Buyer Personas – 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas

What are buyer personas?
Buyer personas are the individual and identifiable groups of people who buy your products. For example a stereo store has at least three important and very distinct buyer personas.

Stereo store example:

1. Those looking for a better stereo system. They’re usually men and they generally don’t mind the appearances of the stereo system. Instead they want the ability to listen to LP’s, radio, and CD’s, and just relax with music. They’re not satisfied with their current stereos, so they’ve decided to pay a little more than what they paid for the previous set. But they do have an understanding about the price range they’re looking into. They’re not the most  patient customers, but they probably don’t need the products immediately. They like the feeling they get when they buy a new gadget.

2. Hi-fi enthusiasts. A group of almost solely men, who will spend a lot of time pondering the purchase. They’ll test every possible product at their home. They’re interested in technical specifics. They enjoy the process of testing more than the purchase. They like to talk about their preferences and hear the sales people’s ideas, but they don’t believe anyone but themselves. Price is very important; the higher the better, they’ll often buy the most expensive option they can afford … and then some.

3. Women (apologies for the generalization, this is just one buyer persona) looking for something that will satisfy their men’s desire for new gizmos, and their own sense of esthetics. They’re very price concerned. Only technical specifics are less important than the actual sound quality.

These buyer personas aren’t extremely specific, but they give you the idea of what a buyer persona means. Different buyer personas are looking for different things, so you should treat them differently. And not only in the sales situation, but in your marketing too.

How to profile buyer personas

Firstly, all the people who visit your store or your website aren’t buyers. Base your assessment of your buyer personas on buying customers, not browsers, yourself, thieves, or friends visiting you. But what should a buyer persona define? And remember: you’re like to have more than one buyer persona for your business; specify as many as you can think of.

1. Gender. I realize this may feel awkward for some people, but you should know the gender of a specific buyer persona. But only if it’s possible. Some buyer personas are not gender specific.

2. Age. The age of a buyer persona is the simplest part of the profile. The age of a person tells you a lot abut them. How you view the world and what you prioritize, depend largely on your age.

3. Profession. In B-to-B business you know the profession of the buyer. But in B-to-C business this may not be so obvious. But if you can find a common profession or a status of a buyer, you can make your buyer persona profile much more accurate. It’s also very important to know how well they understand your product, are they professional users of laymen.

4. Financial situation. This is one of the most important aspects of the profile, so make sure you get it right. Don’t concentrate on your customers’ bank accounts, but make note how much they’re willing to pay. And how easily they make the decision to buy; it tells you how important your products are for them.

5. Purpose. Why do they buy your products? Some products have more applications (like fabrics) than others (nail clippers). The purpose of your product is the core of your marketing. If you don’t know what your customers use your product for, you can’t market or sell it effectively.

6. Education. How well-educated is the buyer persona? The educational background makes the profile deeper. It can help you figure out how they process information. Do they understand graphs, statistics, and study results, or are they more concerned with customer testimonials and simplified features.

7. Free time. How do they spend their time? Common hobbies, interests, TV shows, even eating habits can get you closer to them. You cannot know your buyer persona too well, so even these small details can prove to be valuable.

8. Buying decision. Which factors they take into account when they make the decision to buy? Price, features, ease of use, customer service, and resell value, can all play a part in the decision. If you don’t understand this part of your customers, your marketing can only work if you get lucky.

9. Shopping habits. What else do they buy? This is important when you start creating your business network. What else can you offer to them, and what else are they looking for.

What to do with a buyer persona?

When you have detailed buyer personas, you can, and you must, use them in your marketing. Here’s a few ways to use buyer personas in marketing.

1. Address specific people. When you know your buyer, you can talk to him/her directly. You don’t have to say, “you” when you can say, “25-year old man, living in the suburbs”.

2. Address specific problems. Talking about a specific problem is more engaging than a general problem. But it only works if you address a problem your buyers have, so you need to know your buyer personas first.

3. Address specific beliefs. You can create a feeling of being talked directly at with beliefs. For example, “This product is healthy.” is less engaging than, “Your children need more vitamins, that the school system doesn’t provide.”

4. Pinpoint accurate placement. Placement is a key to effective marketing. When you understand your buyer personas, you know where they are, and how to reach them at the right time.

