How to Develop Buyer Personas in Four Easy Steps

Buyer personas are fictional, but well researched, representations of your ideal customers that can help inform marketing, product, sales, and business decisions. Developing strong personas requires significant time and commitment, so many companies never go through a formal development or documentation process. But taking the time to learn from the market and document your findings in a digestible way can benefit every team in an organization, and ensure new employees can get up to speed more quickly. 

1. Secondary Research

Start by making sure you have enough background information on your ideal customer in order to conduct valuable user research. You should know the basics about their job and any industry terms that will aid your future conversations. You can start to shape the persona with this secondary research, and then validate or change your hypothesis later on when speaking directly to your ideal customer. 

2. Internal Experts and Data

If there are internal experts at your company that you can rely on for more information – such as someone who has worked in the industry your ideal customer is in, or has held the roles you are targeting, then you can leverage these experts to start testing the persona you developed from your secondary research. 

Interviewing these experts and asking them consistent and open-ended questions can help you identify pain points and further clarify anything you learned in your initial research. While these internal experts can be valuable, you’ll still want to speak to people outside of your company who won’t be biased toward your products or brand. 

You may also be able to review internal data to help shape your persona. If you have a customer success team or sales tools that collect feedback from calls or existing customers, you can review this feedback to help identify pain points, messaging, and benefits. 

Here are some interview questions to get you started:

  • Who is the ultimate decision maker at [company type] for the product? (Job titles)
  • What does the decision maker care about?
  • Are there any influencers to the decision maker? (Job titles)
  • If yes, what do the influencers care about?
  • What pain points does the decision maker and/or influencer have?
  • What have you found / do you think is most effective in messaging to the decision maker?
  • What have you found / do you think is least effective in messaging to the decision maker?
  • Where do you see the decision maker falling on the Crossing the Chasm spectrum of adoption? (Innovator, Early Adopter, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggard)
  • Is there anything else you think I should know about this decision maker that will help us market and sell to them?

3. Primary Research

The last step in your research is talking to people outside of your organization who represent your ideal customer. Interviews are a great way to get in-depth feedback, since you can ask follow-up questions and dig deeper into vague answers. If you have a strong contact list, or a budget for user research, you can also send out a survey to get more feedback faster. If you don’t have the budget to use any user research tools, you can work with your sales or business development teams to connect you with any contacts willing to be interviewed or surveyed. 

4. Develop the Persona

After you’ve compiled enough research to have a clear and deep understanding of your ideal customer, you can develop your personas. You can format your research in whatever way works best for you and your company, but tools that allow for visuals like images are recommended; you’ll want to include a photo of a person who represents the persona to bring it to life. 

Helpful information to include in your persona:

  • Job title(s) and key responsibilities 
  • Company type and examples
  • Demographic information
  • Education level
  • Pain points
  • Goals (i.e. what they care about)
  • Their level of knowledge about key topics for your business (will you need to educate them in the sales process?)
  • Key messaging / benefits 
  • Positioning statements 

How to use buyer personas

After developing your personas, you should have a much better understanding of who you’re marketing to, and can better craft personalized messaging or content. But personas can also be used throughout an entire organization to ensure everyone understands the business and customers. 

  • Sales teams can leverage personas and key messaging in their outreach to prospects, and to help determine what features or benefits to focus on. 
  • Product and engineering teams can turn to personas to help inform feature development, user experience, or new products. 
  • People and operations teams can speak more confidently when explaining the business to prospective hires, and personas can be reviewed by new hires to help them get up to speed quickly. 

Even if you don’t have adequate time or budget to create detailed analyses of your ideal customers, you can still develop and document buyer personas to inform your marketing. High-level documentation can still benefit the business greatly, and your buyer personas can develop more deeply over time.

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