Nearly three quarters of all marketing teams rely on buyer personas to help steer their content marketing activities. Buyer personas are a powerful tool for creating relevant, user-centric content. This enhances your audiences’ content experience while also helping you achieve key goals, including better search engine findability, higher conversion and better ROI on your content marketing activities.
You can create your own buyer personas by conducting market research and data analysis, along with interviews targeting customers, leads and promoters of your brand. Remember to continually monitor and update your personas, as your customer’s preferences and interests change over time.
As a marketing pro, you’ve probably heard over and over about the importance of knowing your customer. After all, every brand wants to cater to its customer base and create lasting customer relationships. Customer-centric brands are known to be 60% more profitable on average than brands who devote less time to “knowing their customers.”
So, how can you create a meaningful, customer-focused brand experience and show that you know what really matters to your customers? Creating buyer personas can help. In fact, up to 74% of marketing departments say they use customer personas to gain a richer understanding of their customer base.
As with any marketing tactic, there are lots of conflicting opinions about the best approach to working with customer personas. In this ultimate guide, we’ll get you up to speed with all our latest insights, best practices and step-by-step instructions for creating powerful, effective customer personas right now.
What is a Buyer Persona?
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on research and real data.
It’s kind of like a detailed character sketch that includes all the traits, preferences and behaviours of the person or people you want to target with your content and marketing efforts.
Marketers use buyer personas for a number of strategic reasons, as we’ll show you below. But for now just keep in mind that buyer personas are all about creating a clear picture of the person or people you’re trying to target. They bring your customer to life, giving you the feeling you’re communicating with a real, tangible person instead of just an abstract set of data points.
Why are buyer personas so important?
Marketers use buyer personas for many reasons. Here are some of the main benefits that you can expect when working with your own buyer personas:
- Tailored content experiences: Working with a clear buyer persona in mind allows you to tailor your content so that it resonates with the specific audience you’re targeting. This personalisation increases engagement and drives conversions. In fact, McKinsey has found that companies who excel at personalisation generate 40% more revenue from their activities than average companies. In other words: personalised content pays off.
- Efficient planning: Knowing your audience helps you allocate your time and budget wisely. With the clarity of having a buyer persona, you know which content channels, formats and topics are most likely to have an impact at each stage of the buyer journey.
- Enhanced messaging: A detailed buyer persona shows how well you understand your audience’s pain points and psychological motivations. With that information in mind, you can create messaging that speaks directly to them, making your brand more relatable and memorable to them.
- Reduced guesswork: Without a clear view of who your target audience is and what makes them tick, you’ll have to rely on guesswork when developing your content strategy. Creating (and continually refining) buyer personas makes your marketing efforts more strategic and data-driven.
- Relevance: Creating content that is relevant to your target audience is crucial, not just for engagement, but also for SEO, since Google prioritises content that is clearly ‘helpful, reliable and people-first’. Buyer personas enable you to develop content that is relevant and valuable to specific segments of your audience, increasing the likelihood of engagement and conversion.
- Consistency: Buyer personas help you maintain consistency in your messaging across various marketing channels. A consistent brand voice and message are essential for building trust and brand recognition amongst your audience.
- Performance tracking: Buyer personas also give you a convenient framework for measuring the success of your content marketing activities. You can track how different personas interact with your content, analyse conversion rates and adjust your strategy based on what the data reveals.
Why should you create buyer personas?
For most content marketers, buyer personas are a must-have component of their strategy. If you’re not already using buyer personas, here are some good reasons why you should:
- You want to understand your audience better: Creating a useful buyer persona starts with extensive research and analysis that always helps you know your target audience better. Gaining insights into your target audience’s demographics, pain points and preferences enables you to create more relevant content.
- You want to target audiences more effectively through personalised content: If you’re currently just creating general, top-of-funnel content that does not speak to specific audiences at each stage of the buyer journey, you’ll find that you can get a lot more value out of your content through personalisation. Creating detailed buyer personas guides you and your content creators on “who you’re speaking to” with each piece of content you create. As a result, your content is more targeted, more personal and more effective.
- You want to strengthen customer relationships and boost retention: Those personalised content experiences also help cultivate stronger relationships with your customers. Once a customer becomes a trusting fan of your brand and its content, they’ll keep coming back for more, resulting in a higher customer lifetime value (CLV).
How to build a buyer persona in 7 steps
Now that we’ve covered the importance of buyer personas, you’re probably wondering: How can I create my own? Below, we provide a 7-step guide to creating useful buyer personas based on current best practices used by the hundreds of content marketers we work with every day.
