What is a Buyer Persona? How to Build Personas that Convert

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers.
  • When a brand knows their buyer personas, it changes everything. Their audience becomes real. The marketing, messaging, and imagery all feel natural. 
  • Buyer personas deliver a wide range of benefits to your business, including your strategy, product development, sales, and marketing.

Have you ever had this happen?

You visit a brand’s website and there’s nothing wrong with it, per se. However, it just looks exactly like every other tech, banking, or fashion brand. A deeper dive doesn’t clear anything up. The language is pleasant, but bland.

When a brand’s website starts looking and feeling generic, it means they’re falling into the trap of marketing to a large, faceless group. The language feels unnatural because it’s not targeted to any specific audience or buyer persona.

Now consider the opposite experience. When you visit the website of a company that knows their buyer personas through and through, everything changes. The language loses its formality and doesn’t lean on jargon. It sounds like a real person addressing their friend. As a result, the buyer’s journey feels like it was tailor-made for you. It brings you to the content you need, highlights the product qualities you care most about, and anticipates your reservations.

Better still, as each person moves deeper in the funnel, they won’t have to waste their time digging for answers or fielding offers they don’t care about. The brand becomes a much better fit. Unbeknownst to them, the brand is taking them through a journey built for people exactly like them. The end result is a better user experience and happier customers.

WHAT IS A BUYER PERSONA?

image of a man to explain "what is a buyer persona?"

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on common audience attributes. These may include pain points, needs, interests, demographic information, as well as many other factors. Each persona represents an audience segment, or group.

The main difference between a buyer persona and an audience segment, then, is that buyer personas force you to think about your audience singularly. You think of each audience as an individual, not a vague group. And within each segment, you may have multiple personas.

For example, an audience segment may be metropolitan men between the ages of 25-35, while a buyer persona within that segment would then describe a representative individual in further detail, such as:

  • Name: Carsen Condoseeker
  • 30 years old
  • Extrovert
  • Lives in Park Slope (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Just married or recently married
  • Dual annual income above $150,000
  • Invests in a range of funds but no retirement savings
  • Ate out 3-4 times a week pre-pandemic; now orders takeout instead
  • Important to live within walking distance of good restaurants
  • Digitally savvy
  • Subscribes to Netflix and Sling TV
  • Enjoys watching The Daily Show and The Late Show
  • Relatively ambitious about work (cares about his perceived status)
  • Looking for a condo to purchase with his wife
  • Wants a lot of natural sunlight
  • Hoping for a gym inside the condo building
  • Frustrated with the price of condos, but willing to pay for status

WHY CREATE BUYER PERSONAS?

woman framing her face to explain audience targetting

You understand your audience well enough, so why create buyer personas? The quick response is: personalized marketing leads to deeper brand loyalty and better customer lifetime value (CLV). But, to answer that question more completely, we need to break it down:

  1. Why are audience segments important?
  2. Why turn the segments into personas?

Audience segments are important because you serve a range of customers who all use your products and follow your brand for different reasons. For instance, ary 20-year-old may purchase a skincare product from Sephora as a preventative, while a 55-year-old might use the same product for fine lines. Similarly, for every college student shopping for cheap furniture at IKEA, there’s a young married couple furnishing their child’s bedroom.

If you’re IKEA and you bombard a college student with ads and emails about baby cribs, at best you’re wasting your money. Or worse, you might frustrate potential customers so much that you lose them.

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Segment your audience so you can target the right people, in the right places, at the right times. As a result, you’ll streamline your efficiency and prevent wasted marketing spend. You’ll also ensure that every audience member, lead, or customer receives the products, content, and experience they prioritize most.

Why transform segments into buyer personas?

Because it’s easier to speak to a single person who represents your ideal customer than a group. You’ll be able to isolate and anticipate needs more accurately when you have a specific person in mind.

With buyer personas, you’ll be a more sophisticated marketer. You’ll be able to message customers more precisely, in a way that directly resonates. You’ll also be able to engage them more deeply and guide them to action more effectively. Simply put, personas bring your customers to life and make your marketing more impactful.

Furthermore, buyer persona templates help you target a wider spectrum of your audience through multiple personas. As a result, you’ll have the benefits of broader coverage, yet with precision targeted individuals.

BUYER PERSONA EXAMPLES

example buyer persona

There are many different types of criteria and demographic data you could use to segment your audience, depending on what your business sells and how diverse its reach is. For example, buyer persona characteristics for B2C marketing might include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Marital status and family
  • Income level
  • Disposable income
  • Interests
  • Products desired
  • Product attributes
  • Goals
  • Pain points
  • Occupation

For B2B marketing, on the other hand, you might include:

  • Job title
  • Department
  • Division
  • Industry
  • Size of company
  • Primary decision makers
  • Main business goals
  • Impact of goals
  • Pain points
  • Ramifications of those frustrations
  • Products desired
  • Product features

The more diverse your product range, the more examples of buyer personas you’ll likely have. A SaaS company that sells a single product may have five personas, while an all-purpose superstore like Target might technically have so many potential personas that they limit them to only the highest priority, most profitable ones.

