What Is a Buyer Persona?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “buyer persona,” put your seatbelt on — you’re about to get a lesson on how to identify and target the exact right audience for your business.
Buyer personas are fictional identities created off your target audience. They are archetypes of your ideal customers.
They help you to understand those customers and everything about them– including what they need in order to convert and purchase from you.
This, in turn, directly enables you to sell to them more effectively.
In this post, we’ll take a look at exactly what a fully fleshed-out buyer persona look like, how to create them, the tools you need to develop them, and strategies to use them.
Long story short, buyer personas can assist marketers to create and reach the ideal customer.
Understanding buyer personas is critical to advertising, creating and driving content creation, developing your product or service, as well as anything that has to do with obtaining and retaining your audience.
Why You Need Buyer Personas
Creating a buyer persona can help you drive more sales and increase customer retention by creating more relevant, highly targeted messages for niches within your audience.
There are a ton of reasons why you need buyer personas in your marketing campaigns, including:
- You can connect better with customers because you’ll understand them better
- Buyer personas make it easier to craft highly targeted messages, which are more likely to convert
- You can use them to display specific use cases of a product to users it will most appeal to
- They can help inspire content and ad ideas
In almost every circumstance, there will be niches within your audience that might use your product differently. It doesn’t matter what your product is. And according to the results of a Zongby Analytics’ poll (link to full report), 40.5% of respondents confirmed they prefer to see ads directed towards their interests.
Let’s look at Whole Foods, as a very broad example. Some consumers will buy their entire grocery list from Whole Foods, while others will just stop in for discounted sale items (like me), and others only go for their prepared food or a rare specialty item. These different types of shoppers could be sectioned off into different buyer personas.
Another example is Apple. Apple products are used by a wide range of people, but their audience can be sectioned off into different groups of people: students, home computers, and business professionals. With this knowledge, Apple has to identify their most high value audience (the business professionals, most likely) and run targeted messaging showing Apple products can help you run your business more efficiently. In these ads, they won’t be highlighting features like the great camera or the quality graphics card; they’ll focus on easy file transfers, total connection, and long-lasting battery life.
What Do I Need to Know About My Buyer Personas?
You need to really look at your target audience and understand what makes them tick. Your archetypes should feel like they could be real people, and not just in the stereotypical sense- they need to be based on real data. These include:
Background – basic details about the person, such as interests, turn-offs, what they do for a living, and education
Demographics -gender, age range, income, spouse’s income (if relevant), and where they live
Identifiers – buzzwords or mannerisms that help you to identify the customer. For example, someone who get easily agitated or someone who would benefit from technology assistance
Goals – the persona’s primary and secondary goals. For example, the person may want to streamline the communication process in their company or keep turnover low
Challenges & pain points– the primary and secondary roadblocks to the persona. For instance, a common roadblock could be how to cut down on hiring costs, with the secondary challenge being how to maintain employee quality.
How you can help – a factor which illustrates how your product or service can assist the persona to reach their goals and eliminate their challenges
Quotes taken from “test subjects” that help your team to identify the correct buyer
Objections – common arguments a persona may have about your product or service, allowing you to create counter arguments
With this information, you can create realistic, detailed buy personas that feel like real people. You can create CFO Cindy, who is the breadwinner for her household and is the CFO of a mediums-sized subscription business, and is looking for software to track expenses and offer suggestions about trimming the budget, which is reliable, secure, and detailed. She wants software to automate this process, because it’s taking too much time to do it manually, and time is something that she doesn’t have. She’s a busy professional who aggressively wants to maximize her time.
You can also create Super Dad Daniel, who is a single father of two daughters. He works full time at a good job, but worries about saving enough money for his daughters’ college and is looking for budgeting software that can help him flag unnecessary expenses. He’s worried about apps that aren’t secure, but seeing a financial advisor would cost too much. He’s protective, and looking to provide stability for his family.
They can both benefit from the same hypothetical software, but they have different lives, pain points, and objections. CFO Cindy probably wouldn’t probably think a $100 per month app was on point, while Super Dad Daniel wouldn’t even think twice about paying for that.
Developing buyer personas to improve Facebook ads targeting it’s easy once you have a method! And we are about to give you all the details plus a workbook so you can exercise. Just click to download it and keep on reading.
