How to build a Customer Persona

Are Customer Personas Really so Important?

In Business Strategy by EmmaLeave a Comment


I’m going to jump right in on this one.

The answer is yes.

Customer personas are crucial to any business. If you still haven’t made yours, you need to make them now.

We’ve created some templates to make it easy for you.

What are customer personas?

Customer personas are semi-fictional characters.

You sort of make them up, but they’re based on your genuine customers.

They’re a conglomeration of your customers. The ‘best bits’ of your ideal buyer, if you like.

But you need to be specific.

You might think you know your customers. You might know that middle-aged, middle class men are your bag (when it comes to selling, of course).

But in order to really resonate with your customers, you need to do much better than that. You need to know exactly who they are, and you need to be thinking about them at all times.

Look how bad things can go when you don’t:

A well-known horror story about a brand who forgot its customers

Remember when Gap changed their logo and the internet exploded?

That happened because they didn’t know their customers.

And they spent like $100 million on that rebrand, apparently.

Gap tried to attract younger, hipper customers to their clothing brand. But they forgot one thing:

Their current, faithful customers.

Customers who like to know where they can buy jeans without rips in them, or find tops with hems that have actually been finished off.

A lot of the internet hubbub focused on the terrible design of the logo.

And, yeah. It was a stinker.

But the brand’s biggest fault was the thinking that led them to change their logo in the first place.

They either didn’t know their customers, or they chose to ignore them.

Neither of those is acceptable in a world that expects personalisation from brands. TowerData puts it this way:

“It’s now imperative that brands know their customers — their wants, needs, behavior, purchasing habits and lifestyle — and meet them with the correct message at the correct time.”

How to not be Gap

Know your customers.

Nurture your customers.

It really is that simple.

Sure, business can be about shaking things up and trying new things. But don’t lose sight of your loyal customers.

Those people pay your bills.

So, what’s the best way to make sure you know who your customers are?

You guessed it.

Let’s create your customer personas.

Do B2B businesses need customer personas?

If you’re B2B, you might claim that you don’t need to know your customers.

You’re not selling to people; you’re selling to businesses.

But you know that doesn’t fly nowadays.

You’re always selling to people.

No doubt you’ve heard about (and probably groaned at) the concept of ‘human-to-human’ marketing. But there’s a reason that trend isn’t budging.

It doesn’t matter what your industry is. You’re still going to be selling your wares to a single person the majority of the time.

You need to impress that person.

So, are you selling to a middle manager? Or a company executive? What’s their job title? What sort of pressure are they under? What problems are they hoping to solve?

For your customer to buy from you, they’ve got to feel understood.

For your customer to feel understood, you’ve got to understand them.

What do I need to know about my customers?

All sorts.

Perhaps more than you think is strictly necessary to know about an imaginary person.

For starters, they should have a name.

Leadfreak’s main customer persona is called Steve.

It’s a whole lot easier to get to know someone when you know their name.

Other info you should include in your customer personas:

  • Age
  • Job title
  • Salary
  • Family life
  • Goals
  • Motivations
  • Hobbies
  • Stresses/pressure points at work
  • Stresses/pressure points at home

Yeah, I know that’s quite a lot for an imaginary person. But it’s all stuff you need to know.

Like I said, Leadfreak’s main customer persona is called Steve.

We refer to Steve a lot.

We know Steve’s wife and children. We know about his work stresses and his hobbies and at what age he hopes to retire.

We know what keeps him awake at night.

We draw the line at celebrating his birthday.

I write these blog posts to Steve. I try to write about things I think Steve will find useful.

Maybe you’re not Steve, and that’s fine. We get a lot of non-Steves, too. Of course, I hope that some of my content will also resonate with some Nadias, Kates and Jareds.

But the vast majority of our customers are Steve, which is why he’s always at the forefront of my mind.

Your ideal customer should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Your entire marketing strategy should be based on your customer personas. Your emails, content, ad campaigns – everything should speak to them directly.

Everything you send out into the world should solve one of your ideal customer’s problems, help them out a bit, or answer one of their questions.

How do I find out the info for my customer personas?

Now, obviously you don’t want to rush straight in and start asking your customers awkward and deeply personal questions.

I’ve yet to come across an email sign-up form that had ‘what keeps you awake at night?’ as a required field. Although part of me thinks that that’s hilarious, it’s probably not a great marketing move.

In creating your customer personas, you’re going to have to use a little artistic license on some of the more personal elements. Getting the key details in actual data, however, will help you to do that more accurately.

Here are some ideas for gathering data for your customer personas:

  • Interviews. These can be tricky because they do take a little time, but they’re an invaluable way of gaining insight to your customers. Try to get a minimum of three interviewees for your first persona. In order to make them more likely to give you their time, try to be as flexible as possible about when you conduct the interview, and be clear that you’re not trying to sell them anything.
  • Surveys. Surveys are quick and easy to do through sites like SurveyMonkey, and don’t usually take too much time out of someone’s day. It’s also relatively easy to get responses if you offer some sort of incentive (like a free Amazon gift card).
  • Ask your sales team. After all, these are the people who actually talk to your prospects day in, day out. They will be able to give you a good summary of the types of people that are interested in your product.
  • Website forms. When you fill in a form on Hubspot, they ask you for the size of your team. That’s so they can send you narrowly targeted content that they know you’ll find useful. That makes you trust them, and it makes you see their value. That makes you more likely to become their customer a little later down the line.
  • Use online tools. Google Analytics and social media will tell you lots about your potential customers. Who reads your blog posts? Who follows you on social media? Who engages with you the most online? You don’t need to get too ‘stalkery’ about it, but these tools will tell you pretty much anything you want to know.

How do I use my data to create my customer personas?

Well, this is the part where we swoop in to make things a heck of a lot easier.

Once you’ve gathered some information about your customers, use it to fill in the customer persona worksheet below.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have your persona.

Job done.

We can’t tell you who your customers are, but we can give you the tools to make sure that you know who they are.

How many customer personas do I need?

You don’t want a hundred different customer personas. That kind of defeats the purpose of them.

Also, it’s very unlikely that there are one hundred different types of people who would be interested in buying your product.

If you’re just starting out with customer personas, start small. One to three personas should be plenty to get you started.

How do I use my customer personas in future?

The purpose of your customer personas is not for them to sit in a drawer or a rusty Google Drive file forevermore.

You need to consult them in ALL of your marketing decisions from now on.

If you know who your customer is, you know where they hang out online. If you know that, you know which social channels to promote through.

If you know what kind of questions your customer is Googling, you know the titles of your next few blog posts.

I really hope you found the above useful, whether you’re Steve or not.


About the Author

Emma

Emma is the Editorial Director at Leadfreak. Her mission is to design, create, and publish the content that turns our clients into credible experts. To do this it needs to resonate with target audiences whilst being engaging and informative.


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