How to create effective customer personas in 5 steps

Written by Rob Nolten on 9, Octh 2020

You’ve probably come across the terms audience persona, customer persona or marketing persona somewhere in a book or article. You might even use them on a regular basis. But with all these different definitions floating around, one does wonder what are personas anyway and why are they important?

Simply put, a persona is a research-based, detailed description of a person who represents your target audience. This person is not a real customer, but an imaginary person who reflects the characteristics of your ideal potential customer. 

Personas function as the solid foundation of any good marketing strategy. Always start with creating personas first, as they will help you better understand your target audience. Personas humanize your existing and potential customers and help you empathize more easily with their desires, motivations and frustrations. As a result, you can effectively tailor your marketing activities to fit the wants and needs of your most valuable customers. 

Convinced by now that personas aren’t some marketing mumbo-jumbo, but wondering where to start? The following five steps will help you create the ideal customer persona: 

1. Research, research, research 

Start with a thorough research and collect as much data as possible about your ideal customer. Begin with looking at available data on your current customers from sources such as your database, social media and website analytics tools. Your sales and customer service teams can also provide valuable input as they interact with customers on a regular basis. You’ll need basic demographic information such as: 

  • Age 
  • Gender 
  • Education 
  • Marital status 
  • Income 

Next to demographics, you’ll also require data on interests, preferences and behavioral traits. Come up with as many question as you can and consider questions as: 

  • What interests does my ideal customer have? 
  • Which social channels does he or she use? 
  • What are their spending patterns? 
  • Any communication preferences? 
  • What is his or her typical demeanor?  

2. Pinpoint customer pain points 

Once you’re more familiar with the demographics and behaviors of your target audience, it’s time to think about their pains and frustrations. Questions that pop up are: 

  • What problems and issues are they trying to solve?
  • What challenges do they face and what’s preventing them from succeeding? 
  • What do they expect from my product or service and do I need to pay special attention to anything in particular?
  • How can my product or service help resolve some of their issues? 

Your customer service team probably has answers to at least some of these questions as they are in close contact with your customers every day. Definitely take their experiences into account. Another source of information can be reviews that customers leave behind or experiences they share on social media. 

3. Identify customer goals 

Along with customer pain points, you also want to understand what your ideal customers’ goals or aspirations are. These can be personal or professional and directly related to the products or services you provide or not. The point is to get to know more about your customers, not to precisely match customers with your products or services. 

The most important question to ask is “what motivates my customers?”. It’s recommended to do at least a couple of customer interviews, as they can provide you with the most complete answers. However, if that’s not possible, you can also collaborate with your sales and customer service teams to gather relevant insights

4. Understand the benefits you bring to the table 

This step in the process is often misunderstood. It’s not about what your product or service does, but about the benefits that your product or service can offer your customers. The question you want to ask yourself is “How can I make my customer’s life better or easier?”.  

5. Draft up your personas 

The steps above form a strong foundation from which you can actually create one or more customer personas. Now it’s time to gather all your data to look for similarities between customer groups. These common characteristics will form the basis of your personas. There’s no magical number to hit when it comes to creating personas, as long as they are distinctive and representative of your target audience. 

Keep in mind that your personas need to read like descriptions of real people rather than a list of demographic characteristics. Give them a name, a personality and while you’re at it, add a picture too. Basically anything that helps you think of your target audience in a human way rather than numbers on a spreadsheet will do. 

Personas are a great source of information and essential for an effective marketing strategy. At the end of the day, if you don’t understand the needs and wants of your target audience, how can you communicate and connect with them? Simply put, you can’t. Knowing and understanding who’s behind those numbers is defining for both your success and that of your customers. 

STORY WRITTEN BY
Rob Nolten
Creative Director
Rob Nolten
Creative Director

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