When it comes to the origin of your business, did you start with a product you were passionate about, a community you wanted to serve, or a problem you wanted to solve? There’s no right answer here. However, at the heart of every business is the buyer persona. Regardless of what inspired you to create your business, there’s a target audience you are serving, which is why learning how to create buyer personas is so important for long-term success.
What Is a Buyer Persona?
According to Shopify, a buyer persona is a fictionalized characterization of your best customer(s) based on information about them and how they use your products or services. It’s similar to an ideal customer profile (ICP), but in more of a narrative form. Buyer personas help marketing teams, product development teams, and entire companies work toward reaching and helping their target customers.
Rock Content has defined the variation between ICP and persona well:
The short and sweet of ICP vs. persona is that an ICP represents an ideal business that you want to sell to, while a persona is a detailed account of the people who could benefit from your products or services. Oftentimes, a persona will represent a specific buyer or decision-maker within your ICP.
Why Do Brands and Retailers Need to Create Buyer Personas?
Buyer personas have the potential to add purpose to everything a company does. Launching a new product? Which persona would buy it? Want to try a new advertising placement? Is your persona spending time on that channel?
Brands will likely have a few personas, and those personas will continue to evolve over time. This is an important point. So many brands will create personas when they first get started, and then fail to return to them. For example, you may have a “Sorority Sarah” as one of your personas. In five years, she’s not necessarily a sorority girl anymore. Or maybe you no longer cater to sorority sisters as much as you did years ago. The environment that the customer occupies is no longer the same, so what happens then?
The Step-by-Step Guide on How to Create Buyer Personas
Before you dive into this process, remember that creating a buyer persona is like writing a story for your target customer. Have fun! Also, this isn’t something that you can do alone, so grab a few people from different departments who represent different demographics and generations.
1. Gather the Data
As much as creating buyer personas is storytelling, you also need data to back it up. Remember, personas are likely representations of your ICP. You have data from your ICP, so start there.
Pull as many data points as you can. Are you able to see a customer journey from when they first entered your funnel? How long between first touch and purchase? Did they come to you from a social media channel? Based on their demographics, what’s the order volume? Amass as much data as you possibly can and have it on hand to tell your persona stories.
2. Brainstorm and Collaborate
This is the number one reason why we recommend getting a diverse group of people together to create these buyer personas. Successful brainstorming is when people can feed off each other for ideas. If you’re creating these personas by yourself, the process is limited to just one perspective. Go beyond what you think your buyer personas are.
Grab a big whiteboard or a ton of sticky notes. Start gathering the characteristics of your audience. Nothing is too small! Start by answering some of these questions:
- What social media platforms do they use most often?
- What age range?
- Gender identity?
- Are there certain websites (besides yours) that these people visit frequently?
- Married? Single? Partnered?
- Homeowner? Renter? Roommates? Live with their parents?
- Rural or urban or suburban?
- Do they have any pets?
- Are they likely to pay for vanity expenses (Botox, regular nail visits, spray tans, etc.)?
This seems counterintuitive to have a step that both gathers and separates. However, you’re grouping data (sticky notes, bullet points, whatever you used). Personas are most commonly separated by things like gender, age, income, etc. You can choose to separate them the way you see fit. Your lines may be drawn down the specific products they bought (think cat owners vs. dog owners), places they live, or even devices they use to purchase. When it comes to buyer personas, there is no wrong answer, there is only getting to know your people so you can better serve them.
The more robust your characteristics, the better picture you’ll get of these personas. Some brands even go so far as to assign photos to these personas for a visualization of the customers.
4. Name Them and Start Implementing
One of the fun things about buyer personas is getting to name them. These persona names are internal, so they can be whatever you would like. Some creative routes:
- Alliterations (see below)
However you choose to name each of your personas, be sure they’re easily communicated with the rest of the company. Create one-page profiles on these personas and have them be easily available to anyone who wants to look at them. This is part of the implementation process.
Every new initiative should address personas. Looking to write a new piece of content? Ask yourself which of these personas it will be written for. Want to release a new product or feature? Who will benefit and how? Never forget that your purpose is to connect and deliver products and experiences that resonate with your shoppers.
Yes, this step does require all caps. The world grows and changes every day, which means that your personas will change as well. If nothing else, just consider social media consumption over time. Personas created even three years ago likely didn’t consider the success of TikTok or the downfall of Clubhouse.
Your buyer personas are something you should always keep an eye on, but it’s generally something you can go back and dig into once a year. Any less frequently and you’re likely to miss out on key current event shifts. More frequently and it becomes a less-than-effective, cumbersome exercise.
How to Create Buyer Personas: An Example
This is 100% a fictional company, and this is a very high-level overview of what personas may look like.
THE COMPANY: House & Home
House & Home is a home goods business. For ease of understanding, let’s think of this brand as the Home Goods store/brand, but exclusively online. Thus, they sell a wide variety of home décor, furniture, candles, exercise equipment, etc.
Persona 1: Casual Carrie
Casual Carrie has the House & Home website bookmarked everywhere. She often browses the website, especially after a rough day at work. She is easily influenced by people on TikTok and uses the hashtag #tiktokmademebuyit more than she cares to admit.
Casual Carrie is somewhere between the ages of 27 and 42, most often on Instagram, but has a TikTok to follow others (she’s not much of a poster herself). She lives by herself (or with her family, but not with roommates). Casual Carrie, whenever she goes to Target, is likely to say, “Target told me what I needed today.”
Persona 2: On-a-Mission Maria
On-a-Mission Maria has been looking for that one item to complete a room for weeks. She knows that the House & Home website adds new products once a week and visits the website on those days. When she purchases that one item she’s been looking for, she’s also likely to buy additional items, but only if they’re on sale.
On-a-Mission Maria loves a good deal and will talk about the products and the sale on social media. She has the most connections on Facebook but loves following strangers for inspiration on Instagram. On-a-Mission Maria is somewhere between 35 and 58. While she is well established in her home, she is always looking for that special piece to add.
Persona 3: Present-Buying Patrick
Bless Present-Buying Patrick. He knows that his significant other can’t visit the House & Home website without finding something for their home. Thus, House & Home is their go-to store whenever they need gifts for each other or loved ones.
Present-Buying Patrick is easily influenced by the website homepage and any featured items. The order is almost guaranteed to have a gift-wrap add-on and ship to an address other than Patrick’s.
Persona 4: New-Home Natalie
New-Home Natalie is new to House & Home! She’s somewhere between the ages of 20 and 28, living in an apartment/townhouse/non-student housing. She’s very excited to be out on her own and is ready to decorate her new home with her friends. Her career is still in the early stages. She’s on a budget, so sales are her best friend.
New-Home Natalie is also still getting used to being on her own. She’s one to check out the exercise equipment to see if she needs anything new for the latest trending class. She constantly scrolls through TikTok and will probably make a time-lapse video of setting up her first “big girl home.”
Keep in mind that this is a very basic example of an entirely fictional brand. Buyer personas you create should be more detailed. They can be in bullet points or in paragraphs as we have above. There are no rules, so set yourself up for success by following whatever will be easiest for you.
In e-commerce, no two businesses are the same, even if you’re selling similar or identical products. This applies to everything from buyer personas to sourcing strategies to your tech stack, and everything in between. Differentiation is in the details. This especially applies to avenues of funding, which is why finding the right funding partner can make all the difference in your brand’s growth.