5. Showcasing the right price range. If you market a product a buyer cannot afford, they won’t buy it. And they’ll be left with a belief that you’re over priced for them.

There’s one more thing…

Understanding your buyer personas isn’t enough to create effective marketing. First you need to understand what is your value proposition.

I’d like to hear what your buyer personas include. Do you think of something that wasn’t discussed here? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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  1. Mark Boyd said:

    Thanks Peter, this is a really clear overview.

    I recently helped writing a blog post about using the web and iPad app Popplet to build a buyer persona template. It doesn’t really include anything different, but the capacity of the app to add pictures, videos and weblinks makes it a bit fresher than a text description of an imaginary case study.

    I might have a go now at creating another template version with distinct areas where you can collate demographics and characteristics like the 9 you have listed – most of them are covered in the example in the blog post (emerging Russian global consumers), but i like your use of subheadings to more clearly categorize the information.

    As a writer, I am trying to be more strategic with how my content connects with market segments, and how effective i am at sharing knowledge to facilitate conversion. I do think a focus on identifying buyer personas is useful (and fun to research). The hardest thing can be working with a client to agree on how and who to target specifically rather than in general.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

      You’re right, this is just an overview or an introduction to buyer personas. Images, videos, and web links can be hugely beneficial to creating accurate buyer personas. You could even take a photo of a typical buyer, and create the typical story around that person. And then use just the picture to remind you of the buyer persona they represent.

      I can relate to your pain of getting a client to understand the need to target a specific buyer persona. Anything less than “everyone” seems to be too few 😉

    • Jeanne Pi said:

      Coming from the world of mobile apps, profiling our potential users’ personas is absolutely critical. It’s imperative that we think about how the app fits in within the context of an actual person’s life when designing the app. We map out the “who, what, when, where, why, and how”. Only then can we develop an app that will maximize user experience.

      • Hi Jeanne,

        Thanks for your input 🙂 I think app development is one of those industries where user (buyer) profiling is done almost automatically. Everybody understands that an app, especially a mobile app, needs to suit the needs of a specific person. If if fails to do so, no one will use it. But the same applies to every business… I’m not quite sure why people in all industries don’t use buyer personas. Maybe they don’t know about the idea, or they don’t think they need them… :/

  2. […] are related to you either because they’re in the same industry as you are or you have similar buyer personas. For example a hairdresser needs to know a good nail salon. But a stylist and a cosmetologist would […]

  3. I think your stereo-store example is very effective because it’s simplistic, so I wouldn’t worry about the generalizations. You make a good point.

    I agree with you.

    It all comes down to knowledge and understanding. If someone thinks knowledge and understanding is LESS helpful in marketing, well… best of luck to them.

    Man, Meerman Scott is really making the rounds in my circles lol.

    I heard his interview on copyblogger, read about him on appsblogger, and you referenced him here, Peter 🙂

    Guess its time to read The New Rules 🙂 (Thanks for the recommendation)

    • Hi Jason,

      I guess it speaks for Scott’s expertise that he’s “everywhere” 🙂 He’s ideas are really worth reading, so yeah, read the book (and there’s a handy affiliate link in the sidebar here *wink, wink*)

  4. Knowing your customer is the first step to truly caring about them so I think you have made some great points here.

    I often tell my clients to give the ‘persona’ a name, in their head at least! Or to think of one of their current customers that seems to really embody their ‘ideal’ client and keep them in mind when blogging or writing marketing copy.

    Thanks for sharing this 🙂

    • Hi Gemma,

      Giving a name for a buyer persona can be a really good idea if you have a customer who embodies the persona. On the other hand, if you use a name (of a real customer/reader), it may keep you from being honest about the persona; it’s easier to just think about the real person and not define the persona further… But I’m sure the name is very useful for many bloggers/marketers.

      Thanks for your input 🙂

  5. “Understanding your buyer personas isn’t enough to create effective marketing…” This is an excellent point.

    There is a lot more to it than just knowing who you are targeting. There are people behind a purchase. (#2) Addressing their problems (i.e. needs of your customer) is a tried and true sales technique that will stand the test of time.

    Excellent write up, as usual, Peter!