Step 1: Gather input from across the business
Creating buyer personas is a collaborative effort, because different team members within your company can all contribute unique insights to help you gain a fuller picture of who your customers are. Start by holding meetings with representatives from different departments, especially marketing, sales, customer support and product teams. Focus on learning real-life examples of what’s on your customers’ minds. Here are some sample questions to ask when meeting with members of other teams in your company:
- What are the main questions customers are asking?
- Walk me through a sales/support interaction with an average customer.
- Which topics or situations trigger the most negative responses (complaints) among customers?
- What do customers say when they respond negatively to those topics?
- Which topics trigger the most positive responses?
- What do customers say when they respond positively?
Step 2: Research your target audience
Once you’ve gained a clearer view of your customers by talking to your colleagues in customer-facing positions, it’s time to expand that view with market research, such as surveys. Many companies work with an external market research partner to deliver key insights into who their customers are. If you aren’t able to outsource this job, you can still gain lots of insights by conducting your own research. You might start by using a free market research template like this one, offered by HubSpot.
Step 3: Analyse your first-party data
Alongside market research, your company’s customer data is the best source of information to refer to if you want to get to know your customers better. Your customer data generally contains many useful facts about who your customers are, including location, gender, spending patterns and media preferences.
Step 4: Segment your customers
Not all customers are the same. Segment your audience based on common characteristics or how well they match with different products your company offers. This segmentation helps you narrow your focus. Most companies use anywhere from 3 to 8 different personas, depending on the complexity of their market and product offering.
Step 5: Hold interviews or focus groups for each segment
Now it’s time to really put a human face on your personas. Reach out to actual customers, leads and referrals to request a brief interview or invite them to take part in a focus group. Many companies offer incentives such as free gifts to people who participate in this type of market research activities. Incentivising can be a useful way to boost your research, as it has been found to increase audience participation by up to 19%.
Whether or not you incentivise, try to attract as many participants as possible, while still keeping your workload manageable. Remember that preparing and conducting interviews is a lengthy, work-intensive process, so it’s important to keep things as focused as possible. In any case, for each segment of your audience, aim to interview at least one interviewee from each of the following categories:
- Current customers: Existing customers are a goldmine of information. Target them for interviews to learn all about their experiences, pain points, preferences and expectations.
- Leads: Talking to prospective customers sheds light on their decision-making process. Engage with them to understand their motivations and pain points.
- Promoters: Promoters (a term borrowed from the concept of ‘net promoter scores’/NPS) are your brand’s biggest fans. They’re the people who actively recommend your brand to others. If your company uses NPS as part of its routine customer surveying, you can follow up by getting in touch with your promoters to ask more about why they feel so strongly about your brand.
Step 6: Create Your Buyer Persona
With all the information in hand, it’s time to craft your buyer persona. This involves creating a detailed profile that encapsulates all the characteristics and insights you’ve gathered. The persona or personas you create will help guide your content marketing activities going forward.
Step 7: Keep optimising
Things change. Your brand reaches new stages of maturity and new markets. Your audience’s interests change in response to macroeconomic developments. Audit your customer personas at least once a year and repeat steps 1 through 6 either in part or in full to continually update and refine your personas. This will ensure you’re always targeting a realistic representation of your company’s ideal customer.
Different types of buyer personas
No two buyer personas are alike, but there are some broad categories of buyer personas to choose from at the outset of your buyer persona development. Choosing a category helps you decide which details to focus on when creating your buyer persona:
- B2B buyer persona: If your company’s products or services are geared towards other businesses, you’ll be working with B2B buyer personas. These buyer personas are every bit as human as B2C personas, but you will want to focus more attention on understanding how business-related considerations play into their decision-making. This requires a deeper knowledge of their industries, economic trends and your competitor landscape.
- B2C buyer persona: If you sell directly to consumers, you’ll want to develop B2C buyer personas. These profiles help tailor marketing efforts to individual consumers. They will focus on more personal matters, like customer preferences, trends and psychological motivators.
Buyer persona examples
Here are a couple of examples to show you what a buyer persona might look like (and how they can reflect your audience):
B2B buyer persona example
Imagine your company sells digital accounting software to businesses. Your B2B buyer persona might be ‘Finance Manager Fiona’:
- Fiona oversees the finance department at a mid-sized company in the property management industry.
- She’s interested in streamlining her team’s work, shifting fully towards remote work in the next 2 years and complying with data protection laws.
- Cost is always a concern for Fiona, but she’s more interested in value and long-term ROI than initial start-up costs.
- Fiona doesn’t have time to read blog posts very often, but loves podcasts and devotes 1-2 hours each week to reading in-depth research reports related to finance management trends.
- She never makes a large purchase decision for her department without taking part in a free demo or trial.
