How to craft buyer and user personas to benefit your business

Buyer and user personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. It’s important to note that buyer personas can be your user personas as well, but if they are not, it’s crucial to distinguish between the two.

User personas represent the end-user of your product and contribute to the product development and design. Buyer personas represent who purchases or approves the purchase of your product. They contribute to the messaging for your product.

Both persona types take the process of customer segmentation a step further and help build a more detailed picture of who your potential customers are. This allows you to better identify which segment of your prospective customers is truly your target audience. Additionally, by creating detailed buyer and user personas, you can better determine where to focus your time and generate more alignment across the organization.

Who benefits from using buyer and user personas?

By building and using personas:

  • Your product development team will understand who they are building for.
  • Your marketing team will understand how to position your product and develop your go-to-market strategy.
  • Your sales representatives will understand who to target and what their buying criteria are.

How do you get started?

Personas are created using market data and primary research on your customers. Your personas should answer these questions: Who does your product serve? What problem are you solving for them?

Common components of personas

Demographics, such as age, location and income. These are important to consider, as they help you begin to define the customer. But demographics only provide part of the picture, so understanding the other components is crucial.

Psychographics, such as a person’s values, attitudes, interests and beliefs. This information can be harder to collect, but you can uncover these insights through proper primary research and analysis. 

Behaviour, such as habits and understanding what drives your users. Researching behaviour leads to uncovering information about their goals, needs and pain points.

Another element behaviour can touch on is a user’s communication preferences. That means what channels they use or respond to — essentially, how to speak to your audience and market to them. 

Pain points — look at what your user is really trying to accomplish. This leads you to better understand what the problem is you are aiming to solve for your target customers; you’ll also be able to assess the current alternatives they are using to solve their problem. Assuming you are speaking to your customer, you may realize you need to improve your product or service. 

Six steps to crafting personas

  1. Before conducting customer interviews, conduct secondary market research to help you form a hypothesis about your personas. You will validate and refine this through the process.
  1. Interview your customers and the people who compose your market. Key questions to think about:
  • Who are they? (Your goal is to learn as much about them as possible — e.g., demographics, behaviours and psychographics).
  • What is their main goal? What are they currently using as a solution?
  • What are their pain points? Does your solution address their needs?

Explain your product: Find out whether they see “value” in your product and get to the heart of what they need from it.

  1. Look for patterns in your data, and group customers with similar attributes (for example, needs, preferences, pain points and demographics) into your target customer segments.
  1. If you have several customer segments, you should assess the attractiveness of each based on size, potential profitability, the intensity of competition and your ability to meet the demand.
  1. Once you’ve decided which target customers are best to pursue, leverage the customer research and analysis you’ve done to develop a written document (see the persona example below) that outlines each buyer and/or user persona. It helps to have a framework of the key components you are looking for and to use tools such as a “day-in-the life” exercise (this template is from our Customer Development Immersive course) and journey mapping.
  1. Share your personas with all key members in your organization. As you expand into new target markets or learn more about your customers, revisit the personas to ensure they are still accurate.

Summary: Common pitfalls to avoid

Creating too many or not enough personas (avoid combining distinct personas, known as using averages, as this will reduce their value) 

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Not collecting sufficient data

Overloading your personas with too many irrelevant details 

Forgetting that personas will evolve and change

Your personas should be tools that help you understand who your customers are, what speaks to them, what motivates them and how to target them. Remember that high-value personas aren’t created from your hypothesis about your customers but from continuous research and analysis, which should properly inform you about your evolving target customers.