What’s the #1 way to improve your marketing and advertising? If you answered, “better creative” or “better targeting,” you’re only half right.
To improve your marketing, you need to ensure your message gets in front of your best prospects. And for that, you need an accurate, well-researched customer persona for each of your target segments.
Keep reading to learn five steps to create a customer persona that will take your marketing and advertising to the next level.
Let’s get started…
What Is a Customer Persona?
A customer persona is a fictional profile that represents your ideal customer for a product or service. Also known as a customer avatar, it helps you speak directly to your ideal audience, who they are, and what they care about. And that helps you create more effective ads at a lower cost.
The trick is to condense all your knowledge about your customer into a single profile.
How do you do that? You take a deep dive into your customer behavior, customer data, and market research.
Drawing from this information, you create a composite of the key identifiers that all of your best customers share in common. And if you have more than one segment that buys from you, you create a separate profile for each segment.
This persona then serves as a guidebook any time you’re writing a piece of content, planning a speech, or building an ad. It tells you who you’re targeting, not as a group, but as individuals. So it’s easier to talk to them in a way that’s relevant and persuasive — and get the results you need.
Why You Need a Buyer Persona
One of the biggest benefits of a customer profile is that it helps you understand and even empathize with your target audience.
It helps you identify:
- Relevant details about their lives, including their feelings and interests
- What sets them apart from the rest of the market
- What they care about
- Where you can connect with them
When you draw from your customer persona to create your ads, they’re more likely to include specific details that make your ideal prospect feel you’re talking directly to them. Your creative will “speak their language.” And that will help you connect with them on a deeper emotional level.
A good customer persona will also help you repel anyone who isn’t in your target audience. Weird as that may sound, it’s key to getting better results from your advertising.
No ad should attract everyone.
If that’s your goal, you’ll pay for clicks that don’t convert, and you’ll sell to people who aren’t good customers. Targeting everyone, you’ll have more complaints, higher refunds, and lower profits.
Instead, your goal should be to target only the people who you know will become long-term, satisfied customers. For that to happen, you must speak directly to that customer — and no one else.
That’s what your buyer persona does. It gives you the details you need to target your audience with pinpoint precision. It helps you build a business that’s relevant to the people who will buy more and buy often.
As a bonus, the research you do to build your customer persona will help you understand the real value of that persona. You see, a market may look big at first glance. But in practice, your potential market size is just 10–20% of the volume of your targeted queries.
But we’ll talk about that in a minute. Now, let’s start at the beginning…
How to Create a Customer Persona
There are two mistakes marketers make when they create a customer persona.
First, they fail to include concrete details that allow them to precisely target their ads. They name their avatar, give them a few identifiers, and then move on to other “more important” marketing activities.
Don’t make that mistake! Your customer persona is more than a marketing exercise. It’s your guide to product development, marketing, sales, and business growth.
Another mistake — even more common — is to forget that it’s not just about who you’re targeting. You also need to know who you don’t want to target.
That’s why we recommend creating two personas:
- A positive persona that gives you a 3D image of your ideal customer
- A negative persona that tells you who you don’t want to target
Here’s how you do this in five steps:
- Research your ideal customer for a positive customer persona
- Identify the traits of your worst customers for a negative customer persona
- Create a Quick Reference Sheet for both customer personas
- Use it to guide your business decisions, marketing, and advertising
- Use it to understand your market capacity and set priorities
Step 1: Create your positive persona
Your positive persona is a composite of the demographics and psychographics that describe your best customers.
Start with their demographics, the concrete details about the individuals you’re targeting and their socioeconomic status. What details do many of them share? What’s the typical age, income level, and lifestyle?
Once you know these commonalities, you can begin to build a profile for your “ideal” customer.
For basic identifiers, think about their:
- Marriage status
- Kids? Ages?
For their socioeconomics, describe the typical standard of living for your target audience:
- Job title
- Company size
- Disposable income
Now, move on to psychographics — the personality, values, interests, passions, and aspirations of your target audience.
First, look at where they get information, their favorite blogs, authors, events, etc. Then look at their favorite sites and activities for entertainment and down-time:
Finally, look at what their goals are. Here, you need to look at what they’re trying to achieve and what they want to avoid at all costs.
- What they want to avoid
- What they want (transformation, achievement, etc.)
To find these details, look at your customer data. Google Analytics, for example, will tell you the percentage of your traffic that’s male or female. It will tell you where they’re located, the browser they use, and the type of device.