How to Create a Buyer Persona in 6 Steps
Ready to get to making your buyer personas, but not really sure where too start? Just follow these six steps and you’ll be good to go.
- Identify customer needs.
- Research customer demographics.
- Uncover customer psychographic attributes.
- Analyze and validate findings.
- Identify buyer behavioral traits.
- Create a buyer persona.
Sounds simple? Let’s dig into each step in detail then.
Step 1. Identify Customer Needs
The purpose of the first step is to identify as many needs of your target market as possible.
Think of as many problems, challenges and wants your customers may have. Those needs don’t even have to relate to your products but everything that drives your customers.
For instance, here are some of the needs I think AdEspresso customers have:
- Higher traffic.
- Cheaper advertising cost.
- Higher conversions.
- Faster campaigns creation.
- More automation and less menial tasks.
How to conduct the exercise:
Take 15-20 minutes and list as many needs as you can think of. Don’t judge any items on the list, or think whether they make sense or not. At this stage you want the list to be as long as possible.
At the end of the session collect all responses for analysis later on.
Step 2. Uncover Customer Demographics
In this exercise you’re trying to identify your customers’ most common demographic characteristics.
So, list everything you know about your customers.
- Race / Ethnicity,
- Education level,
- Their income level,
- Languages they speak,
- Relationship status,
- Professional status,
Follow the same process as with the previous exercise – take a couple of minutes and list as many characteristics you can think of.
Step 3. Uncover Customer Psychographic Attributes
Psychographics attributes relate to a person’s:
- Interests, and
- Lifestyles, among others.
And so, in this step you need to discover what drives, motivates and inspires your customers.
List such information about your customers as:
- What brands do they identify with?
- What websites they frequent?
- What aspirations do they have?
- What kinds of hobbies do they enjoy?
- What ideals do they hold to?
- How tech savvy they are?
- Who or what influence their product choices?
Step 4: Analyze and Validate Findings
At this stage you’ve collected a good deal of ideas about your customers.
It’s time to analyze and then, validate them. First, go through responses for each exercise and list the most common answers.
Then provide relevant data to validate those characteristics.
These could be anything:
- Call your customers. It’s extremely time consuming but it’s also the most reliable way to validate your findings and discover new information about them. We did it for AdEspresso and most of our customers where happy to help us. Pro Tip: After every answer, ask them three times “Why?”. You’ll uncover priceless insights
- Existing customer data. Probably the easiest way to validate demographics is by looking at the data you have on your current customers.
- Support calls / live chat conversations etc. Many customers mention their needs but also interests and other personal attributes during support interactions.
Surveys (both internal and external). If you lack the data, consider running short surveys to validate anything from needs to customer interests. You can use software like Hotjar to run surveys on your checkout or SurveyMonkey to invite customers to share their insight.
Similarly, you could look at other companies’ survey findings to find data supporting your results.
- Studies (external and internal). You can also find a lot of information in studies, reports and whitepapers.
- Social media conversations. Monitor online discussions about your brand or products.
- Articles, papers etc. The web’s full of research, analysis and other useful content. And there could be data to prove your customers’ traits in there too.
The rule for this exercise is simple:
No data to back it up equals irrelevant customer trait.
Something you should know: This could easily become the lengthiest and most cumbersome part of the process.
And if you’re working on this process on behalf of the client, that’s the part when projects typically go stale. Mostly because clients tent to either take this too seriously, launching a couple months long research project. Or lose interest in the process in the face of such a huge task in front of them.
But don’t ignore the importance of validating your ideas. Without this data your personas will be nothing more but a collection of good guesses.
And in marketing these are nothing more but wishful thinking.
Step 5. Identify Buyer Behavioral Traits
The final step involves one more brainstorming session. This time however you’re listing ideas about how your prospects buy things.
Take 15 minutes to list:
What are your customers’ preferred methods of communication with a brand?
List them in order of importance. Chances are your prospects will have the same preferences.
What’s their behavior towards your products / services / brand?
Are your prospects familiar or unfamiliar with your brand / service or product when coming in contact with it.
What are their buying habits?
Why do they purchase what you sell? (i.e. to make them look good, raise their social status, the feeling of self importance etc.)
