How well do you know your ideal customer?
What makes them tick? Or rather, what gets them to click and buy your products?
An informed buyer persona (sometimes called a customer avatar or audience profile) is an evolving asset that keeps your marketing efforts focused—from your branding to your social media content to your ad targeting—on your target audience. What was once an exercise generally practiced by large companies, is increasingly useful for smaller online retailers.
To maximize your return on investment (ROI) when you invest in paid ads or content, it helps to have a clear target customer profile. Because if you’re selling to everyone, you’re selling to no one. That’s where a buyer persona, like the one we’re about to show you how to build from start to finish, can help you sell more effectively to someone who’s likely to buy from you.
Start building your own buyer personas 📇
- Define broad buyer personas
- Identify useful details about your buyer persona
- Research your buyer personas
- Bring it all together into a buyer persona profile [downloadable template]
- Translate your buyer persona into business decisions
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a fictional, generalized character built to represent your ideal and largest target markets. They usually encompass not only demographic information like age, location and income, but also psychographic information like interests and motivations and concerns in their purchasing decision.
Buyer personas are usually presented as a quick summary of this demographic and psychographic information with a fake name and (stock photo) face to make it easier to recall and reference the persona in your decision-making process.
The benefits of buyer personas
As the internet becomes more crowded over time, marketing is less about making the most noise and more about saying the right things to the right people at the right time.
Buyer personas offer an easy-to-reference resource for you, your team, and any external people you work with to be on the same page (in the same book your target customer reads, so to speak).
A detailed buyer persona allows you to:
Be more intentional with your ad targeting
New customer targeting tools have enabled businesses to run tailored campaigns based on an ever-growing list of various demographic and psychographic traits.
Paid advertising now allows for an incredible degree of advanced targeting based on information like location, age, language, education level, and interests, which you can include, exclude, and layer on top of one another to show ads to a specific audience—even with a small budget and a new online store.
Prioritize the marketing channels that matter
A common trap in marketing is to try to be everywhere with your brand, spreading yourself and your resources thin across several channels. When your buyer persona includes where your target customer spends their time, it’s easier to determine which channels to focus on and—more important—which channels not to focus on.
Ensure your copywriting, design, and content resonates with your audience
When you know who your audience is, you can write sharper headlines, feature imagery your customers see themselves in, and produce content they’ll find helpful, entertaining, or inspiring.
Couple that with the ability to target your audience based on traits like where they live, what industry they work in, and what type of entertainment they enjoy, and you increase the chances your brand reaches and resonates with the right people.
Make your team’s communication impactful
The research you do to understand your customer shouldn’t live in a single person’s head, or be distributed across several lengthy docs. A buyer persona profile consolidates all the need-to-know information about your target customer into a page or two. You want it to be useful to everyone in your business—from marketing to support—who has to know how to sell to your customer.
For example, support teams can now anticipate barriers to purchase like a prerequisite for using the product or a secondary language that needs to be incorporated to reduce customer pain points.
Note: Your customer personas will evolve over time
When you’re creating personas for a brand new business, much of your buyer persona may be based on broad market and industry research supplemented by personal thoughts, feelings, and hunches. As you learn more, don’t forget to go back and continually refine your buyer personas with new insights and feedback as you interact with customers over time.
How to Build Buyer Personas
1. Define broad buyer personas
To begin defining your buyer personas, you’ll want to start by being as broad as possible before drilling down into specifics. Most businesses have multiple buyer personas, so feel free to separate distinct customer types into their individual profiles.
As an example, let’s start a fictitious online business that sells dog food, called Sally’s Dog Food.
Because we manufactures our own dog food, we can assume two potential customer groups from the jump:
- End customers. People who might buy dog food for their own use.
- Wholesale accounts. Other businesses that may want to sell our dog food in their own retail and online stores.
Now that we have two very broad buying groups, let’s break them down further.
Depending on the type of product you’re selling, you may break down your personas differently. However, in this particular case, we will divide the customer groups into two distinct personas for each type:
- Dog owners who want to buy kibble for their canine companion.
- Veterinarians who stock and sell dog food for their clients.
Now that we have all of our initial buyer personas broadly defined, it’s time to identify the key details we need about them.
2. Identify useful details about your buyer personas
There are a lot of angles to approach customer research from, but stick to intel you’d actually use to make business decisions. You don’t need to know their favorite color or what they order at Starbucks to sell dog food.
Since Facebook is one of the largest ad networks around it has a lot of audience targeting options that can be mapped one-to-one with your ideal customer profile. This makes Facebook ads a great place to start looking for customer persona demographics and psychographics to define.
Here are some of the most common traits included in buyer persona profiles:
- Location: Where do they live? Where do they not live?
- Age: What is their general age range?
- Gender: What is the mostly likely gender of this customer?
- Interests: What interests and hobbies are relevant to your product?
- Education: What is the education level of this persona? If relevant, what did they study in school?
- Job title: What’s their field of work and what types of job titles do they carry?
- Income: What is the income range and purchasing power of this buyer persona?
- Relationship status: Are they single or married?
- Language: What languages do people in this persona speak?
- Favorite websites: What websites related to your products do they frequent?
- Buying motivations: What is their primary reason for buying your products?
- Buying concerns: What might keep them from buying your products?
Keep in mind you don’t need to answer all of these questions about each of your personas. You may even opt to answer different questions altogether. The goal is to understand your customers so you can communicate with them more effectively.
3. Research your buyer personas
Of course, you should populate your buyer persona with informed intel by drawing upon primary or secondary data and conducting market research, such as interviewing prospective or current customers.
Data can be a treasure trove of insights about your customers, and the best part of it is the more customers you have, the better your data becomes. But there is also value in hearing about your customers’ preferences from your customers themselves.
