How to Build Buyer Personas

Greg Miles | 27 August 2015

If only one out of ten people within your target audience are qualified prospects, then you’re wasting 90% of your time, effort and resources. Instead of wasting all that energy and money on marketing your products to people who don’t need or want them, wouldn’t it be great if you could sharpen your focus to reach only the right people?

That’s where buyer personas can help. Buyer personas are semi-fictitious representations of your ideal buyers. These representations paint a picture of who your ideal customers are, but importantly they also get to the root of the reasons why they buy.

This information will give you a more complete understanding of who you are targeting, which will help you to narrow your focus and tailor your content, messaging and products to the specific needs of your ideal customers. This can dramatically improve the success of your marketing campaigns – so let’s dive in.

How to Build Buyer Personas

In the days when TV marketing ruled, advertising was a best guess practice. Today though, thanks to advances in data collection and the direct lines of communication between brands and consumers, getting to know your audience is as easy as asking them.

Although your buyer personas are fictional characters, they need to be based on the real characteristics of your ideal customers. To gather this information you need to conduct research, surveys and interviews.

What Questions Should I Be Asking?

Every business has a different target audience, so the questions that you need to ask will vary. The following areas cover the key information you will need, but the specific questions you need to ask should be customised for your target audience.

Demographic
What is their age, gender and marital status?
What is their level of education?
Describe their career path.

Job Role
What is their job role and what skills are required?
What knowledge and tools do they need to be successful?
In which industry do they work?
What is the size of their company?

Challenges
What are their biggest challenges?

Goals
What are their goals?
What does success look like to them?

Information
How do they learn new information?
What publications or blogs do they read?
What social networks do they use?

Shopping preferences
How do they prefer to interact with brands?
How do they use the internet to search for products and brands?
Describe a recent purchase decision. What factors were their choices based on?

How to Gather the Data

To get the answers to these questions you can survey your current customers and prospects, or speak to colleagues (particularly your sales team) to see if they can make any generalisations about your different types of customers. You can also look for patterns and trends in your website and social analytics to assess customer behaviour.

When interviewing customers it’s important not to focus solely on the happy ones who will gush about your service for an hour. Although this feels good, it’s crucial to get feedback from the ‘bad’ customers who were unhappy with your business. This will help you form a more complete understanding of your different buyers.

If you’re struggling to find interviewees it can be a good idea to offer incentives such as a gift card to give people a reason to participate.

Compiling the Results

Once you’ve carried out interviews you need to bring the answers together and analyse the results. You can use a simple Excel spreadsheet to do this. Once all the information is in one place you can look for patterns in the data and draw conclusions about your different buyers.

You can then use HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool to compile and categorise the data for each persona you’re creating. You should give them a memorable name such as “HR Harry” or “Sporty Simon” and share them with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from your research and develop a deep understanding of who they are targeting with their daily work.

Developing Your Buyer Personas

You should develop at least one core buyer persona, but having several personas that represent different customer segments will be necessary for most businesses. These can be continually updated over time to ensure everyone continues to align everything they do against them.

Once completed, you will have a clear picture of your target customers and will be well positioned to tailor your content, brand messaging and products to your ideal buyers.