Customer persona or buyer persona is often used in marketing to get a better understanding of customer demographics, behaviours, needs and motivations. It involves a lot of research, interaction with clients and data analysis.
This article will guide you, step by step, through planning and creating buyer persona portraits. We even provide free worksheets, interview guides and a persona creation template, to make your job easier.
If you just came here for the templates, you can simply scroll down to the bottom of this post to download our free materials. We don’t ask for email addresses or anything else in exchange.
It’s just free, instant download, one click away.
What is a persona
So let’s start with a general definition that answers the question “what is a persona?”
A persona is a character or an identity – this is the actual, original meaning in Latin. Now the term is largely used in different fields, with different meanings.
In psychology and sociology, a persona is a social facade or role that an individual projects in public.
In theater and literature, a persona is a character in a fictional presentation.
In design, the persona is the identity of a website or product: how it is characterized by the people who interact with it and how the product/website communicates the brand identity.
There’s also the UX persona, which refers to a representation of a type of user, the way that user interacts with a website or app.
And finally there is the marketing persona or buyer persona, which is a representation of a segment of your audience. If you want to see a marketing persona example check the bottom of the post.
The purpose of creating these profiles is to get a clear understanding of typical customers and typical behaviours. Personas have a wide range of uses in marketing, sales and advertising, from ad campaign settings, newsletters and website copy to the product development strategy.
Step by step instructions to create customer persona
The very first step is documentation, especially if you haven’t done this kind of research up until now. You need to know what is a customer persona and learn about the development of the characters. Luckily, this article covers all the steps that you need to take in creating customer personas. If you read the entire article and follow all the instructions carefully you will do a good job. You’ll be very pleased of your work and you’ll be able to present your team some very useful audience reports and some detailed buyer persona portraits.
Planning is the second step. There might be some particular aspects that you want to focus on in your research, or questions that you want answers to. Make sure you note all of this down, because it will help you stay focused.
A detailed customer persona report should answer these questions, for each buyer persona:
- Who is the customer? (age, gender, location, goals, motivations, habits, occupation – who does he report to? Who reports to him?)
Some marketers stop here, but we strongly recommend you to dig deeper. So include the following questions as well:
- How did he find out about your product? Top marketing channels you’re finding this buyer in currently?
- How does he/she use the product /service?
- What motivates him/ her to buy?
- What is the price that he is willing to pay?
- Which product characteristics does he care about most? The least?
This is also the part where you establish the research methods and write all the details. For example, if an entire team or a group will do the research, you need to assign tasks, so each member of the team knows exactly what he is supposed to do and what is the deadline for each task.
This is the next big step.
Recommended research methods to collect data:
- LinkedIn research
- CRM reports
- Marketing automation tool reports
- Google Analytics
- Accounting reports
- Live chat FAQ and feedback
Customer personas take many different forms and there’s no general rule regarding research that can be applied to all businesses. The reason I’m saying this is because you can hardly compare the nature of a Saas business to the nature of a local store which sells physical products. So naturally you need to take into consideration the kind of interaction that you have with your clients and the tools that you currently use.
At the bottom of this post you will find a downloadable template with interview and survey questions and a LinkedIn research worksheet. Use our freebies as a starting point, but make sure you adapt them to your business. There will be extra questions that you need to ask, that make sense for your business.
Here’s a little bit more about research methods.
The interview is the only qualitative research method from this list, so don’t skip it. Face to face interviews are the best, but if that is not possible, go for the second best option: phone interviews. You’ll be able to get more feedback this way and get a better understanding of the customer.
Don’t forget to record the conversation, otherwise you will forget more half of what’s been said. Always ask for permission before you start recording the interview. Let the customer know the reason why you are recording and assure them that everything they say is confidential.
It’s very useful to make a transcript of these interviews. You’ll find the information more easily if you do that.
Here are some answers to common questions regarding the buyer persona interviews:
- Who to interview? How to select interviewees for the customer persona research?
You should interview both customers and prospects. Start by taking a look at your contact lists. It’s generally easier to establish interviews with customers and prospects that you’ve been in contact before and have responded to other requests in the past. If you don’t have enough of those, ask the sales department to provide you a list of prospects that have converted and are now using your services, or prospects that are on the verge of a conversion.