The analytics in your marketing tools will give you tons of good information. But it won’t tell you everything you need to know.
For more details, do customer surveys or set up interviews with your best customers. The more you talk to your customers, the more insight you’ll gain and the richer your customer profile will become.
Once you’ve found the traits and identifiers for your positive customer persona, it’s time to profile the people you don’t want to target.
Step 2: Create your negative persona
Go through the same exercise, but this time, think about the people who aren’t going to be good customers. These are the people you want to exclude from your targeting.
As surprising as it may seem, you don’t want everyone to click on your ads. You only want to attract people who, once they click, are likely to buy.
That means you’re going to attract some people and repel others. That’s good. It’s the goal.
By creating a positive and negative customer persona, you’re able to frame your offers and ads to focus on your customer’s priorities, while not attracting other personas that aren’t a good fit.
But that’s easier if you’ve thought about who you aren’t selling to, your negative customer persona. So take some time to identify what these people look like. And then you’re ready for Step 3.
Step 3: Compile your research
Once you’ve got the demographics and psychographics for your positive and negative customer personas, it’s time to create a quick reference for them.
Create whatever type of document works best for you:
- Google Doc
- Tab on a spreadsheet
Start by giving your customer persona a name. Find a headshot of someone who looks like your typical buyer. Then fill out your document with the details you’ve gathered on them.
On one page, create your positive customer persona. On the next page, create your negative persona.
Tip: Create a separate quick reference for every segment you sell to.
Step 4: Use your personas to improve your marketing and sales
Save your profiles in a place where everyone on your team can easily find them. A Google or Dropbox folder, for example.
Then use them.
Connect every business objective to your customer persona. Your content should address their concerns and answer their questions. Your marketing and advertising should show up in the channels where they hang out. Your strategies and offers should be designed specifically for them.
Related: YouTube Advertising Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide
Step 5: Determine market capacity
You’ve created your Customer Persona. You’re using it to connect with your ideal audience. There’s one more thing you need to do to be able to develop a strong strategy for reaching that target.
You need to know how many people who fit your persona are in the market. You also need to know how much revenue your persona could potentially provide.
That’s going to help you prioritize projects and optimize your campaigns. For instance, if one segment can drive double the revenue, it should be your priority. On the other side of the spectrum, if a persona isn’t likely to drive much revenue, you need to ask yourself whether it makes sense to pursue it at all.
To find this data, you’re going to need to do some research. These sources should help:
- Open information from government
- Ready (paid or free) research on this topic
- The opinions of the experts in this area
- The number of queries in EPY search engines*
Tips for Creating Your Customer Persona
Creating a buyer persona is a simple exercise. But it does take time. Here are three tips for simplifying the process.
Tip 1: Use data, not your gut
If you don’t have a lot of data, you’ll need to do market research to find relevant details about your ideal customer. The easiest way to do that is to talk to people who are a good fit for your products.
Set up interviews. Send out a survey. Read comments and questions on blog posts and in forums that target your ideal customers.
Tip 2: Don’t overthink it
Don’t get bogged down by the need to get every detail right.
This isn’t a once-and-done project. The market will change over time. Your customer’s needs and desires will change. And frankly, you’re always going to be learning more about your ideal customers.
With that in mind:
- Start with what you know.
- Use research and testing to validate your data.
- Update your personas as new information arises.
Tip 3: Update your customer persona at least once a year
I know we just said this, but this is so important, it bears repeating. Because markets and people change quickly, you’re going to continually learn more about your ideal customers. So make it a regular practice to update your customer personas.
When you do your quarterly or annual planning, revisit them. Are they still accurate? Have you gathered more data on their demographics or psychographics?
Add any new information, and correct outdated details.
It’s easy to get lazy. And when we do, we start making assumptions about who our target audience is. Rather than focusing on our customers, we focus on ourselves: our products, our objectives, our ROI.
Generally, when we see a business struggling to make their ads work, it’s because they’ve slipped into these bad habits.
So we leave you with this: Remember your foundations. Business success starts and ends with your ideal customer.
Before you write a video script or lay out a landing page, create your customer personas.
Know who the wrong people are, so you can avoid targeting them. Then, stay engaged with your best customers. Continue to learn more about them.
When you speak their language, understand their hopes and fears, and see how they’re from everyone else in the market, your ads will reflect that knowledge.
That’s the goal. But it starts now, with your customer persona.