Table of Contents
What is a customer persona?
A customer persona is a detailed profile of a fictionalized version of your ideal customer: the person your marketing efforts target. It’s sometimes called a “buyer persona,” “prospect persona,” or “consumer persona.” But for a customer persona, marketers build a composite sketch of specific characteristics, attitudes, motivations, and concerns related to the product or service they’re marketing.
A marketer can use interviews with current and prospective customers to collect this information or other tools — like website analytics and market research — to assemble necessary data. Each customer persona describes a target consumer group. Customer personas are the foundation of personalized or targeted marketing tactics, also known as “customer persona marketing.”
Why are customer personas important?
As a marketer, it’s not enough to tell a prospect what your product is or how it works: You must convey the real-world problems your product solves and the benefits it provides. The more you know about your prospects, the better you can empathize with their challenges, understand the solutions they’re seeking, and predict their purchasing patterns and behaviors.
Armed with a customer persona, you can personalize and adapt your messaging and campaign strategies to make potential customers more receptive to them. This, in turn, improves the effectiveness of your marketing and can contribute to higher conversion rates and ROI.
The benefits of customer personas
A personalized marketing strategy built around customer personas leads to faster, deeper, and longer customer engagement, enabling you to qualify leads more accurately and develop more cost-effective marketing campaigns.
Sharing customer personas across your sales, marketing, and customer service teams aligns everyone’s knowledge about your prospects and customers. Ultimately, customer personas can help you:
- Deliver your messaging consistently, using the right language, tone, and channels
- Develop more integrated sales and marketing campaigns
- Map a more satisfying customer experience from the top of the marketing funnel through closing the sale
- Increase website conversions, upsells, usage, customer loyalty, and revenue per sale
How to create a customer persona
While a customer persona should be comprehensive, it must focus on the information most relevant to your products or services. A clothing company’s customer personas will include specifics about what brands their target customers currently wear, for example. But for a software company, that information might not be relevant. In general, the broader your target market, the more broadly you’ll describe your ideal buyer.
Gathering the data
The most successful customer personas rely on qualitative and quantitative data, and both demographic and behavioral information. This information can come from several sources:
- Competitive intelligence on products and messaging
- Feedback from your customer service and sales teams
- Customer interviews, focus groups, and surveys with prospects, new and existing customers, churned customers, and prospects lost to a competitor
- Market and ethnographic research using published sources and consulting firms
- Website and mobile app analytics (using a source like Google Analytics), and social media platform usage
Types of customer persona data and characteristics
While the specific data you gather will vary depending on your product, service, market segment, target audience, and other strategic factors, the information for a customer persona generally falls into the following five categories:
- Demographics - This can include location, age range, gender identity, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, income and education level, marital status, and family size. It may also incorporate how your ideal customer looks (or aspires to look) to align design and photography with the overall content. It also includes personal information about their workplace: job title and description, career path, skill set, benchmarks for workplace success, whether they work from home or at an office, and a sketch of a typical workday.
- Values and preferences - Also known as “psychographic” data, this information shows how your ideal customers see themselves. It can delve into the beliefs that guide their decisions at work and in life, brands they purchase, their attitude toward the type of products or services you sell, and their politics.
- Pain points, challenges, and goals - This information includes the problems your customer faces, and the issues your products or services will address. Your understanding of their personal and professional aspirations will help you create effective messaging addressing these needs.
- Information consumption - To communicate with your prospects, you need to meet them on their own territory: where they go for their news and information about their job, what type of content they consume, their favorite social media channels, and influencers they follow.
- Purchasing factors - Some people are bargain-hunters; others are influenced by brand reputation. Do your prospects prioritize convenience? Features? Long-term client/vendor relationships? Understanding your prospects’ purchasing habits and behaviors, and if applicable, their company’s purchasing workflow, is key to building effective messaging, offers, and campaigns. Along with information consumption data, this is sometimes known as “behavioral” information.
The negative customer persona
Knowing who your target audience is not is as important as knowing who your target audience is. A negative customer or buyer persona identifies the traits and characteristics of prospects who are unlikely to be interested in or benefit from your product or service.
For example, if your ideal customer is a top executive, your negative customer persona might be someone with a “manager” title. Or, it may be an individual whose budget is lower than your product’s price point.
Marketers most often use negative customer personas to better qualify marketing and sales leads. A negative customer persona will also keep you from diluting your content marketing by messaging it too broadly or choosing the wrong format.