HOW TO USE BUYER PERSONAS FOR GREATER BUSINESS VALUE

business value of buyer personas

You’ll gain a deeper understanding of your audience when you use actual buyer personas in your marketing. Beyond this, they also deliver a wide range of benefits to your business, including your product development, sales, and marketing strategy.

Market insight

At the big-picture level, developing buyer persona helps you understand the market and chart your strategy. The more you know about your persona, the more you can see what’s around the corner, gain a competitive advantage in the market, and capture market share. So, understand your persona, understand their interests, and you’ll understand where the market is heading.

With a focus on buyer personas, your brand is in the driver’s seat with market insight as well as business and marketing strategy. It’s always advantageous to gain market insight upstream to inform your strategic direction and plans. This puts the wind at your back, so to speak, and often translates into a pricing premium. A reactive approach will put you in catch-up mode, with less differentiation and more intense pricing pressure. 

Product development

Market research directly influences product development. For instance, it informs how you prioritize the next software feature or decide on the direction of your winter apparel line.

Sometimes, product development requires years of advanced insight. If you’re Nike, the shoes you plan today won’t reach consumers for 18-24 months. If you’re Toyota, you’re talking about an even longer lead time than that.

People aren’t stagnant. Their tastes and behaviors change over time. Therefore, the only realistic way to make projections far in advance is to understand your most profitable personas and to engage them in conversations to see how they are thinking and feeling and changing. You can then customize your products accordingly to better meet their future needs.

Sales

Your customers have different needs and pain points. So, it’s important to change your messaging, offers, case studies and other social proof, as well as the features you highlight to sell the product.

It’s much easier to tailor your message if you identify the customer’s persona at the start of the conversation. So, ask questions early on that could reveal more about the lead. You can often do this before your lead even brings the concern or question up. As a result, they’ll feel like you understand them so well that you can anticipate their needs.

Even online, your website can guide them through the buying process with funnels tailored to specific personas. If they call for support in making a selection while on your site, you can use personas to guide the conversation, understanding the benefits that matter most and the objections you’ll likely need to eliminate in the sales process.

Digital marketing

Buyer personas are perhaps most critical of all in digital marketing. Digital channels often allow for a high degree of segmentation. Think of search, email, and content marketing. Each channel allows you to hyper target personas as well as their funnel stage and pain point.

Ask the following types of marketing persona-related questions to help customize your messaging and approaches for greater impact:

  • What product differentiators are important? 
  • What are they looking for in a brand? 
  • Do they prefer visual content marketing or text?
  • Do they prefer organic search or vertical search?
  • In which social networks (e.g., Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn) are they active?
  • What do they need at the awareness, consideration, and purchase phases of the funnel? (ToFu, MoFu, BoFu)
  • Cultural and social values?
  • What language do they use?
  • What causes are important to them?
  • Can you describe their sense of humor?
  • Etc.
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HOW TO USE BUYER PERSONAS FOR GREATER MARKETING VALUE

Untargeted or misaligned content creation won’t improve your inbound marketing efforts. So, keep the following concepts top of mind as you develop your content strategy.

Different messaging for different types of buyer personas

Use what you know about your buyer personas to target them with the perfect marketing messages. As a result, your marketing campaigns and other marketing efforts will produce a positive outcome (more sales). Furthermore, it prevents content fatigue. If you bombard your customer base with ad after ad and email after email, the messages they actually connect with will get lost in the noise.

For each persona, keep a running list of the messages that convert well with that group. Then, identify the content they read, the communities they participate in, and the platforms they use. Connect the two together and you give yourself the best possible chance to delight your target customers and increase conversions.

Different funnels and marketing automation for different buyer personas

While every customer’s journey is different, you can give them some guide rails to follow by designing a strong, logical conversion funnel for the customer. However, your job isn’t done until you’ve identified the most likely paths for each buyer persona, you’ve tagged them for appropriate behavioral segmentation, and you’ve built additional, refined journeys across your site as needed. 

Say you’re IKEA and a customer lands on your site, browses baby-related content, and subscribes to your email list. Once you sort them into their persona’s email segment, the rest of the funnel becomes more automated. But then, let’s say that they return to the site and spend time perusing living room storage options. You can now cross-pollinate your learnings. Sure, they are interested in your baby-related offerings. And sure, they are also interested in living room storage. But now you can make customized offers to them knowing that the storage they are seeking is likely for toys. Further to this, you can see what else the living-room-storage-seeking new parents in your database tend to buy.