- All final purchase decisions must be approved by her direct report, the company’s CEO.
This persona gives you a pretty clear picture of who Fiona is and what she’s concerned about when looking for accounting software. Based on this persona, you can already start to identify many content topics that might interest her. For example:
- An eBook on ‘How to calculate ROI on your accounting software solution’
- An eBook or podcast on ‘Top accounting trends for the property management industry this year’
- An in-depth report on ‘Data security in the hybrid future of finance management’
B2C buyer persona example
Say you are working for an online retail company specialising in sporting gear. Your company is launching a new line of high-end camping equipment targeting people who are curious about camping but don’t want to compromise on comfort. You might create a persona like ‘Glamping Greg’:
- Greg is a city-dwelling family man with two young children.
- He enjoys retreating to the wilderness to recuperate from the stress of his job as a content marketing manager.
- Greg has some disposable income to spend, and his number-one priority is to create memorable outdoor experiences with his family, with as little hassle as possible.
- Greg loves reading travel and lifestyle blogs to learn about activities for the whole family.
- Greg spends around 3 hours a week on social media, especially Instagram.
- Greg shops online at least 2 times a month.
Notice how Greg’s persona is a mix of contextual information and real-life data points? Based on this persona, you might consider targeting Gary with content like this:
- A blog post: ‘Top 10 new products for a stress-free camping adventure for the whole family’
- A social media post: ‘What’s your camping style? Take our camping personality test’
How to use buyer personas in your content marketing?
As the examples above show, your buyer persona can help guide your content marketing strategy in various ways. Here are a few main areas where you can use your personas to steer your content-related decision-making:
- Content customisation: Based on your buyer personas, you can create content that speaks directly to the pain points, interests and desires of your target audience. You can also filter out ideas that seem irrelevant or “out of character” for your personas.
- Channel selection: Knowing your persona’s media preferences allows you to focus on the channels and formats that have the most impact – no more wasted efforts on the wrong platforms.
- Messaging precision: With a clear persona in mind, you can fine-tune your messaging as if you were speaking directly to a real person. This adds depth and emotional resonance that makes your brand more relatable and memorable.
Buyer personas FAQs
As you delve into the world of buyer personas, you’re likely to encounter some questions. Let’s address a few common ones:
What are negative buyer personas?
Negative buyer personas are profiles of individuals who are not your ideal customers. When it comes to targeting your content, understanding who you don’t want as customers is as important as knowing your ideal audience. Negative personas help you avoid wasting resources on the wrong activities.
What's the difference between a buyer persona and a user persona?
While buyer personas focus on your ideal customers, user personas are centred on individuals who use your product or service. If your company uses content to cultivate relationships with users (who are not necessarily ‘buyers’), then having a clear idea of the user’s needs enables you to tailor your communications to them more effectively.
How do I create my own persona?
Creating your own persona involves careful research and data analysis. The 7 steps outlined above in this guide provide a solid framework for creating your personas. The main activities are collecting data, identifying patterns and crafting detailed profiles.
What are the key components of a buyer persona?
Key components of a buyer persona include demographics (age, gender, location), psychographics (interests, values, aspirations), pain points, goals, challenges and preferred communication channels. If you are focusing on a B2B market, your persona should also include information about the specific professionals you are targeting: their job title, decision-making hierarchy, industry, company size, budget, business priorities, etc.
How long does it take to create a buyer persona?
The time required to create a buyer persona depends on the complexity of your audience and the depth of your research. It can range from a few weeks to several months. The key is to be thorough and data-driven. You should also plan to regularly review and revise your buyer personas, as your customers’ preferences change over time.
What is a buyer persona in simple words?
In simple terms, a buyer persona is your ideal customer profile. It’s a lifelike description of the customer you want to attract and serve with your products or services. By understanding your audience on a deep level, you can create content and marketing strategies that are more likely to interest them.
Bringing your target audiences to life
User-focused content marketing starts with a clear picture of your company’s target audiences. That’s why buyer personas are a proven method for making better content-related decisions, choosing the right topics and channels and adding more relevance and value for your audiences. The key is to devote adequate time to researching your markets and analysing your data. The richer your research, the more useful your personas will be.
With a solid buyer persona in place, you bring your audience to life. This makes a huge difference in your marketing activities, because it changes your perspective as a marketer: instead of just creating content for a faceless, abstract “audience,” you’re engaging in a meaningful, helpful conversation with a real person. That adds depth and quality to your content which has the ring of truth for your audiences.
Ready to start getting more out of your content marketing strategy? Learn how Contentoo can help you leverage our cutting-edge content technology while ensuring a user-focused, brand-safe content experience. Contact our content advisors and book your free demo today.