Customer profile vs. customer segment vs. customer persona
While customer personas focus on a buyer’s demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data, customer profiles include information about a business. This data includes the business size and revenue, reporting structure, whether it’s public or private, its purchasing process, stakeholders, industry, and verticals.
Ideal customer profiles (ICPs) are generally relevant to B2B, rather than B2C, marketers. They can help align your organization’s larger business goals and product roadmaps, whereas customer personas can guide messaging and personalization.
Customer or audience segments are groups of customers with similar characteristics and behaviors. While you determine your business’s customer personas, customer segments are determined through website or marketplace behavior. You may discover that more than one customer persona is part of a customer segment, for example, and decide to create content or a campaign that covers several personas that behave similarly.
Examples of customer personas
A customer persona can be a set of bullet points or a narrative about your ideal customer with enough detail to make your team feel as though they know the person. A customer persona template with bullet points functions nicely as a quick reference. A narrative makes it easier to tell relevant stories about your products and services.
Note that the B2B and B2C buyer personas all include demographics, psychographics, and behavioral data, but focus on different elements based on the product and market.
B2B customer persona example
This customer persona example is for a medical diagnostic testing equipment company. In this case, the company has named the persona Dr. Alexa Danzig.
Name: Dr. Alexa Danzig
Education: MD, PhD
Job title: Chief of Laboratory Medicine at major private university hospital
Hyper-conscious of how decisions she makes affect her public and professional reputation
Pain points / goals
Reevaluate and replace, if necessary, existing equipment purchased without proper due diligence
- Follows colleagues’ and vendors’ LinkedIn pages
- Reads peer-reviewed medical journals and academic conference proceedings
- Reads the New York Times, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly
- Final decision-maker for purchasing big-ticket lab equipment and software platforms
- Cautious purchaser
- Values long-term client/vendor relationships
- Disdains salespeople with no relevant medical experience
- Large budget
- Makes decisions based on quality, not price
B2C customer persona example
This customer persona example is for a new line of makeup, skin care, and hair care products. In this case, the company has named the persona Leticia Watson-Pérez.
Name: Leticia Watson-Pérez
Marital status: Married to a man; 3 young children
Education: JD, Ivy League law school
Job title: Partner, white-shoe law firm
Salary: Combined with husband’s, $10M annually
Location: New York
Social activities: Hosts parties, dines out at fine restaurants, attends opera, political fundraisers, charity galas
- Takes pride in how she presents herself publicly, professionally, and socially
Pain points / goals
- Cannot find a high-end line of quality makeup, skin care, and hair care products that suits her
- Influencers: Black and Latinx actors, celebrities, parents of children’s friends
- Clothing: High-end designer
- Jewelry: High-end boutique
- Window shops online
- Purchases at brick-and-mortar stores
- Will pay a higher price for a higher-quality product
How to use customer personas
Without customer personas, personalized or targeted marketing is impossible because you won’t know whom you’re targeting.
Customer personas help you use relevant stories, use cases, and language. They also help you make more informed choices about content format, distribution channel, voice, tone, design, and photography.
You can audit existing materials to ensure they align with updated customer personas and weed out content that aligns with your negative personas. And you can build an SEO strategy to generate organic website traffic from visitors you’re likely to convert.
While they may be the foundation of the work done by your content marketers, customer personas are useful for your entire marketing team, as well as sales, product, and customer success teams. Personas align your colleagues’ understanding of your prospects and customers. They also ensure you consistently describe the benefits of your products or services across your entire organization in pitch decks, marketing materials, and upsell attempts. This messaging alignment is key for prospecting for the right leads, converting leads to prospects, moving prospects to customers, and successfully upselling.
Customer journey orchestration
Customer journey orchestration is about creating a holistic, real-time experience that keeps customers engaged through your content marketing, marketing and sales funnels, and customer support experience. So customer personas are key to mapping and remapping the customer journey: You can’t keep people engaged unless you know who they are, what they need, and the factors influencing their purchasing decisions.
Promotion and advertising
Information about the persona’s channel preferences may influence decisions about ad spend, social channel resourcing, and which influencers you engage.
You can customize landing pages with links to persona-specific content to engage more visitors. Using dynamically generated content, you can tailor your entire website to a specific visitor.
Customer personas can also provide data for segmenting your demand gen lists for highly targeted campaigns. Persona data may also influence a joint marketing venture with a company that offers a product that complements your own.