This point closely relates to the top needs you identified in the first exercise.
Most common objections?
What would prevent them from buying from you?
Step 6. Create a Buyer Persona
If you’ve completed all 5 steps you should now have a bulk of information about your customers and prospects that you could use to create a buyer persona.
From now on, the process revolves around imagining your ideal buyer based on the information you have and using that to construct your persona.
So, take your findings and match relating information together to create a final persona.
You can use this template to do so (or download the Buyer Persona Workbook containing worksheets for every exercise in the process):
- Income level:
- Education level:
- Professional status:
- Main Need:
- Favorite brands:
- Favorite websites:
- Preferred method of communication:
- Behavior towards your product or service:
- Buying habits:
- Personal Description:
How to Get The Data Needed to Develop Buyer Personas
Unsurprisingly, buyer personas will be most effective when you create them when you’re looking at a lot of real, actual data about your real, actual customers. There’s several ways you can get this data. These include:
- Utilizing demographic information available to you through third-party analytics systems, like Google Analytics. This information will be available to you at any time, often for free if you already have it.
- Sending out an email survey to your current customers, where they answer some of the above questions and give you insight into their thoughts. This works best if you incentivize customers with an offer like a chance to win a gift card if they complete the survey, and if you have a fairly large database of customers who are engaged with your brand.
- Conducting interviews with several customers, via phone, in person, or email, to really get to know them and their specific needs in-depth. While this can be valuable, know that it can be difficult to get customers to commit this time to you.
If you’re ever in a time crunch, choosing third party tools like Facebook’s Audience Insights to get the data needed to create buyer personas is a good way to go. Here’s how…
How to Create Buyer Personas with Facebook’s Audience Insights
Sometimes you don’t necessarily have time to create surveys, reach out to people for interviews, and wait for that information to come in.
Using Facebook’s Audience Insights is a great way to create buyer personas. In order to create the best personas, however, you must choose the right audiences.
When you’re using Audience Insights, you can choose from different audiences to examine, including All of Facebook and People Connected with Your Page. Both of these can potentially be problematic.
Getting information on all of Facebook’s users won’t give you the information you need about your audience. Similarly, analyzing People Connected with Your Page won’t help you break down that large audience into niches. There’s also the risk that you have a number of followers that aren’t actual customers.
The answer to this problem, whenever possible, is to use Audience Insights to better understand different custom audiences instead of larger, broader audiences.
You can access information like:
- Relationship status
- Job title
- Education level
- Household income
- Household size
- Online purchase behavior
- Spending methods
- Lifestyle (with examples including “Children First,” “Solid Single Parent,” “Cartoons and Carpools,” and more)
This information can help you detect commonalities and trends amongst your target audiences, helping you create a more complete, dynamic character that will be more engaging. The lifestyle category is one that I really love, especially when you’re fleshing out buyer personas and making them more real.
What a Buyer Persona Looks like
Let’s say you own a high-end jewelry store. You can create personas that appeal to women, prompting them to buy a gift for themselves. If you notice that a large number of your followers are women in professional industries, you can create a persona around that.
In this example, we create the persona Jane. Jane is a professional businesswoman. She is college educated and prefers purchasing online because she has a busy, hectic schedule. She makes above median household income and owns her own home. Jane spends most of her disposable income on products to enhance her appearances like jewelry, makeup, and clothes so she can make a good first impression. She unwinds with Netflix and cooking. She is not married because her career comes first, but she’d like to be one day, and she hates cats.
We created Jane entirely from a hypothetical Audience Insights. I plucked specific qualities right from the data (job title, education, purchase behavior, income, home ownership, and single), and I used storytelling or inferring to glean the rest (why she’s not married, why she purchases what she does).
Jane is fleshed out enough that she feels real, while still having enough general appeal that a large number of people will identify with her. Jane’s persona sells beautiful watches and simple diamond stud earrings.
Once you’ve got Jane’s persona down pat, create personas for men looking for engagement rings, wedding-planning brides, and married couples. These are all common customer archetypes for your jewelry store.
Creating Personas Without Custom Audiences
If you don’t have large enough custom audiences, you can use the tips above and just shift the audience you’re analyzing.
