Whenever I start working on any marketing campaign, the first thing I do is get to know the customer. Who is going to buy the product or use the service that I am trying to sell?

If you understand your customers, you’ll be more effective in your communication with them. Plus you’ll have a better idea of where to target them when it comes to marketing.

Marketing campaigns that aren’t targeted have low response rates  which means you’ll be throwing away your hard earned dollars.

How to create personas for your business

Don’t believe me on the benefits of buyer personas? A MarketingSherpa case study found that buyer personas added the following value:

  • a 900% increase in length of visit,
  • a 171% increase in marketing-generated revenue,
  • a 111% increase in email open rate,
  • and a 100% increase in the number of pages visited.

In large companies, marketing managers may not speak with their customers often. A personas is a great way to understand what motivates and drives the customer. What are they afraid or and what problems can your business help solve?

Small and mid sized businesses may talk to customer more often, and owners may feel like they have a strong understanding of their customers. But to start an online business today is easy so there is a lot of competition. You need to make sure your marketing and customer engagement stands out against everyone else’s.

Personas are a good way to get into the mind of your customers and do just that.

Getting started on your persona

So now we know why we need a persona, how do we go about creating one?

If you’re an established business who already has customers, one of the best ways to know your customers is to ask them! Sounds simple doesn’t it? But you would be surprised by how many people are scared to talk to their customers directly.

But you shouldn’t be. If there is a problem that is unsurfaced, well I like to think of that as a good thing. Because now you know about the problem and you can set about solving it.

The first way you may speak with a a larger volume of customers is through a survey. Survey Monkey is an online tool that lets you send basic surveys for free.

If you’re just starting out your business and don’t have customers to ask.  I would still conduct these surveys but try to find friends, family and even people online who fit your target market.

For this post, to show you how to make a person,  I am going to use an online bikini store as my example.

For my particular type of store I’d want to focus on women and the age group that my bikini designs would appeal to. Along with friends and family, I would try social media and forums to find people to complete my survey.

Before posting in a forum though, make sure you check the community guidelines and ask permission if you need it. I was kicked out of a forum once when conducting a survey, because I didn’t check that it was okay first.

Some example questions I would ask in a survey when creating a persona are demographic information such as age, sex and occupation. I would also want to understand their behaviours and challenges they may face.  To understand challenged they may face I might ask something like “do you struggle to find bikini designs that you like’ . You might include some space for free text to ask them to explain if they select ‘yes’.

If you want more ideas of questions to ask take a look at my Google slides template  and feel free to use as many or as little questions as you want when designing your survey. You’ll have to save a copy of the template to edit it, as the master version is locked.

The best tip I can give for a survey is keep it simple and short. According to Vision Critical

52% of people won’t complete a survey if it takes more than 3 minutes.

Pick up the phone

It’s harder to get people to agree to, but a phone call uncovers all kinds of information that will help you develop your persona. For a phone call, I would send a personal email to my customers asking them to participate.

If they agree, make sure you send a calendar invite for the call so everyone is prepared, and consider the benefit of sending through some of the questions ahead of time. I always find people are often more chatty when they know what types of questions are coming. Otherwise they can be on edge or not sure what to expect.

People don’t like to sound stupid so make it easy for them, you’ll get much better responses.

Keep the call to 10 – 15 minutes as people are busy. I always think it’s important to be you and let your personality shine through, but it’s also essential to remain professional and courteous. After all this person is taking time out their busy schedule to help answer your questions.

Another place to research your customers is online

The next step I like to do is online research. With so many forums and websites available, you can dig deeper into the psyche of your customers.

Here are some of the different places I look at when I am trying to collect information about my customers:

Answer The Public

Answer The Public collates all of the questions people search for in Google and spits out a nice chart of questions asked. This gives you a picture of the types of things people are looking for when searching your product or service. When I enter my bikini example from before and asked ‘where to buy a bikini’. This is the result I see:

Answer the Public search results

The results when I search for ‘where to buy a bikini’ on Answer the Public

Looking closer,  I can see answers like:

“Where can I buy a bikini for my wife” – from that I know I should look at a secondary audience of men buying for partners.

“Where can I buy a bikini for my 13 year old daughter” – this means mothers may also be a secondary audience you want to sell to.

“Where to buy a bikini for a fitness competition” – if I sell bikini’s that are suitable for a fitness competition, then this could be another persona type.

Answer The Public is a good starting point, but it is actually more useful when deciding what type of content to write for each persona. But that post is for another day.

