona, let's review what it is.
A marketing or buyer persona is an outline of your ideal customer. It includes information like demographics, interests, likes, how they live, how they think, pain points, motivations, and the media they consume.
But it’s more than that. Outlining who your target customer is will inform your marketing strategies, social media posts, and content marketing efforts, and even provide information to help your business develop new products or services. Overall outlining customer personas is critical to making the most of your marketing efforts and helping you grow your business.
A buyer persona represents a segment of your audience. While it will end up looking like a single person, it is not one customer. It is a composite of the audience it represents. For example, if you’re selling toys one persona might be the end-user - the children that play with the toy. Another persona would be the person who purchases the toy.
Not sure where to get started? See below for a step-by-step guide to creating your buyer personas. Aim for 1-3 personas to start, a maximum of 5 depending on your industry.
Sign up for our marketing newsletter and download our FREE buyer persona and buyer journey template:
5 Steps to Creating a Buyer Persona
As you go through the 5 steps, the ultimate goal is to get to know more about your top customers: their motivations, attitudes, beliefs, and purchase habits. You will have customers you do not want to build a persona around. Be critical about who you want to focus on and who you DO NOT want to focus on, so you can be sure you are developing the right personas.
Step 1: Review and Research your Top Customers
The first step is to gather all the information you have on your target audience. You'll either use the data your business owns or you'll do research with an outside source. This information can be quantitative like purchase data and surveys, or qualitative like customer interviews and social media comments.
If you've been in business for a while, you have customer data you can rely on for information. Look at your customer base for rich data on demographics, purchase behavior, and so on. You can also look at your website analytics to review where are people coming from, top pages, etc. Your social media channels are also a great resource. Are there repeat complaints or customers that engage with you frequently. What are they saying? Where are they located?
Customer interviews are great for qualitative research. These can take more time, but are an invaluable resource. Consider reaching out to customers you speak with frequently, and see if they'll give you 30 minutes of their time. Have questions prepared ahead of time and consider a thank you gift. You could also consider using an outside party so the customer feels they can be as honest as possible. Their candid feedback will help you turn weaknesses into strengths, threats into opportunities & issues into solutions.
Other areas you can get information: Subscribe to relevant publications for your industry, follow relevant hashtags on social to see what people are saying/ posting, set up Google alerts for select keywords and brand mentions visit Reddit for comments/questions in your industry.
Beyond reviewing surface information there are attitudes and behaviors that are critical to explaining what drives and attracts customers to your business. Attitude is rich data and is critical to not only understand how your customers act but how they think and what they believe.
Don’t forget to review Google Analytics, and check out Google Trends
for key search terms or questions. You can find links to all of these sites at the end of the article.
Step 2: Analyze and Bucket Your Research
Step 2 is taking your research and creating buckets of similar information. Use the persona template a guide for your buckets. Analyze your research and see if it should be in your persona or not. Always ask yourself, 'So what?' and 'Why does this matter?'. Or even if it gives you that ‘Ah-ha” moment. Be ruthless, scrap anything that doesn't fit the personas you're building.
If you're still unsure if you should scrap a specific piece of the information or not, put it in a separate document and call it the 'parking lot'. Review items in the 'parking lot' when you're done analyzing everything to see if it still fits.
To avoid analysis paralysis, give yourself a time limit so you don't get stuck in this step. My favorite motto: 'done is better than good'. This might be a jarring statement, but it can help you keep moving.
Step 3: Develop a Persona of Your Ideal Client(s)
You'll spend the bulk of your time researching and analyzing the data. Don't worry if it isn't perfect. The key is to get something down on paper so you can edit it as you grow.
But how do you build a persona that works? Don’t just have demographic information but think like your customers: Define who they are, how they think/feel & how they live their lives. Then, outline the customer journey & a typical day. From there you'll begin to see the touchpoints you can leverage.
The personas you create should resemble a person. Give them a name, find a free stock image that works, anything you can add to make them seem real. Do include as much detail as possible, but again, don't worry if you don't have all the information, you'll get there.
Download my free buyer persona and customer journey template at the end of this article.
Step 4: Evaluate your Business Against This Persona
Evaluating your business against the persona is a great way to edit your work. Everything you do will be critically evaluated against the persona, from creating content to who your sales team reaches out to. So, be sure it makes sense with your business to socialize the buyer persona with your colleagues, your friends, or even your grandmother to see if they have any input or changes. It's always good to get an outside perspective.
And always evaluate and refine your persona every 6 months. As we have seen with COVID, people's needs change over time, and staying on top of this will help you stay ahead of the competition.
Step 5: Socialize Your Buyer Persona
If you have a team, walk everyone through the personas to get buy-in and create dialogue. Let them know how they can use the persona in their everyday work. Tie the persona to key business goals and targets. Print out your buyer personas and place them in a prominent location.
Remember every time you create a new marketing campaign or build a new product, be sure you are evaluating everything against your buyer personas.
It seems like a lot of work, but it's worth it. This will inform your business, products, and marketing plans. It will help you decide on the language and the images you use in your ads, what channels you promote your business in, and more.
Free resources you can use to define your buyer personas:
StatsCan & U.S. Census - perfect to find the size of an audience or any recent trends
Google Alerts - set up keyword and brand mentions, monitor for content
Google Trends - explore trending searches
Reddit - search submissions or subreddits in your niche market