Buyer personas are a simple, powerful way for sales, marketing, and design & development teams to better understand, engage and impact their customers/users. They can help you set priorities, allocate resources, uncover gaps and put the spotlight on new opportunities, but more important than that is the way they get everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction, trying to reach the same destination.
Even though different teams use different tools and tactics, personas help to ensure that all those individual efforts are complimentary, not competing.
HOW DO I CREATE A BUYER PERSONA?
Buyer personas start with a solid understanding of the people buying your products and/or services.
For most companies, this means some combination of customer surveys, internal and external focus groups, round tables, one-on-ones, clickstream data, web tracking, industry observations, competitor analysis, personal experience/expertise, anecdotal information, best practices, and hunches/“gut” instincts.
Once you’ve finished gathering your data, the first step is to consolidate everything so you can get a good, overall picture of your customer base.
HOW DO I CONSOLIDATE MY RESEARCH?
It really depends on what data you have to work with.
If you did formal research, you’ll probably have charts, graphs, tables and a written summary from your research team, as well as a few spreadsheets full of means, medians, ranges, quartiles, k-means clusters, etc..
If you did your research on your own, it probably means you’ll have iPhone pics of your whiteboarding sessions.
In either case, the idea is to map out what you know about your customers, especially details about who they are, why, when and how they buy, and anything else that’s directly relevant to your product or service.
Like any map, your scale isn’t ever going to be 1:1, but it should include enough detail so you can see the big picture — i.e. continents, islands, oceans, bays, rivers, lakes, etc.
WHAT DO I DO AFTER I’VE CONSOLIDATED BY CUSTOMER RESEARCH?
Once you’ve mapped out your customers, creating buyer personas is really just a simple, three-step process:
Use this framework to sort your customers into meaningful groups
Identify the underlying demographic and/or psychographic attributes each group you’ve identified has in common
STEP 1: creating an organizational framework for buyer personas
Customers can be segmented in a variety of different ways. The key is to use an organizational framework that is specific to your business. In most cases, this means building a framework around one of the following scenarios:
Journey Maps or Buying Triggers
Jobs To Be Done
Once you’ve chosen the scenario that’s best-suited to your business, identify three to five unique, underlying criteria.
This is what you’ll use to sort and filter your customers into meaningful groups.
STEP 2: using your framework to sort your customers into groups
Once you’ve picked a framework, use it to sort your customers into different groups based on which criteria they meet.
Keep in mind that even under the best of circumstances, this can be a challenge — sometimes you have to make basic assumptions, take educated guesses, or work through multiple iterations before you finalize who goes where and why.
If you just can’t sort all your customers into groups, you may have to rework your framework or underlying criteria.
STEP 3: identifying underlying demographic and/or psychographic attributes
Once you’ve sorted your customers into distinct groups, you need to come up with a unique set of characteristics that helps you differentiate one group from another.
To make this easier, “best practices” suggest focusing on identifying characteristics that fall into the following categories:
Needs and Wants
Drives and Motivations
Achievements and Milestones
Household Income Levels
Distinct Personality Traits — e.g. “innovative,” “frugal,” “social,” “mindful,” “conscientious,” etc.
Like sorting customers into distinct groups based on your framework criteria, identifying unique sets of characteristics can mean making assumptions, taking educated guesses and/or working and re-working your choices.
One trick is to look for patterns.
What qualities do members of each group have in common? Do they the share key demographics? Key psychographics? Are any of these characteristics unique? Can they be used to differentiate members of this group from the others?
Another trick is to look for lowest common denominators: unique (but not too unique), high-level characteristics that are common to everyone within a given group.
This can also take a bit of effort before you arrive at a suitable list of commonalities, but tends to yield good results.
Once you have identified the unique, descriptive characteristics common to each group, you’re ready to create your individual buyer personas.
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