Quora

The next place I go to understand some of the challenges, motivations and concerns my customers have is Quora.

Again using the same example, I type bikini into the search box and up pop a lot of questions. It becomes clear from the answers, that a lot of mothers are concerned about their daughters wanting to wear a bikini. There seem to be quite a few questions around how revealing bikinis are.

So for my mother buying for her daughter persona, one of her challenges may be deciding on an age appropriate bikini for her daughter.

You’ll always find interesting questions and answers on Quora. It can be a black hole of time sucking sometimes but it’s easy to forget how different people are. Everyone has different views and perspectives. I love how Quora gives you a glimpse into other people’s thoughts. It is a fantastic place if you’re trying to understand your customers’ thoughts and savings.

Amazon

Amazon has so much information you can use, it is definitely worth a visit, it’s a goldmine of feedback from customers. I went to the US site and typed in Bikini, suddenly I had access to thousands of reviews on bikinis.

Straight away, after randomly clicking on a bikini or two, I can see that one of the biggest concerns is sizing when ordering online.

People buying bikinis want sizing clear and easy to follow.

I can also see that the print and colours are really important to almost all ages. And they expect it to match the photos.

I make sure I look at both high and low star ratings. The majority of one star ratings are due to sizing.

And there are comments about the bikini not looking like the picture.

Of course, that makes sense, buying something like a bikini online is a visual experience so I may have a line in my persona about the visual aspect being highly important.

Then when I use my personas in future, this element can then come through into my marketing, my blog writing and my web design.

For my example, I am going to show you how I create a persona for one of our secondary audiences – a mother buying a bikini for her daughter. So I also searched in Amazon for ‘girls bikinis’ and read through the reviews there as well.

Market research.

To have a complete picture of my persona, I find I usually need to do some market research as well.

A comprehensive, free place to start is Think with Google. Here you can look at consumer trends, insights and case studies.

If you type what you’re looking for into Google too you can often find free research available.

Because I want to understand online shopping behaviour for the behaviour section of my persona, I googled ‘Research on online shopping behaviour’ and I had access to a tonne of reports.

There are plenty of other places to research your customers online. I will cover more in future posts and in a post I am writing around getting to know your customers more deeply. But for now it’s time to get started.

Time to create your persona!

By now you have found a lot of information about your customers and it’s time to turn it into a persona.

I have a template  that you can download to print out and use. It’s what I’ll be using for my persona.

Creating them online works too, and there are tools available here and here, but writing things on paper helps me collect my thoughts, and I am less likely to get get stuck when I write thoughts down. There is nothing like a blank screen to stop my ideas from flowing. I guess it feels more like brainstorming when I’m writing.

The first thing you need to do is start to mind map all the research you have from your surveys, customer interviews and online research. Then start to group and look for themes.

I then like to look for a photo of my persona. I find it easier to write to if I have a person I am looking at. I use a lot of free stock image websites for my photographs on my blog but a couple of good free ones I use for finding people are: Pexels and Unsplash.

Because I am doing a secondary persona for a mother buying for her daughter, I try a couple of search terms such as ‘mother’ and ‘lady’ and even ’45 year old lady’ to find a suitable image that I think looks like my persona.

I start with the demographic side of the persona. If you have customers already, and capture this information about them you could look mothers who buy bikinis for their daughters already from you and look for an average of demographics.

If you don’t have that information you could look at your online research, and the info you have from the forums and try to glean that information.

For the name I looked at popular baby names in the 70s and Jennifer was a top ranker so I have decided to go with that, as for the last name, I just chose one I thought was suitable and generic.

From the photos of people posting review on Amazon, I think 45 is a good average age for me to use

For Jennifer’s job, I browsed Seek and also looked at Linked In.

The job depends on your business and your audience. Are they highly educated, do they earn a lot of money?

For example if you were a car dealership selling Porsches, it is highly likely you sell to an affluent segment of the market.

I used my mind map to put myself in the mind of Jennifer and fill in the different persona sections about her.

And here is the finished result:

Buyer persona example

My buyer persona example for an online swimming costume store

 

Then repeat this process for all of your segments. You might wonder how many you need to create, according to Rob Petersen

3 to 4 Buyer Personas usually account for 90%+ of a company’s sales” .

I hope this article helps you to get started with your personas. I find personas valuable, and you’ll hear me talk about them constantly when it comes to marketing and customers.

Buyer persona download