    • Hi Jason,

      You’re right, people have problems. They’ve always had them and they always will have them. Solving those problems is what selling is all about, though sometimes the problem is as small as “I’d like to have a new t-shirt.” 😉

  6. Peter,

    Finally a clear explanation what persona is what different characteristics it has!

    I have to say that I’m very much in the early phases of defining my market (and persona too), but this post comes very handy in the future.

    I think that defining a customer persona could be understood too tedious or time consuming thing to do. But like with your niche research (and selection), it is very important to get this done properly when starting out.

    And if it takes bit more time to do this, the time investment pays off later.

    Cheers,
    Timo

  7. Hi Peter,

    This is a great article. You nailed down the very point of “Why” knowing our clients is a prerequisite. Gemma shared a idea to give a name to the different personas, I do something similar, I give them an adjectif, the adjective that defines the best their behavior.

    Thanks for this great post.

    • Hi Christine,

      Interesting idea to give an adjective. Could you give an example?

  8. Peter,

    Thank you so much for writing a post on such an important point.

    Establishing your buyers persona is so crucial for any sort of marketing success. To me using the KISS (Keep it so simple) formula while doing this working so well. Because if you can’t remember your buyer’s persona on your finger tips while doing all your marketing efforts then I don’t think so it can give you good results.

    • Hi Rana,

      You’re right, a full buyer persona can be too complex. I’d still make it detailed and once finished, I’d clear the clutter away to make it easier to use. Good point, thank you 🙂

  9. But WHAT do you do if your business/blog is only just starting out? Do you just make up a dream customer? Or do you interview the few visitors/customers you have?

    I never understand where to start…

    • Hi Kitty,

      That’s a good question and I admit I forgot to write it in the post.

      You’re right, you can only imagine and, if possible, use any existing customers/visitors as models. Some of the process is imagining anyway, even if you have a million customers. You hardly ever know the answer to all of these questions and you’re even less likely to know the answer to some of the other important questions. This was meant as an introduction to buyer personas. If you want a more comprehensive understanding about your customers, I’m afraid you’ll need to use your imagination a whole lot more 🙂

  10. Profiling the type of buyer that will be interested in your product is filed in the same folder as Tracking your blog traffic.

    “Things Infinitely Important to Your Business That You Procrastinate On”

    Great article Peter Thank you!

    Ryan H.

    • That’s unfortunately true. I don’t quite understand why though. Do you think buyer personas are dull or why people don’t use them? Maybe I’m a freak but I like to think about buyer personas 😀

  11. […] on and on about “know your target market” and “catering to their needs?”AffectSelling’s Buyer Persona PostCopyBlogger’s Imaginary Friend PostOneSpoonAtATime’s Target […]

  12. Melody B said:

    Great post! Came here from the premeditated marketing series. 🙂
    Coming around to this thread later but I have to say from the perspective of someone who has put this off waaay too long in my family business, it is definitely the time-consuming aspect that causes procrastination. Also, in our case, we had two things going against us in marketing when starting out. We started with that ‘technician’ mindset so blasted in the E-Myth books. 🙂 We chose to to this simply because my husband knew how. He also started with a handful of customers who jumped ship from his previous employer. That tends to make you less worried about getting business in the future, even though it’s not rational!

    Looking forward next to figuring out the best ways to actually “write as my customer”. I’m in the not-unusual position of being more un-like him/her.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hi Melody,

      Thanks 🙂

      It’s something a lot of businesses don’t ever do, and they regret it…

      Writing as your customer (when you’re un-like them) takes a lot. You could consider hiring someone to do it for you, or spend a lot of time figuring out what they really feel, think, want, fear, and so on.

      -Peter

  13. […] Introduction to buyer personas  […]

  14. […] in buyer personas. I have chosen two of the best for you to familiarise yourself with here by Peter Sandeen and here by Tony […]

  15. […] Stay on target by understanding your buyers’ personas […]

  16. […] out what personas I want to […]

  17. I find having a short ‘elevator pitch’ in the persona helps remind you about what and how you need to be talking to your audience.

