How to Develop a Buyer Persona?

As a part of its marketing and business strategy, every company needs to develop strong buyer personas in order to ensure that the business can properly address its audience both online and off.

A buyer persona should be based on the people who already do, or are most likely to in the future, buy your products or services. In order to fully flesh out a persona, it’s necessary to develop both a good persona and a bad one, with the latter being the person that is least likely to buy.

Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modelled) representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish, what goals drive their behaviour, how they think, how they buy, and why they make buying decisions. Tony Zambito

Often, businesses create a persona with a name and even find a stock photograph to base their persona on, as a visualisation of the ideal buyer makes it easier for sales and marketing staff to ‘see’ them as real people.

A buyer persona is based on demographics such as:

  • Age
  • Gender (in some cases, mostly for B2C businesses)
  • Profession
  • Level of education
  • Role in buying cycle
  • Income
  • Shopping habits
  • Interests
  • Purpose (why are they buying the product)
  • Search and social habits

This is not an exhaustive list, different industries may need different data. For example, for content marketing activities, you may want to know what kind of content the buyer consumes, how often, how much they deviate from this and so on.

Getting Started with Buyer Personas


(Source: Content Marketing Institute)

Many people make the mistake of using too much guesswork. A buyer persona should be based on data if it’s going to be successful and whilst a certain amount of educated guesswork can take place, it’s always dangerous to make assumptions.

The only way to gather relevant and accurate data about buyers is to ask them directly. Talking to sales reps and product reps is not an accurate way to carry out research, as they are really just guessing just as you are. Sure, a sales rep will have had contact with buyers in the field and will be able to give an overview of a typical client, but if you really want to know what buyers want and who they are, ask them.

This can be done by carrying out online surveys and ideally, this should be backed up with in-person or telephone interviews. It’s important that this is done with those who have already made a purchase and those who haven’t. The latter will quickly flag up where they left the sales cycle and why, and it’s invaluable information that it will be difficult to find anywhere other than from the horse’s mouth.

The Five Rings of Buying Insight

There are five insights that you need to use to help effectively pin down your buyer personas, especially when it comes to content.

These are:

  1. Priority initiatives – the ‘problems’ that your buyer needs solving and you can address with your product. What do they spend time and money on, what problem can you solve for them
  2. Success factors – what metrics or rewards does the buyer associate with success, what do they expect to achieve by purchasing your product and how will it solve their problem
  3. Perceived barriers – what could make the buyer doubt the usefulness of your product, what do they see as being a solution that could help them overcome a problem
  4. Buying process – how can the buying process overcome any perceived barriers, what processes does the buyer generally follow
  5. Decision criteria – what makes them choose your product over a competitors, what was it about your product that prompted them into making a decision

So, looking at these five points, it’s clear that you have to discover firstly what your value proposition is, in order to be able to figure out how you can address the buyer’s ‘problem’ (also known as a pain point). This is simply something that the buyer feels that they need to address and need help with, so they look for a product, such as marketing automation software, for example, to help them solve the issue (which in this case would be saving time and money).

Sample Questions for Survey/Interview

In order to get insight into the persona, you will need to ask more than just about their job. Think about how you sell the products, the type of content you might produce, where applicable, where you distribute ads and content, the setup of your website and more.

You may want to ask, for example, some of the following:

  • What social media networks do you use?
  • How much time do you spend on the internet?
  • How do you access the internet, what devices do you use?
  • What knowledge do you need to be successful in your current position?
  • What brands do you like and why?
  • Do you prefer to communicate via the telephone, email or post?
  • How do you prefer to consumer content (video, images, short posts, articles, white papers etc.)?
  • What are your long-term business goals?

You should mix a little bit of the personal in with business-related questions in order to get a sense of how the demographic in general might behave. It’s all about getting into the mind of the persona and calculating how they will react to your products/services and how your website is presented and so on.

These types of question will also help you to understand how people are buying your products and can help with website development etc.

How Many Personas Should You Develop

Depending on how many different products you have, you may need to create more than one buyer persona. This should be picked up during the survey/questionnaire period whilst your customers are discussing the products that they use.


(Source: Tony Zambito)

You can also segment buyers that fall into the same overall buying group, if the survey has revealed that not all of your buyers think the same way. Ask yourself what’s different about one group to another if you take this route, is it their job role that makes the way they approach buying differently? Or perhaps their age? Whatever the case, it’s important to gain as much insight as possible into all of the people that you question.

It’s also important to ensure that the questions and resulting insight are goal orientated, in order to really get down to the nitty gritty of what the buyer hopes to achieve. Coming back to the problem-solving aspect of the persona, this is what you need to address as it’s your product that is helping them to achieve their goals. A deep understanding of how you help them to achieve their goals will give you a much better chance of getting the correct marketing message to the right people.

Talking to your Personas

Now that you’ve identified your buyer persona, it should be a simple matter to be able to craft marketing in order to speak to them in a language that they understand and that will prompt action.

Think about what aspect of the persona you’re addressing to help you with this. Is it purely professional in a B2B environment? Or perhaps you’re addressing them on a more personal level. It’s important to work this out if you want to get the tone of your communications right and ensure that they remain in the buying cycle.

Remember that your goal is to increase the ROI of your marketing efforts and with this in mind, it’s necessary to develop strong brand messaging that is focused on a targeted campaign. Developing buyer personas allows you to reduce the dilution of your marketing messages as they will be reaching the right people, those that you have identified as being your buyer.

Remember too that you created a ‘bad persona’ for a reason and that is to ensure that you can improve your products or services. The idea is to eventually be able to reach those people that don’t buy and turn them into buyers through product development.

Persona Checklist

  • Consider which products you are focusing on
  • Plan how you are going to collate information relating to your persona
  • Don’t use guesswork
  • Conduct surveys online and wherever possible, by telephone or face-to-face
  • Use quotes from real people when developing the persona
  • Ask insightful questions crafted to provide answers about your products
  • Don’t forget to ask about competitors
  • Ask what it is that the person likes and dislikes about your products

It’s important that you get an overview of what people think about competitors too. This will flag up what people like and dislike about them and will further help you to refine the marketing message and essentially, product.

It’s not especially difficult to develop a persona, but you should avoid making the same mistake as many marketing departments, so leave out the guesswork. Try to get as large a sample as possible when it comes to the surveys, as this will give you much clearer results than if you question one or two people.

Once you’ve done this, then it’s a case of going through the data and constructing a persona that’s truest to the data and altering products, content and marketing to suit. From there on in, you should have a better all-round business model that you can constantly tweak to improve.

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Kerry Butters

Editorial & SEO Director at MarkITWrite
A prolific technology writer, Kerry is an authority in her field and produces content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, Kerry is co-founder of digital content agency markITwrite, adores the written word and all things tech and internet related.

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