Here are some great places to look for insights about your ideal customer.
Your own analytics
If you use analytics tools like Shopify Analytics Dashboard or Google Analytics, you can find really cool metrics and information, like what languages your customers speak, which browsers they use, how they found your store, their ages and genders, whether they’re first-time or returning visitors, how often they visit your site, how much time they spend on it, and even what devices they use.
With Shopify apps like Shop Sense, you can also generate specific personas for individual buyers based on what they browse, search for, and purchase on your website.
Facebook Audience Insights
If you’ve been selling on Facebook and growing an audience there, Facebook Audience Insights can be a great place to conduct audience research.
Beyond analyzing your existing following using this tool, it’s useful for building prospective audiences and getting a more detailed picture of their demographic and psychographic profile.
Another method to help you fill in the blanks of your buyer persona is looking at established competitors, especially if you’re still early in your business.
SimilarWeb is a free tool you can use to analyze the traffic of your competitors to understand their audience.
Market Explorer by SEMRush is a paid option that allows you to study the top businesses in your related industry and learn about the types of users that interact with your competitors.
You can also try visiting your competitors’ blogs and social media pages. Dive into the people who are commenting and interacting with their posts. You can click through to their profiles and learn a lot about them.
Surveys and customer feedback
Quantitative insights are always nice, but to understand your persona’s psychographics, your best bet is to talk to your existing customers.
The most effective way to do this research at scale is to survey your target market with a tool like Survey Monkey or hop on a call with prospective customers.
Since they’ve already purchased from you, understanding what motivated them to purchase and their biggest concerns can help you effectively communicate with people similar to them.
Customer surveys are an excellent way to ask more in-depth questions and get into the minds of your existing customers. Apps like Fairing let you send out post-purchase surveys to your customers.
You can even reward users with incentives like free shipping or gift cards to encourage more people to fill out the surveys. This approach works really well with questions that dig into customer buying motivations, such as “Would you recommend this business to a friend? If so, why?”
Who knows more about your customers than the people that interact with them the most? If you manage a team, talking to support or sales about customer pain points, goals, and common behaviors can give you info about your customers closest to the point of purchase.
The majority of customer support tools store a conversation log and collect customer satisfaction ratings. Digging through support conversations and identifying pain points and patterns with your customers can lead to crucial persona information, especially in identifying barriers or challenges customers are experiencing.
4. Bring it all together into a buyer persona profile
Armed with quantitative and qualitative research and the details you want to prioritize in your profile, you’re ready to pull it all together and bring it to life.
You can download our free persona template to organize the information you’ve gathered.
We’ll be filling it in with our earlier example of Sally’s Dog Food, but fill yours in with what you anticipate your ideal buyer might be and what traits you need to cover.
Name: Chloe the Veterinarian
Age: 30 years old
Lives in: US
Education: Undergraduate degree
Relationship Status: Single
Job: Veterinarian, owns her own storefront
Role in purchase decision: Makes all purchasing decisions
Biggest challenge: Finding quality dog food to sell at a great price for both her and her clients
Aspirations: Wants to open up a new location within the next year
Online behavior: Spends time on Instagram and TikTok but dislikes LinkedIn
Favorite brands: BarkBox and Whole Foods
Content consumption: Video content (especially cute dog and cat videos 🐱🐶)
You can give your persona a name and assign it a stock photo so the attributes come to life, but the details are what matter most.
This template is just a starting point—add any additional categories you need. Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10.
The amazing part is even though we went in depth with our buyer persona, there are thousands of “Chloe the Veterinarian” personas out there we can now market to more effectively and have a lot more empathy with.
5. Translate your buyer persona into business decisions
With a defined buyer persona you can power marketing decisions with your ideal customer in mind.
Let’s take Chloe the veterinarian as an example. We can translate our buyer persona into specific marketing tactics like:
- Targeting audiences who list veterinarian as their job title on Facebook, or tapping into the alumni networks for big veterinarian schools
- Focusing on building a presence and posting content suited for Instagram and TikTok
- Deprioritizing LinkedIn, even though it is a popular channel for selling to other businesses
- Identifying expansion signals like opening up new locations that require new inventory as an opportunity to be relevant to Chloe
- Creating comparison pages or sales collateral to show we come out on top against competitors when it comes to “quality for price”
- Looking up a directory of veterinary clinics in the area and cold calling them or dropping in with samples.
As you can see, not only does our buyer persona help us prioritize channels and tactics, but it also tells us how to effectively communicate with our ideal customer.
Buyer personas lead to more focused businesses
Your buyer personas will likely change as you learn new information about your customers, and you may even discover entirely new buyer personas as your audience grows.
With up-to-date buyer personas, decisions about who to target and how to communicate with them become easier for your team. When you use personas you can expect increased engagement on your social media channels to a greater return on investment (ROI) for your online ads.
Taking the time to define your buyer personas can help your business succeed by understanding the customers most likely to buy from you.
How to build buyer personas FAQ
How is a buyer persona created?
A buyer persona is created by identifying patterns amongst your ideal customers that can be used to help you seek out and sell to more people like them.
What is the first step of building your buyer persona?
The first step in building your buyer persona is to identify who your best customer would be. That is, the person who requires the least amount of effort and convincing to buy.
How long does it take to create a buyer persona?
It can take several hours to do the research and interviews necessary to create a useful persona, but a buyer persona is an evolving document you should be regularly updated over time.
What are the basic elements to consider when creating a customer persona?
You should consider demographics (e.g., age, gender), psychographics (e.g., interests, politics), and their motivations and hesitations in purchasing. Above all, you should only include information that you feel is relevant and can be acted upon in your marketing.