Choose “All Facebook Users” and segment the audience based on certain targeting qualifications, like interests that are relevant to your product. Use the information available to create personas that will appeal to this audience, as discussed above.
How to Use Buyer Personas
You can use buyer personas to deliver relevant content to your audiences with both Facebook Ads and Facebook’s dark posts. Both methods allow you to select targeting criteria that will limit who will see your content. This reduces the waste of opportunity. In the case of Facebook Ads, you’re reducing the risk of advertising waste. This can improve the results of your campaigns and save you money. When it comes to dark posts, you’re reducing the risk of wasted organic reach.
You should customize the advertising content for each persona that you’ve created, including the image, description, headline, and offer.
You can take the buyer personas you’ve created on Facebook and use them in your overall marketing strategies, including creating email campaigns and other content based on these archetypal characters.
When you run campaigns with buyer personas, you’ll see which campaigns are effective. You might also detect objections certain audiences have. You can use this to improve your personas—and your campaigns.
Using Buyer Personas to Appeal to Social Identity
Facebook is not just a social platform, it is the social platform. Facebook is the most social product ever invented, allowing you to interact and socialize online with billions of people.
The platform is entirely about your identity in different social contexts and social identity is baked directly into the network. You show you’re a member of dozens of different groups on Facebook through your friends, interests, and background.
Though you’re an individual you are also part of many, many groups. These groups revolve around your family, your friends, your work, your hobbies and your habits. They might be massive groups (man, woman, father, mother), or super-niche groups (competitive skee ball player), but at any one time you’re probably a member of dozens and dozens of groups, big and small.
All these groups combine to create your social identity.
When people are skimming Facebook they are looking for people with similar social identities to connect with. Any advertising that is presented has to appeal to their social self and the groups that they identify with. Therefore, there’s no better place for advertiser’s to discover what really matters to their customers and to target ads directly to them.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that tapping into consumer’s social identity has an incredible effect on how effective an ad is. The researchers found that “A key determinant of how much consumers remember from an ad is the connection between the ad content and the consumer’s own self-concept.”
What this means is that a consumer will remember an ad better if it has something to do with one of their social identities. If a customer views one of your ads while thinking about their group memberships they unconsciously connect the ad to this group. Then, when they think about their groups later, they will remember the ad as well.
Incorporate Social Identity Into Your Buyer Personas
You’ve all heard of buyer personas, but if you are just looking at their demographics and goals you’re not going far enough. You have to break down your buyer personas, creating real people with real social identities.
When you create a buyer persona you’re creating a semi-fictional person who has all of the traits and attitudes of your core customers.
Take these nicely illustrated examples from MailChimp:
MailChimp has identified their core customers and created these buyer personas. For Mario, he identifies primarily as a studio consultant, but also as a manager, a marketer, and a problem solver. Eliza is a PR manager, but also social, educated, and busy.
But these guys are more than that. Mario appreciates nice tailoring, but in a relaxed manner. Eliza is into awesome tattoos and dying her hair. You should be creating not just personas, but real people with full identities.
Mario and Eliza are cooler versions of the people you are marketing to, but they have the same view on the world. The further you dig down into who these people are and how they identify themselves they better you will be able to target ads directly to them.
If you’re advertising to these people, the better you tap into each of the groups they identify with, the more like they’ll click through to your product.
For instance, both Mario and Eliza would love this ad from Fast Company:
It appeals to the advanced and smart identities of both of them, as well as Mario’s creativity and Eliza’s aspiration. What’s more, you could easily see both of them in the audience at such an event. The are part of the social group that attends Innovation festivals and will want to see thought leaders talk. Therefore this ad will speak directly to them.
The more you target the key social identities your customers have with ads designed specifically for them, the more you’ll drastically increase your chances of conversion.
2. Use Social Identity To Make Your Ads More Memorable
When you’re reading Facebook, one of the group identities that is strongest will be your ‘friend’ identity. After all, that’s what Facebook is about — connecting with your friends. Facebook continues to use this identity to build its brand and make itself an intergral part of your friendships. The recent ‘On This Day’ feature uses nostalgia as a way for you to interact even more with friends through Facebook.
