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How to Create Your Buyer Persona - Definition & Examples

Jul 1015 min read
buyer persona illustration

Imagine you are throwing a birthday party. Would you pick pizza for your fitness buddies or go to a Brazilian steakhouse with your vegetarian friends? Finding the right place for your birthday party where everybody is having fun is easy because you know your guests.

Do you know your customers? Literally, who are they, where do they live, and how does their day go? Building a successful product is much harder than throwing a party. So, we must know who our customers are to serve them well.

What is a Buyer Persona?

The buyer persona is a semi-fictional character that describes your customers' unique characteristics. Sometimes, it’s also called a marketing persona or customer persona.

The buyer persona is a tool that helps the product team better understand the needs and wants of the people they are building for.

Why are Buyer Personas Important for Your Business?

Buyer personas are important because they help answer several critical questions to get to product-market fit.

Why would somebody like to buy your product?

This is directly related to the customer's needs — what triggers or environmental changes make somebody look for a product like yours?

How significant is the problem you are solving for them

In other words, what would the cost be for them if the problem is not solved? This will inform many other aspects of your business model, like pricing.

What are the criteria that will form the buying decision?

What criteria are important for your buyers when looking for a solution? In some cases, those might have nothing to do with the quality of the product itself. A big producer of calculators found that buyers weigh in about the quality of the device by … weighing it in, literally. They picked the heavier ones as that conveyed quality to them.

What goes into persona development?

What businesses need to create buyer personas?

Buyer personas could benefit every business that sells the same product to more than one customer. Understanding the buyer's profile is mandatory for those who aim for exponential growth by targeting a non-trivial market.

How to Find Interviewees for Researching Buyer Personas

Contact your immediate circle of friends, colleagues, and even relatives.

Which of them falls under the target customers you have defined? Talk to them. Then ask them who they can recommend talking to. Can they make an intro?

Those are people you have easy access to, who have an inherent desire to talk to you, and who can quickly connect you with people outside your circle with whom you can continue the conversation.

How do you create a great buyer persona in 4 steps?

An excellent buyer persona should answer the question of:

  • How important is the customer problem for the persona? What happens if they don’t find a solution?
  • What makes the customer problem a priority for this buyer persona?
  • Where do they look for solutions to that problem?
  • How are they solving the problem today?
  • What unmet needs are there in the existing solution?
  • How are the buyer persona’s values and beliefs associated with the problem?
  • What are the buying criteria for your buyer persona? What makes a product good to buy?

Consider the buying criteria of these two buyers of frying pans:


Can you see the different problems they want to solve? I bet they have interesting stories to share with you!

To build your buyer personas:

  1. Conduct customer problem research (more details on that below).
  2. Pick an actual person from those you met to build your persona from. They should be most representative of the customer segment you are exploring. Describe the persona with all characteristics that qualify the person to be part of the customer segment.
  3. Based on the clustered insights, add additional information from the other interviews. Describe in detail the answers to the questions above.
  4. Prepare blurbs about your product or service that use language and tone that will resonate with the target audience.

Why use an actual person? Because - empathy. Seeing the picture of the person you talked to will invoke memories from your conversation with them. You will remember the exact words and feelings the person used to describe the problem.

How Do You Do Buyer Persona Research?

Steps:

  1. Define the problem space you want to explore, aka a job-to-be-done.

  2. Prepare a script to be used for your customer problem interviews.

  3. Identity qualifying criteria to select interviewees.

  4. Source and schedule interviews.

  5. Conduct interviews according to the interview script.

  6. Extract insights from the interview that answer the questions.

  7. Group similar insights into clusters.

The Icanpreneur platform entirely facilitates this process by providing all the guidance, examples, and tooling needed for insightful research.

buyer persona guide infographic

How Buyer Personas Relate to the Lean Canvas

The buyer persona represents your business model expressed in the Lean Canvas, focusing on a specific prospective customer.

  • The Customer Segment describes a group of people that the persona belongs to.
  • Customer problems are challenges, pain points, goals, and aspirations.
  • Traction Channels are the communication mediums to reach out to the persona like social media, ads, etc.
  • The marketing message is a projection of the Unique Value Proposition adjusted to resonate with this specific persona.

What are some common pitfalls when building your buyer persona?

Too much demographic, too few insights

Avoid focusing too much on demographics and psychographic characteristics. This was relevant back in the days when most products were mass-market products and there was no great way to distribute products to specific audiences. Those days are gone.

Trying to ship a product based on a certain age, geographic region, and educational status will most likely end in a disaster.

Why is that? Because age, location, and education are loosely connected to the problem and needs. They might be, but chances are there are more important and more qualifying factors.

How do you know if a certain demographic should be part of your profile? Test the boundaries - if you target 23 - 35 years old males from Poland - what happens when the person is 40? Are the needs still there?

What about if they are 19 or live in London? Does it change your understanding of the job to be done you are exploring? If yes, great, keep segmenting. If not, think about expanding that criteria or removing it altogether.

Relying on assumptions instead of data

Starting with your assumptions about the buyer persona is fine. However, those assumptions need to be validated as quickly as possible through actual conversations with real people, which the persona represents. This will help the persona become more crisp and either confirm or adjust the assumptions made in the beginning.

Failing to involve cross-functional teams in a persona’s development

Building the persona in isolation by just one team is a recipe for disaster:

  1. Your persona will likely be single-sided, including only the aspects important to the person or team building it.
  2. The rest of the teams that need to benefit from the personas might feel excluded and will not buy into the work already done.

Forming a diverse cross-functional team to build the persona in collaboration is recommended to avoid that.

Who Should Be Involved in Creating Your Buyer Personas?

