How to write a buyer persona

An unknown buyer persona

Far from being just another faddish marketing tool, buyer personas can make or break your inbound marketing.

They can help you to produce great content and they can work wonders for companies that get them right.

What?

But what exactly are buyer personas?

I like HubSpot’s definition:

Semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and goals.

HubSpot also has some good examples of buyer personas.

Why?

Armed with these detailed profiles of your customers and their aspirations, values, problems and needs you can step into your customers’ shoes to help produce bespoke marketing content and, ultimately, get a higher return on investment.

How?

To be of any use you can’t just make them up; you need to do your research, which means talking to current customers and quizzing your sales team.

Then you actually need to sit down and write them – holding them in your head is not enough.

There are numerous useful online resources about personas but, taking my cues from the excellent HubSpot class on this topic, you want to cover five main areas:

Job and demographic information

  • How old are they?
  • Job level/seniority
  • Where do they live?
  • Married? Kids?
  • Education

Day in the life

  • Hectic? Lots of travelling? Virtual office?

Challenges/pain points and how to solve them

  • What are their main problems?
  • What tools, services, products do they need/want to solve them?
  • What do and don’t they value? What are their goals and passions?

Where do they go for information?

  • Newspaper and magazines? Blogs? Mobile phone apps? Peer network?

Common objections to products or services

  • What are they looking for in your product/service and what are likely to be their reservations about it?

For example

Here’s one I made earlier for a business news website:

Mark, Founder and Director

Demographics

Mark is the founder and director of a tech startup based in a major city. He is in his late 20s to early 30s and is single. He took a degree in economics and management and then worked for a few years in a large tech company before moving on to create his startup.

Day in the life

Mark’s day is very dynamic and shifting, usually flitting from one thing to the next – overseeing the various business needs, keeping on top of the website, managing his few employees and searching for suitable new hires – to keep the forward momentum of the business. His company is his main passion but as a result he often works long and erratic hours.

Challenges and pain points

Mark is both a dreamer and a realist, so feels excited but insecure about the future and direction of his startup. He looks for concise, reliable advice regarding entrepreneurial business and is interested in reading about how technology can solve business problems so he can keep himself informed, more intelligently employ people, adapt his business strategy and avoid common pitfalls. He aspires to be an accomplished businessman so will sometimes read the lifestyle sections of business and luxury websites, dreaming of future success.

Where do they go for information?

Mark is tech savvy and gets his information almost exclusively online, and he uses his mobile phone for this purpose. He reads tech-related blogs and Wired.com, as well as a number of business websites, such as Inc.com. He is a fast learner and is eager to develop his skills and educate himself about the latest trends in his industry and the small business/entrepreneurial sector. So, while he wants to keep up with business and tech news, he is more interested in advice.

Common objections

Mark often finds that business websites are aimed towards big business rather than small business or entrepreneurs, so he needs information tailored to small businesses and entrepreneurial startups.

The finished persona

Crucially you want to tell a story, which means a focus on behaviours rather than just a list of speculative facts.

It takes time and effort to properly research and flesh out buyer personas, but it’s immensely useful to have these ‘characters’ in mind when you’re writing copy, developing new products or refining your marketing strategy – it gives you a much clearer sense of your audience and allows you to effectively tailor your content and strategy.

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13 Responses to How to write a buyer persona

  1. Clare Lynch August 22, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    The research process seems like a pretty good way to strengthen relationships with a customers, too.

    A great excuse to pick up the phone and ask “what’s on your mind right now?”

    • Matthew Stibbe August 22, 2013 at 8:47 am #

      Yes, that’s a really good point. If I had the courage to ask, I’d love to do an all-day industrial anthropology type thing on a client. Just follow a marketing manager around all day taking notes like some office-bound Desmond Morris or Jane Goodall. I think I’d learn a lot. Clients aren’t like us, are they? :)

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