Have you ever asked yourself how to create a buyer persona? Buyer Personas are semi-fictional representatives of your target groups. With the help of Buyer Persona Profiles, content strategies for marketing and sales can be developed. Buyer Persona Profiles are created by answering specific questions about target groups, preferably in a team with representatives from marketing, sales and customer care. In addition, Buyer Persona interviews should be conducted to gain even more insight into the respective Buyer Personas.
In this blog post you will learn how to develop Buyer Personas for your company in practice. At the end of the article, you can download a guide and templates.
Origin of the Persona Method
“Why does software have to be so damn complicated?” Alan Cooper was annoyed as he stomped out of his office in anger once again. It was 1983 and computers took what felt like 1983 minutes to load a program. Cooper usually bridged that time with miniature golf in nearby Old Del Monte.
It was probably these annoying moments that inspired Alan Cooper to write software that could be used by non-programmers. The special thing about this software was that he developed personas for each user group. That’s how he named the fictitious characters that helped him to program the software to meet the needs of the future users. Each persona had a name and a goal. His very first persona he called “Kathy Traffic”.
Alan Cooper developed several other programs with this persona method, all of which were successful and resulted in satisfied customers. His colleagues advised him to keep the Persona Method a secret. But he decided to share his knowledge with the world and wrote the book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum in 1998.
Personas, like all powerful tools, can be grasped in an instant but can take months or years to master. – Alan Cooper
Word of the Persona Method spread quickly and was soon used outside the IT industry. Clever marketing people soon used this method and founded the Buyer Persona Institute.
Buyer Personas in Marketing
In marketing, we understand a buyer persona to be a typical representative of a target group who is described as precisely as possible. The more precise, the better. Well elaborated Buyer Personas will help you to do this:
- get to know your target group better
- develop a content strategy
- create content that triggers conversions and attracts customers
- reduce marketing costs (lower dispersion factor)
- better align your products and services with the customer
The creation of Buyer Personas is an extensive process. Unfortunately, many marketing departments only create superficial Buyer Persona Profiles without interviewing real personas and thus gaining even more insight into the life of Buyer Personas.
“If we don’t interview Buyer Personas, we don’t know anything”. Adele Revella, Buyer Persona Institute.
This is how the create a Buyer Persona
There are 2 tasks in the creation of Buyer Personas:
- The creation of Buyer Persona Profiles
- Conducting and evaluating Buyer Persona Interviews
It can be advantageous to conduct the interviews before the profiles are created. After all, the interviews provide insights into the thoughts and actions of buyer personas that should be incorporated into the profiles.
The goal is to describe a few Buyer Personas as good as possible. Start with a maximum of 2 to 3 semi-fictional persons. Later we will show a method in the interviews to determine the number of Buyer Personas.
In practice, it has proven to be very easy to start with a few Buyer Personas and to identify and work out further Buyer Personas in the course of time. If you start with a lot of Buyer Personas, you run the risk of overstraining yourself.
In the context of a content strategy, the dimension Buyer Journey is added to the personas. This means we have to plan and produce the appropriate content for different personas along the Buyers Journey.
What exactly is a content strategy again?Here we have summarized the most important points and how to create your own strategy in less than 4 minutes:
The best setting for the creation of Buyer Persona Profiles is a well mixed team of marketing, sales and customer care. Especially those employees who are constantly dealing with customers are important.
The meeting can take place online or offline. Offline is better, because a better dynamic is created. The number of employees should be about 8 to 12. A room with natural light, with flipcharts, cards and everything else a good meeting needs is good.
You have to calculate about 1 to 2 hours per persona for the creation of buyer personas in a team. As already mentioned, it is advantageous if the interviews have already been done before the meeting.
Which Buyer Personas?
At the beginning there should not be more than 2 to 3. But which Buyer Personas should you start with? Just make a list of all target groups you can think of. Then ask yourself these questions and choose the 2 or 3 best personas.
With which personas can we achieve the intended sales growth most quickly?
With which personas do we currently have the highest need for action?