Your customer will now receive the offers, promotions, and content that interests them the most.

person on steps in rain with orange umbrella

Different conversion strategies for different personas

Use your buyer personas to help increase conversion rates. Just as your overall messaging can land or fall apart depending on the buyer persona, your CTAs can either inspire conversions or leave people cold.

Don’t try to convert everyone the same way. 

Instead, design different offers and incentives for your different personas. Use these to build up to your CTAs, which can also change depending on the persona. By this point, you’ll be able to identify personas based on the campaign they came through, the page they landed on, the offer that made them click, or the email they received.

What will trigger your customer’s purchasing decision? Are they price-conscious? A CTA like “Save Now!” might convert better than one about product features for that persona. Or try being more specific for even greater results with a CTA such as “Save 15% Now!”.

If the buyer persona is still in the awareness stage, CTAs like “Discover” or “Learn More” are appropriate ways to get your persona to the next step. However, as they move to consideration, they’ll probably respond better to “Compare” oriented CTAs.

HOW TO CREATE A BUYER PERSONA THAT CONVERTS

woman searching how to create a buyer persona on her laptop

To create your own buyer personas from scratch or organize existing customer segments, aim for the deepest insights possible into your audience. Here’s how to research your audience, starting with the broadest actions:

Perform broad market research

Read analyst market reports, survey results, and industry white papers. Research public companies. Explore trending products. If research firms like Forrester, Gartner, and Qualtrics have published reports, they are worth purchasing. Read reviews and note the language used – the words that come up frequently are clues.

Look at keyword data

Keyword research is a goldmine for information about how your target audience thinks and what they prioritize. Also, critically, it reveals the specific articulation of their thoughts.

Explore keywords related to products, customer’s pain points, and questions. Investigate long-tail keywords, for example with modifiers to product searches (“leather,” “affordable,” “chairs for back pain,” etc.).

Use powerful keyword research tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz. The effectiveness of a tool like Clearscope lies in its ability to analyze the top-performing content for your target keywords and give you a breakdown of the other relevant keywords in the content.

Tools like Answer The Public and BuzzSumo “Questions” enable you to uncover the questions being asked online.

Check autosuggest and People Also Ask results in the SERPs. Review Google Trends. Look at the autosuggest options in YouTube, too.

Participate in relevant online communities

Marketers used to have to conduct focus groups to learn more about customer needs, likes, and dislikes. Now they can be a fly on the wall virtually anywhere their target audience gathers. If there are brand fan communities, user groups, Facebook groups, subreddits, highly active blogs, or other social media or other communities where people gather to share interests that are relevant to your business – join them! Because people are unguarded with their like-minded peers, they’ll share candidly (and often bluntly).

Better still, actively participate. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. First, you get close to a first-hand experience of being in your buyer personas’ shoes. Second, as long as your priority is helping rather than selling, you can make it known that your brand is an active participant in the community and a helpful expert.

Explore Google Analytics

Now we move into the data you can mine from your website. Google Analytics is an excellent resource for charting the customer journey through your site and identifying navigational patterns.

What is most popular in your site? Not only among your products, but among your content as well.

What do your conversion funnels look like? What messaging improves the flow of site visitors through those funnels and reduces abandonment?

Talk to your sales, customer support, and other customer-facing teams

The people who work in sales and customer support are on the front lines of customer psychology. For your sales team, sorting people into categories and identifying the messages that work will be second nature. 

There’s also a stage of the customer journey that’s often missing from other data, but your sales team has it: customer pushback. What are the common objections? Is it possible to anticipate and prevent these objections before they happen, or is there a go-to rebuttal that works?

On the customer support end, the team will have insight into which buyer personas end up disappointed and/or which ones were given the wrong information. You can spot chinks in your marketing armor this way. Where do you need to clarify or tighten up your messaging? Where do you need to do a better job of onboarding or support for a given persona?

Interview customers

A simple yet sometimes overlooked way to develop the ideal buyer persona profile is to interview your actual customers one-on-one. Get them talking! Dive deep! Collecting qualitative data directly from your target audience is a crucial step when building buyer personas. What traits do your most profitable customers share? And how can you model them to attract similar customers in the future?

Conduct customer surveys

Surveys provide you with the opportunity to ask the questions you’d most like to ask your audience, at scale. Surveys enable you to glean insight from a broad array of your target buyers. With the inclusion of qualitative data, you can also gain interesting insights into their real-world experiences and feelings beyond what quantitative data may reveal.

Ask your current customers to take a survey and offer an incentive in exchange. You can ask for this via email, post-checkout, or through a pop-up on the site. If you have high-priority customers, offer them VIP incentives in exchange for their feedback: loyalty points, early product releases, discounts, or dazzling experiences.

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