    • Peter Sandeen said:

      Hey Chris,

      Interesting idea. A good idea 🙂

      Thanks,
      Peter

  18. […] P., 2013. Petersandeen. [Online] Available at: http://www.petersandeen.com/introduction-to-buyer-personas/ [Accessed 2 Avril […]

  19. Carol said:

    I could not agree more on the importance of persona-based marketing. To effectively market your product or service, you need to “get into the head” of your buyer. The persona is marketing’s tool to truly understand the buyer, what makes them tick and where they go for information. This insight guides content that will attract the right visitors to your site and bring customers to your business.

  20. […] P. (2012). Buyer Personas – 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas. (Onine) Available at: http://www.petersandeen.com/introduction-to-buyer-personas/ [Accessed 21 Jan […]

  21. Thanks for the tip! Do you feel that problems should be part of the buyer profile directly? Or are they more of an adjunct sales response / objection handling element?

    I just created a persona template that we’re using internally for b2b customers, and I’ve included common problems that buyers face. How would you recommend positioning this element in a b2b context?

  22. […] 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas (Peter Sandeen) […]

  23. […] Peter Sandeen’s Blog […]

  24. […] personas are not extremely specific but do gather information to implement by your company. For example, lets say your company sells […]

  25. […] is a nice guide on how to identify your ideal buyer (also referred to as buyer persona) based on factors […]

  26. […] you’ve done your research, you can broadly define your personas. Major elements to consider include location, age, gender, job/income level, language, favorite […]

  27. […] you’ve done your research, you can broadly define your personas. Major elements to consider include location, age, gender, job/income level, language, favorite […]

  28. Dawood Ahmad said:

    Thanks Peter for sharing this useful information.

    I have a question. How do you see online surveys in building buyer persona? Primarily, my buyers are middle aged women from Pakistan and India. I want to build buyer persona for them. I sell indian food recipes online.

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • PSadmin5adgubvi said:

      Hi Dawood,

      Surveys are great for learning more about demographics (age, location, etc.). If you want to use them for psychographics (goals, desires, etc.), use open ended questions—but even then you have to be careful about how you interpret the answers (people are typically very bad at evaluating/predicting their own behavior).

  29. […] reader personas you use for this exact purpose in other phases of your marketing efforts. If not, read here to learn about creating buyer […]

  30. […] good news – there are an incredible number of resources, templates and worksheets that break down the persona-development process. If you don’t already have a customer persona in […]

  31. […] 9 steps to profiling buyer personas – Peter Sandeen […]

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  1. […] are related to you either because they’re in the same industry as you are or you have similar buyer personas. For example a hairdresser needs to know a good nail salon. But a stylist and a cosmetologist would […]

  2. […] on and on about “know your target market” and “catering to their needs?”AffectSelling’s Buyer Persona PostCopyBlogger’s Imaginary Friend PostOneSpoonAtATime’s Target […]

  3. […] in buyer personas. I have chosen two of the best for you to familiarise yourself with here by Peter Sandeen and here by Tony […]

  4. […] Stay on target by understanding your buyers’ personas […]

  5. […] P., 2013. Petersandeen. [Online] Available at: http://www.petersandeen.com/introduction-to-buyer-personas/ [Accessed 2 Avril […]

  6. […] P. (2012). Buyer Personas – 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas. (Onine) Available at: http://www.petersandeen.com/introduction-to-buyer-personas/ [Accessed 21 Jan […]

  7. […] 9 Steps to Profiling Buyer Personas (Peter Sandeen) […]

  8. […] personas are not extremely specific but do gather information to implement by your company. For example, lets say your company sells […]

  9. […] is a nice guide on how to identify your ideal buyer (also referred to as buyer persona) based on factors […]

  10. […] you’ve done your research, you can broadly define your personas. Major elements to consider include location, age, gender, job/income level, language, favorite […]

  11. […] you’ve done your research, you can broadly define your personas. Major elements to consider include location, age, gender, job/income level, language, favorite […]

  12. […] reader personas you use for this exact purpose in other phases of your marketing efforts. If not, read here to learn about creating buyer […]

  13. […] good news – there are an incredible number of resources, templates and worksheets that break down the persona-development process. If you don’t already have a customer persona in […]

  14. […] 9 steps to profiling buyer personas – Peter Sandeen […]

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