Product development

Product Managers and Researchers are common participants in creating the buyer persona. Their role is to provide context about how the buyers are expected to interact with the product and what problems are being addressed.

  • The Buyer Persona will inform the customer journey map that the Product Designer will use to create a compelling customer experience.
  • User Stories all start with the persona they are applicable for, which the Product Manager uses to express requirements.
  • The persona and especially the context in which they will be using the product might influence specific technologies and technical requirements, which the engineering team should know.

Marketing

The marketing team should build the GTM strategy related to the specific buyer persona:

  • Where do you reach out to those people?
  • What product messaging and positioning will resonate with them?
  • What words to use to speak the language of the potential customer?
  • How to create content that will appeal to the customer base?

Based on the buyer persona, the marketing team will design and execute a go-to-market plan to generate a steady stream of highly qualified leads for your company.

Sales Infrastructure

The buyer persona is one of the key components of a robust sales pitch. It is the difference between pitches that “go great” and nobody buys after that and pitches that drive home their point and build long-lasting relationships with the customer.

Customer support

To provide an excellent support service, the support team needs to understand the objectives, context, and limitations with which the customer operates. Sharing the buyer personas with the support team is a great way to empower your colleagues to provide outstanding service.

Management

The leadership provides their point of view on how this buyer persona fits in the company's overall strategy. If you are Spotify targeting music listeners, does it also make sense to focus on podcast listeners?

How Businesses Put Buyer Personas into Practice?

Early Stage

Beginnings often feel the hardest. Nobody wants to be your first customer; this vicious cycle must be broken. So, how do you find your first customers?

The way to break it is to find those early adopters who have the urging need for your product for some reason. Early adopters are the type of users who are willing to use an early product with sharp edges to gain some advantage.

Understanding that dynamic and baking it into the buyer persona will give you the key insights to finding your first customers.

Transition to Mainstream Market

The bowling alley theory represents the transition of your product lifespan from early adopters to the mainstream market. The bowling alley consists of multiple niche target markets (each one representing one pin) that you win one by one by building on the momentum of the previous win.

You are effectively expanding your target customer segments by building additional buyer personas. Each buyer persona will give you adjustments to the positioning and messaging to win the next wave of customers.

An interesting example of winning adjacent customer segments is Spotify’s podcast expansion. At some point, they figured that many of the problems the product solves for music listeners are valid for podcast listeners. There is a great episode on the Acquired podcast with Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek that details this story.

Mainstream to Late Market

The group of people you are targeting has unique characteristics in each phase of the product's lifecycle—early majority, late majority, and laggards. Even though they might be using the same product, the sentiment and needs of the laggards might be very different from those of the early adopters.

To have a go-to-market strategy that hits the sweet spot with every group of adopters - a different buyer persona will capture the uniqueness of each group and how to approach them.

Other Types of Personas

User Persona

The user persona is similar to the buyer persona, but the user persona represents the users who will use your product, while the buyer persona focuses on the person who purchases the product.

In many situations, especially B2C businesses, the user persona and the buyer persona might be the same actual person. In other cases, they are different people, like household members, or they do not even know each other in the case of enterprise companies.

If you are building a B2B product, it makes sense to study the two personas independently as they would often have different needs and expectations.

Negative Buyer Persona

Sometimes it makes sense to be explicit about who is not your desired customer. Such type of explicitness might be useful to:

  • Ensure the marketing budget is not spent on customer segments with a low probability of purchase
  • Ensure product focus by deferring redundant and unneeded features
  • Allow the sales team to focus on leads with the highest conversion chance.

Technical Buyer vs Economical Buyer

In some cases, like big enterprise companies, multiple people might be involved in the buying decision. Often, the person swiping the card has little to do with the actual buying process and will have no insights into why one product was chosen over another.

In those cases, the technical buyer persona is the person on whom you want to focus your attention. They are the drivers behind the buying decisions that might influence multiple stakeholders until the solution is hired.

It’s important to distinguish between the two types of personas and correctly identify the technical buyer to avoid spending cycles on people with no context or buying power.

3 Buyer Persona Examples

Spotify Persona

buyer persona example spotify

Icanpreneur Persona

buyer persona example icanpreneur

Tesla Persona

buyer persona example tesla

Don’t Let Your Business Outgrow Your Personas

Buyer personas are never done and final. As you grow the business, you will get a better and better understanding of the people that are buying.

Better understanding unlocks more precise messaging and targeting with approaching each customer segment.

Expanding to new customer segments includes researching the buyer persona like you did the first time. It’s a never-ending process that nurtures the expansion of your business.

FAQ

Can my buyer persona be a company?

No, because people are buying products, not companies. Dive deeper! If you start with companies - who are the people in these companies that have the problem and are looking for a solution? Why do they care?

How many buyer personas should I have?

The answer depends on the diversity and complexity of your target customer segments. If you have multiple segments with different needs, behaviors, and preferences, create a persona for each significant segment.

When expanding to new markets, create new personas for the new segments you will be targeting. Remember that too many personas can be overwhelming and reduce your product focus.

If your product is a marketplace, ensure you have at least one persona for each side of the marketplace.

Can I Hire Somebody to Create a Buyer Persona for Me?

There are many agencies, freelancers, and consultants that can conduct research for you and prepare buyer personas based on your business needs. This can speed up the process if you are in a rush and don’t have the experience and skills in-house.

However, certain risks must be considered. Understanding the buyer persona is a core asset for your company. Outsourcing the creation of the persona should ensure that the output is not just taken from the third party but deeply internalized in the product team.

The quality of the research should also match the business needs of your team. Whoever your partner is, you need to confirm their credibility and previous experience. In the long term, creating buyer personas is a key capability with high ROI when developed internally.