Which personas do we reach more easily with inbound marketing?
The questions for creating a Buyer Persona Profile
It is best to use a template to answer the questions. You can find many templates for creating Buyer Personas on the Internet. You can download our template together with instructions at the end of this article.
Right at the beginning you give your persona a name. It is a good idea to use a first name that matches your age and that you associate with a typical characteristic.
You should discuss and answer these 10 points with your team:
Professional background: job, career, function
Demography: Man, Woman, Age, City / Country, Family
Information behaviour: Media, channels, events
Goals: most important goal, further goals with regard to our topics
Problems: most important problem, other problems related to our topics
How can we help to achieve goals and overcome problems?
Real quotes about the goals and the problems
Objections: What keeps the Buyer Persona away?
Marketing / Sales Messages: How we explain our product
Elevator Pitch: Inspire in 60 seconds
The description or profile that is created in this way is not set in stone. Review your Buyer Persona Profiles again and again and amend these. You should also make further interviews (1 per month) and integrate the results into the profile.
Conducting and evaluating Buyer Persona Interviews
Practice has shown that 8 interviews per Buyer Persona Group are sufficient to gain deep insights into thinking and acting. Buyer Persona Interviews are in-depth interviews. There is therefore no questionnaire but a framework, a guideline with which the interviewer conducts the interview.
The goal of Buyer Persona Interviews is to gain strategic messages along the Buyers Journey. These strategic messages are distilled from the statements made in the interviews and they then form the pillars of the content strategy.
Who is to be interviewed?
Your Buyer Personas in real life, of course. It’s good if the buying process is not too far in the past. That means the purchase should have been completed within the last 12 months. When making your selection, you should make sure that you choose people who have the greatest influence on the purchase completion.
These are not always the purchasing manager, the CFO or the CEO, who finally signs the purchase contract. Often these are the employees who prepared the purchase documents or the department or project managers.
It would also be interesting to interview non customers or leads. In practice, however, it is difficult to get hold of such contacts.
The interview guide and the interview
This is an in-depth interview. Therefore there is no questionnaire, but an interview guide. This is the content:
- What was the trigger that caused the Buyer Persona to start looking for a solution to a problem?
- What were the success factors in the research?
- What were the barriers in the research?
- How did the Customer Journey go?
- How long did it take from the very first initiative to the purchase?
- Who was involved?
- What were the final decision criteria for the purchase?
- Which product features, which services led to the purchase decision?
We want to get the our customer prototype talking. Therefore it is important to listen well and to ask questions again and again during the conversation. The more you ask questions and the better you listen, the sooner you will get to the core of the matter and get authentic statements.
A good opening question could be: “Please go with me to the very beginning of the buying process: Who had the first idea to solve the problem, which questions were discussed, how was it exactly at the beginning?
The interview should be announced to the buyer personas accordingly and an appointment should be made. The interview lasts about 20 minutes to a maximum of 30 minutes. The interview should not be conducted by someone the buyer persona already knows, otherwise socially desirable answers will be given.
Sometimes a small incentive, for example, a book voucher, can help to increase the willingness for an interview. You should record the interview. Ask your interview partner whether this is OK. This has the advantage that you can concentrate fully on your questions and on the answers and then take out the most important information.
The evaluation of the interview
We proceed systematically when evaluating the interviews. It is best to create a table with these columns:
- Buyer Personas
Enter all relevant statements from the interviews, including the corresponding buyer personas, in the table and formulate headlines for the statements. If you combine statements with the headlines, the content of the interviews is clustered. The final result of the interviews should be about 120 statements and about 20 headlines.
How many Buyer Personas do you need?
This question is best answered using the results of the interviews. Create a new table with the headlines and the corresponding individuals. If the headlines do not distinguish between answerers significantly, you should merge them.
You should be economical with the total number, because each Buyer Persona costs money. You must create separate content for each Buyer Persona and promote this content.
Buyer personas are a lot of work. But they can help us to achieve our goals in marketing and sales much more efficiently. Download your our guide in pdf here.