Zipcar uses the friend identity in its ad to place the company along side the idea of friendship. As the 2011 study showed, later on as you think of your friends, you’ll also think of Zipcar, and ideally sign up with them to go and meet your friends IRL:
People viewing this ad will already be primed to think about their identity as a friend, and about all their friends, so this ad from Zipcar does a great job of incorporating social identity to make you remember and think about the ad.
3. Use Out-Group Ads to Boost Social Identity
The great thing about using social identity in advertising is that it works both ways. You can use inclusiveness in one group to boost social identity (the in-group), but you can also use a person’s social identity the other way round, establishing the customer as outside of a group (out-group) they don’t want to be in and be even more effective.
For example, you’re either a dog person or a cat person. If you’re advertising to a dog person, you can talk about dogs (their in-group) and how their awesome, or you can talk about cats (their out-group) and how they are terrible.
Either way, they’ll click through.
Out-groups are particularly effective for raising awareness of an issue. To continue the dog motif, here the Soi Dog Foundation is setting itself apart from animal cruelty, and wants you to set yourself apart from it as well:
In this case, both Soi Dog and it’s supporters are members of an out-group. This works because identifying who you are against reinforces your own identity just as much as who you are with. Soi Dog wants to show its against cruelty, and if you are as well, then you should sign up to support the charity.
The Downside of Many Identities
Social identity can change almost in an instant.
What’s more, at any given time only one of these groups will dominate. Which one will depend one where you are and what you’re doing. With the Electrolux example, when the customers were with the marketers they had one identity, and when at home they had another. Your customers’ identity will change throughout the day and week depending on whether they are at work, at home, in the gym, with friends, etc.
An ad that worked for their business persona during the day might not work for their home persona in the evening. An ad that they would definitely click on when out with friends, they might scroll right past when checking their feed at the gym.
Even if you get your buyer persona right, catching someone at the wrong time with the wrong identity can mean that your ad still gets ignored.
That is why it’s so important to test multiple ads, and optimize text, images and targeting to get the right ads in front of the right person at the right time. UpOut SF get this right with their ads. These ads target the same person, but when they are exhibiting different social identities. One when they are looking for something to do with friends:
And one for when they are thinking about dating:
One person, two identities.
This is the biggest challenge of Facebook advertising, but get it right and you have a way to make your ads sing exactly the right note to the right people at the right time, and completely inspire your customers.
What About Exclusionary Personas?
It’s exceptionally helpful to know who your target audience is. It’s just as important, however, to understand who your audience isn’t. While your buyer personas will answer the first question, exclusionary personas will help you answer the second.
A big mistake a lot of businesses make in marketing is trying to appeal to everyone. They try to do too much for too many people, and as a result they often fail at attracting the small niche of their audience they really want. Exclusionary personas tell you exactly what type of customer you don’t want to target.
Let’s look at another example- an example based on my own business. I offer different types of writing services to different types of people. I ghostwrite, for example, for high-level professionals who want books written for thought leadership purposes. I also write SEO-optimized blogs and lead magnets for businesses. Who I don’t work for? Content mills or startups who want me to work on “back pay” and “exposure.” So Startup Stan, who calls himself a CEO even though he’s the only person in the company, thinks he can grow his business overnight, thinks a little too highly of himself, and wants me to “work for exposure because it would be to [my] benefit” would be an exclusionary persona I want to avoid.
Once you know your exclusionary personas, you can plug this information into your marketing campaigns so that you’re not accidentally appealing to the wrong people. I would never try to promote my services as lower priced, because they aren’t, and I don’t necessarily want to customers who are looking for that. I want clients who are just as dedicated and passionate about the work as me, and I’d focus on that first.
Buyer personas will help you to understand your target audience and create fully fleshed-out archetypes that you can use to improve your marketing content- especially your Facebook Ads.
Having “Super Dad Daniel” and “CFO Cindy” makes it much easier to create targeted messaging and offers that will resonate with specific sections of your target audience.
Segmentation and targeted messaging is key to conversions and successful campaigns, so dig deep into your audience insights (and download our buy personas workbook!) and craft the personas that will help you step up your ad game. You can’t afford not to.
What do you think? Have you ever used buyer personas to help you craft your Facebook Ads? Do you use our method for developing realistic personas? Share your thoughts and knowledge in the comments below!