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Understanding Your Customers: A Guide to Customer Personas

April 2023
Lois Baker

What is a customer persona?

A customer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your current and potential customers. Although these personas aren't real people, they should be informed by real data and research you've collected from your target audience.

We create a customer persona to better understand our target audience and to provide a useful reference point for marketing activities. Getting to properly know your customers should be one of the number one priorities in your marketing strategy. When you understand your customers, you can better serve their needs.

A thorough customer persona will include demographic details but will also include details such as the customer's interests, behavioural traits, goals, pain points and buying patterns.

Ewe work with businesses in customer insight workshops to help develop customer personas­­­­­. During these workshops we discuss target audiences and their attitudes and behaviours. Once we’ve created a detailed customer persona and looked at customer journeys, we can use this information to inform our marketing strategies and campaigns.

Why do we create customer personas?

Creating customer personas is a great way to understand your target audience and prospective customers better. This makes it easier for you to adapt your messaging, content, products and services to meet the needs for your target audience. it also means that everyone in your company in on the same page about who your customers are.

Customer personas allow you to focus on your prospective customers' challenges and pain points and provide marketing that reaches people at the right time with the right content. You can deliver accurate and targeted messaging by segmenting your audience and contacts with buyer personas.

So how do you create a customer persona?

Collect your data

The first step in creating a customer persona is to gather information on your current customers. Collecting real data is essential in creating accurate personas.

You should have multiple sources that you can gather customer data from, including your website and social analytics, surveys or real-life conversations you've had with your customers.

Your research should consist of both quantitative and qualitative data.

Qualitative research is crucial when creating a customer persona. This research will help you understand your customer's motivations, needs, wants and pain points.

Qualitative research can be conducted in a few different ways:

Phone and face-to-face interviews / focus groups

Speaking with your customers is a fantastic way to collect qualitative data as it allows you to gather the thoughts and feelings of your customers.

Customer surveys

Surveys with open-ended questions are crucial to understanding your customers. The aim of the survey is to get direct opinions from your customer and ensures your customer personas aren't based on your own preconceptions about whom you think they are.

Read forums/review sites

Reading forums and review sites is a great way to understand the needs and desires of your customers. These sites are excellent for discovering what people think about your product/service.

Quantitative research helps you understand the demographics of your target audiences.

Quantitative research can be collected by:

Website analytics

Website analytics can help you determine basic information about the location, age and gender of your customers. You can also collect information on spend habits, transitions per user and new and repeat users.

Social media analytics

If you already have a social media following, this can be a good place to conduct quantitative research by looking at your social analytics. You can also look at comments or message your followers to conduct qualitative research.

Pre-existing customer data

If you have a customer database this is also a way to gather quantitative customer data. Gender, location, where they work, how long they’ve been a customer can all help define customer personas.

Segment your customers

Once you've collected all your customer data, you need to start segmenting it. Look for similarities in the data and for the common characteristics of your customers. As you group those characteristics, you'll have the basis of your unique customer personas. You’ll also be able to determine if there are any gaps in your target market. Are there any types of customers that you want to target specifically that you don’t already have?

It's essential to remember that your customer personas shouldn't represent your whole clientele and shouldn't be based on one specific customer you know. A customer persona should be a significant group of customers with similar characteristics, behaviours, needs and goals.

It is good practice to have multiple customer personas that cover your different target audiences. This is because your customers will have varying reasons for buying your products or using your services.

Create your buyer persona

Once you've sorted your customers by similarities, you can begin building your customer personas. Create a customer persona template to ensure you include the correct information. Make sure you involve anyone within your company that can help create your customer personas. Holding a workshop with key stakeholders can be a productive exercise.

Give your customer persona a name, job title, age and any other defining characteristics you want to include. You want your customer persona to appear like a real person. You may also want to include an image to represent what they might look like.

A customer persona isn't just a list of characteristics. It should be a detailed and specific description of a potential customer. It should detail motivations, frustrations and influences- all informed by your research data.

Update your customer personas when necessary

As you grow your business, expand your customer base, or business priorities change, you will want to revisit your customer personas- adding new ones and updating out-of-date ones. Creating customer personas is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. You must regularly review them to ensure they represent your current or future customers. You also need to remember that when your customer personas evolve, so should your marketing campaigns that compliment them.