- How long should it be?
10-20 minutes should be enough.
- How many people to interview for customer personas?
It depends. The general consensus is that you should take as many as needed until you notice that the answers start to repeat, and notice patterns. Usually 20 interviews is enough.
- What questions to ask in a customer persona interview?
Download our worksheets at the bottom of this post for more info about buyer persona interviews. You get a list of questions and helpful tips on how to dig deep without crossing that “too personal” line. Take our list of questions, add questions directed to your own interests and don’t forget to tailor questions to the individual’s answers and occupation. This means that you need to do a little bit of research before each interview. By the time you actually have the interview you should know a little about your interviewee.
Whenever the interviewee says something that can be of interest to your company, encourage him to elaborate further. Look for opportunities to rope in their experience and business industry during the conversation.
Surveys can help you collect more data than interviews, but you will not get such detailed, insightful responses.
We recommend asking up to 10 questions in your survey. Go with socio-demographical questions, which are easy to respond to and a few questions regarding your product. Here are some ideas:
- Where did you first hear about us?
- How would you describe us to a friend?
- If you could not use us anymore, what would you miss the most?
- Have you ever used similar products/ services in the past?
Yes. Please specify what other products/ services you have used
The more responses you get, the better. You will need this data to support the customer profiles that you will later create.
Can you skip surveys? Yes, but only if you replace them with other research methods: LinkedIn research and CRM reports or Marketing automation tool reports.
If you have a list of customer email addresses you can easily check them out on LinkedIn and pull out a lot of information from there. It’s a time consuming task, but it can be very useful.
Download our LinkedIn research worksheet template (bottom of post) and fill it with about 100 profiles. You can do more if you want, but 100-150 should be enough for most businesses, small or large.
There’s a lot of data that you’re already collecting through other channels: live chat or other customer supports channels, accounting reports, Google Analytics, CRM and marketing automation reports. You should make the most of all this data. Pull out the information that identifies buyer behaviours, spending habits, questions, website navigation patterns. If you can tie some of this data to individual customers, that can be super useful later, when you analyze the data (eg: you might notice that employees from a certain industry are willing to spend more on your products/ services)
Unfortunately we can’t provide a worksheet or a template for these reports, because they should look and be different for each business.
4. Data analysis
This is when all the magic happens and you see that all your work starts to pay off. If there’s a data analyst in your company, that can make the entire process more simple. You need to analyze all the data and discover patterns on which you will build the fictional audience personas.
A good place to start is the sociodemographic data, which will be transferred to the core identity of your personas. Identify the most common professions and industries from your LinkedIn report or from the survey, and then start from there. You may notice relevant correlations between occupations and age or occupation and gender. Take notes. When you’ll finish with the sociodemographic profiles you will already have the main portraits of your customers. We recommend that you start small, with no more than 3-5 marketing personas.
Once you have that, it’s time to check all the other data and group all the information into separate categories for each customer persona. Let’s day that the marketer occupation keeps coming up again and again. Make sure you put all marketer interview transcripts in one place. Rearrange entries in your LinkedIn research file so that all the marketing professionals sit together.
You’ll be impressed how much insight you will have by simply reading all the information that you have about a particular type of client.
Which takes us to the very last step.
5. The elaboration of the marketing persona profile
Once you’ve synthesized and analyzed your data, you will have to develop the customer portraits. You should only have about 2-3 types of persona that represent most of your customers and typical client motivations and behaviours.
In this step you have to create a document (or a slide presentation) in which you present all the types of persona that you have uncovered.
Present each persona profile like a real, actual person: name, age, occupation, family info, shopping habits, motivations, behaviors… everything. Go over the questions that you started from, and make sure you include all those answers in your profiles.
If you want to see examples of persona download the file at the bottom of this article. You’ll see a template which you can use to create your own customer persona presentation.
We recommend making a slideshow presentation that presents the entire research, and also a shorter presentation that only presents the customer portraits. Templates below.
Free customer persona template and worksheets
Many of you already know the theory and you just want to see persona examples or get templates.
Well, here you have everything you will need to get started. Simply click on the desired files below (instant download) or Download the entire pack.
>> Persona creation template (with research presentation)
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