Our mission is to help businesses grow by getting more of the customers they want.
But we can’t do this unless we understand exactly who those ideal customers are, which is where customer personas come in.
What are customer personas?
Also known as customer avatars, a customer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer.
But unlike vague descriptions that are easy to forget, personas are very specific. Each has their own personality, background, interests, motivations and reasons for buying from you.
Personas make your customers come to life.
Why do I need to create personas?
A persona helps everyone understand exactly who your ideal customer is and feel like they know them.
- It can help your salespeople spot the perfect opportunity;
- your customer services team to be more empathetic;
- your technical team develop products which better suit your market; and
- for marketing people like us, it’s an invaluable way to ensure that our work is always attuned to its audience.
When you understand what motivates your customer to buy from you, what they worry about and what makes them tick, you’ll be much better at knowing where they hang out and what to say to resonate with them; making all of your marketing much more effective.
How to create a persona
There are different ways you can go about creating personas.
You could set up interviews with a sample of each of your customer types, be they your existing customers, prospects, referred contacts or via a third-party service. This is a fantastic way of getting real insights into each persona type, but will be prohibitively expensive for most businesses.
Where this sort of budget isn’t available, the best way to start is by putting them together from what you already know about your customers. You and your team have a wealth of knowledge, so now’s the time to use it.
Are personas just for customers?
Creating personas doesn’t have to always be about customers.
In some businesses it might be just as important to attract new employees, or perhaps suppliers. If this is the case, then the same principles of the customer persona should be applied to them too.
You can also create ‘negative personas’, describing the type of customers you don’t want. For example, you might get a lot of people joining your email list to receive your latest insights. But you don’t want to spend time or money marketing to students who only use it for research, because they’ll never buy from you. This would be a negative persona.
How many customer personas do I need?
I suggest having no more than four or five different personas, but in a way it’s not so much the number that matters, but that you’ve covered all your main customer types. If you’ve only got two or three main customer types, don’t pad it out for the sake of it.
Start by listing out the types of customers you want to attract. You might consider this in terms of your most profitable customers, new markets you want to enter or simply those customers who are great to deal with. Or perhaps a bit of each? Going through your CRM system/contacts database and chatting to your team can be a helpful way to get started.
Example customer personas for architects aiming to develop more business in the housing and education sectors:
- Housing Developer
- Education Sector Contractor
- Independent School Bursar
If you’re struggling to work out who your best customers are, you might benefit from one of our Brand Strategy workshops. Working with one of our experts, we explore how you can uncover the hidden profitability within your business.
What information should each persona contain?
These are the most important questions we suggest you start with. It isn’t a definitive list – have fun creating your personas! You could also include their favourite food, the car they drive, what they drink, which political party they support, how they do their supermarket shopping, etc.
Don’t go crazy (or it’ll take you forever) but do make sure you use this opportunity to home in on any aspects of their lives that are particularly relevant to your product or service. So, if you’re a hairdresser, do include what their hairstyle is and who cuts it currently. This is probably less important if you’re a DIY retailer!
In a b2b scenario this will often be related to the business they work for, so in our architect example above, one type of persona will be ‘housing developers’, another type would be ‘education sector contractors’.
When selling to consumers you will also have different types. For example, a coffee shop might have ‘busy commuter’, ‘chatting with friends’ and ‘reading the paper’ personas.
This is where, instead of thinking of them as a type, you start to think of them as a real person.
There are quite a few things you can consider:
- How old are they?
- What gender are they, or do they identify as?
- Where do they live?
- How well educated are they?
- What is their native language?
- What is their job? How senior are they?
- How affluent are they?
- Are they married?
- Do they have children? Grandchildren?
- Do they have pets?
Next, give them a name. The first name only is fine, though you might want to use alliteration to help you remember who they are, such as “Accountant Andy”, “Single Mum Suzie” or “Green-fingered Gregory”.
Giving them a name really helps you visualise the person and makes them come to life. It also helps as an identifier when talking about the different personas.
As long as these are internal documents, you don’t need to worry too much about where your persona’s photo comes from, but try and make them realistic. We suggest going to LinkedIn and searching for someone with a similar job title to your persona, or do a Google image search for your customer type.
A short biography that sums up what life stage they’re at, what’s currently going on in their work and personal life and how they feel about it.
If you find this difficult, start off by writing a few notes about your own situation to get you into the right mindset.
Interests and lifestyle
Identifying the person’s interests doesn’t just give you a more rounded picture of them, it can provide very helpful hints about how your marketing activity can reach them.
For example this could include:
- Where do they go for news updates?
- What social media platforms do they use, if any?
- What do they like to do of an evening?
- What trade shows do they attend?
- Do they go for long dog walks?
- Are they happiest when down the pub?
- What magazines do they read?
- What football team do they support?
- What websites do they look at frequently?
- Where do they go on holiday?
- What type of networking do they do?
- Are they into technology?
- What TV programmes do they enjoy?
- Which brands do they love?
It’s helpful to focus on interests which are relevant to your products or services – but don’t become too focused otherwise you won’t create a well-rounded, realistic persona.
Motivations and fears
What gets this person up in the mornings? What are they worried about? Don’t limit yourself to considering these questions purely from the point of view of the product/service you’re selling them. Consider their motivations and fears more generally, for example are they:
- Ambitious and career focused
- Stressed about the rising cost of living
- Health conscious
- Juggling multiple jobs
- Worried about hitting their targets
- Always wanting to feel like they’ve got a bargain
- Aiming to be environmentally friendly in all they do
This part is particularly important because those motivations and fears will be influencing their decision-making process. The better you understand your persona’s motivations, the better you can relate your marketing activity to them.
This is where we start to focus on how your business relates to the persona and ask:
- Why would they purchase from you?
- What are they trying to achieve?
Back to our architect example: Their ideal Housing Developer might be one who wants to deliver affordable housing that’s practical and comfortable for the homeowner. Or perhaps it’s a developer who wants to create something dramatically cutting-edge for the high-end market.
For consumers their goal might be to buy a meal that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy, reduce their weekly expenditure or find a dress that will make everyone comment on how good they look.
What challenges are stopping them from achieving their goals? Are these external or internal issues?
Let’s consider our architect and their customer persona of a housing developer who wants to deliver quality affordable housing. What’s stopping them doing this? Perhaps they can’t see how to reduce their material costs to the necessary level. Maybe they can’t get planning permission for their preferred designs. Or perhaps their contacts are all in high-end architectural firms that they can’t afford to use?
By understanding these challenges, we can create messaging about our products or services that will appeal to them.
Knowledge and skills
Understanding how much knowledge your customer persona has about your products or services is incredibly helpful in ensuring that you never condescend or intimidate them.
If you sell cosmetics, for example, a professional buyer from a department store is likely to be highly knowledgeable. Whereas an end consumer might need more guidance in making the right purchase.
If you’re selling software, it’s useful to know to what extent the decision maker understands the capability and underlying coding of the system.
What should customer personas look like?
There are no hard-and-fast rules, but it’s best if you have a format that can be printed off onto an A4 sheet, so you can stick them up on a wall if you need to.
It’s also a good idea to keep the layout consistent so you can find specific information easily.
Download your free customer personas template.Download
Three ways we’ve used customer personas
As I mentioned before, we use customer personas a lot. Here are just three examples of how we use them.
1. Planning the content and structure for a website
When it came to planning their new website, BioMedical needed to understand what content would resonate with their ideal clients. Through one of our brand strategy workshops, we defined three personas of their sweet-spot customers, taking the time to understand their motivations and fears and the key things they were looking for in a software developer.
Armed with this information, we were then able to plan what content needed to be included on the site and how the user might move through the site from one page to another
2. Planning a digital marketing campaign
When we worked on Change Formation’s personas, we uncovered a common goal that sparked an ingenious idea for a digital marketing campaign.
We realised that what most of Change Formation’s sweet-spot clients wanted first was a smaller, diagnostic piece of work called Insights Discovery, that then typically led on to a larger more involved project.
This meant we could create an SEO campaign around very specific search terms, which has generated lots of good-fit enquiries and helped achieve a 300% return on investment.
3. Creating a new brand identity
When Stuart & Partners wanted to rebrand, it was the first time they’d changed their brand image in 30 years. They’d not given much thought to who their ideal clients were for quite some time.
Through a series of workshops, we worked with them to develop their brand strategy. This included defining their positioning and value proposition and also, importantly, defining their Personas.
The information we found out played a crucial role in defining the design brief for their new confident brand identity to make sure it presented them properly to their target market.
Plus our own networking activity
Of course, we have our own Tomango customer personas, which we rely on heavily.
I find them particularly useful when out networking, to allow me to quickly identify new contacts who might be our ‘sweet spot’ type of client.
So yes, personas are important
Whilst it might sound like an unnecessary faff, creating personas is incredibly useful and can actually be quite good fun.
Go on, give it a try…
As a thriving brand agency in Sussex, creating customer personas is a core part of our work. But it doesn’t stop there. Once we know who you are targeting we can implement a range of brand and marketing tactics to help you reach them. To find out more, speak to our team.