Why creating a customer persona is the most important thing to do for your business - and how to create the perfect one!
For any business, the most important thing is identifying your perfect customer. It should be your starting point for almost everything.
Lots of business owners create customer personas, customer avatars or buyer personas (they’re all the same thing!) when they start their business to describe their perfect customer.
Which guide they use has a massive impact on whether the finished document is useful or left to linger at the bottom of a drawer, filed away under “What was the point of that? Perhaps it’ll be useful one day!”
Here’s my guide to customer personas & how to create the perfect one!
What is a customer persona?
It’s a document that contains everything you know about your customer so that you can use it for reference in the future and share it with anyone you work with.
It’s usually written as a description of 1 person – your perfect customer.
It’s a fictitious representation of a person that helps you relate to them, get to know them and feel closer.
Why is it important to create, develop & use customer personas?
Your customers are real people.
Even if you sell to other businesses, you’ll still be dealing with the people who work there.
The better you understand your customers, the more you’ll adapt what you do to suit them. The more you fit their needs, the easier it is for them to choose to buy from you.
Keeping your eye on your customer helps you maintain your focus. You’ll be less distracted by new and shiny things because you’ll be working towards what your customers want and need.
You’ll be able to fine-tune your marketing efforts. Not only making sure you’re putting your marketing messages in the right place, but that they contain the right details to interest your customers, get them to know, like and trust you, and to keep them engaged in the long term.
Ever find that you’ve run out of inspiration for your content? Get your customer persona right and that won’t happen!
You’ll understand why they buy from you. The reason why your customers buy from you is more complicated than they need what you provide.
From your side, there are things like your brand and values, and whether they resonate with your customers.
From their perspective, their emotional drivers will be influencing their decision making. Whether they want to save time or money, increase their social status, be good parents and so on, all influence whether they buy from you.
Get your messaging right, create content that’s relevant and suddenly you’re a whole lot more attractive to them!
I wrote a blog about that – you can read it here.
I’ve said it before and you’ll hear me say it again (and again!) – your brand is more than just your logo! It’s more than your logo and your website! There’s a whole lot to it. A big part of your brand is where everything about your business overlaps with your customer, like a beautiful Venn Diagram!
When you understand your customers, you can improve your brand – bring it to life so that your customers can form an emotional connection with it. The stronger the bond, the more likely they are to buy from you because they like you, trust you and want you to succeed.
I’m a huge believer in the benefits focusing on your customer’s experience can bring. Getting intimately up close and personal with your perfect customer will enable you to design a tailored customer journey that they love, remember, repeat and recommend!
Ultimately your customer personas will increase your conversion rate because you’re creating a story about your brand, its products and services, that revolves around your customers, and why your products and services will help them achieve their goals.
How do you define your perfect customer for your persona?
If this is something you’ve not done before, or you’re thinking about moving into a new market, identifying the right customer can feel difficult.
There are 2 ways to tackle this:
1. Go with the numbers.
If you’re already in business, don’t want to change anything but need to improve your marketing – look at who your best customers are.
The ones that are a pleasure to work with, don’t quibble over things, pay on time and have bought from you repeatedly across the range of products or services you provide.
Then look at what they’ve got in common.
If you’re starting to sell a new product or service and are looking for a market for it, then market research is your best option.
Start with your competitors – get a feel for who they serve and who they don’t, along with what they do for their customers and what they don’t do.
From there work out what the opportunities are and who you’d like to work with.
Once you’ve got that tied down, measure the size and appetite of the market using a survey alongside market reports.
2. Go with your gut.
A lot of people just know who they are meant to serve.
Whether that’s because what they do makes it obvious – e.g. baby clothing, toys & equipment are going to be bought by expecting parents, parents of very young children & their friends and family.
Or they provide a solution that’s for a very specific audience – e.g. diet & fitness coaching for menopausal women.
You can’t be everything to everyone!
There is a group of people out there that are a perfect match for you, your brand and what you offer.
Sometimes you might find it hard to define them using demographics – facts about them & their life, like age, gender, education, income, and so on.
Don’t get hung up on that.
Look at what they do have in common!
It could be something they’re interested in, their beliefs and values, or their behaviour – something they do.
How many customer personas should you have?
Ideally, you want to create one for each type of customer you serve.
If you’re a small business owner and you believe you have a lot of different types of customer, you need to look at how much time and resource you have. You will run yourself ragged if you try to do this for everyone.
So what can you do?
I worked with a company that sold products to 8 different types of business. And for each of those types of business, there were small, medium and large businesses.
They saw each type of business as a type of customer, defined by what the customer did and the size of the business, which in turn influenced what products they bought and the service they received, and resulted in 24 different customer types.
Looking at it from a product range and product marketing perspective, that would work. They would be able to stock the right products and sell them to the right customers, in the right way.
But from a service and brand perspective, it was too granular.
Remember – people don’t just buy from you because you sell the product or service they need at the right price. And if they do, they’re unlikely to be a loyal customer; if someone else sells the same thing at a lower price you may lose them.
We wrote a list of each of the type of people that interacted with this company and created very top-level descriptions of them. It turned out that…
- For the small businesses, the person the company dealt with was the business owner.
- For the medium businesses, the people the company dealt with were the business owner, as the decision-maker, and employees as the ones who purchased products that were needed but didn’t have much influence on which company they bought from.
- The small & medium-sized businesses all wanted high-quality products, good prices, reliable delivery, to talk to people they knew & who knew them and their business.
- For the large businesses, the people were a mix of procurement, buyers and so on, whose job it was to negotiate the best deal for their employer, buying high volumes from a reliable supplier.
So from the original 24 customer types, we got down to 3!
- Small & medium business owners
- Buyers for large businesses
This was manageable and meant the company was able to focus on improving its marketing and customer experience.
What if your customers are only slightly different from each other?
You may find that you have customers that are largely similar but have a few key differences that may influence what they buy, how often they buy or their likelihood to respond to a marketing message aimed at your other customers.
In this case, begin with the most generic customer, then using that persona as your starting point change the relevant details.
An example of this would be a business coach who helps women create and scale their businesses.
She will have a customer persona for this female small business owner, and then change details for someone setting up their business, someone growing their business and someone scaling their business.
How do you create & develop your customer persona?
There are a lot of different methods to do this, there are even customer persona generators online.
You need to find one that you can work with and that will be a valuable tool to you in the future.
Here are some examples:
This one is like one I was shown by someone that bought a franchise and it was in the marketing pack. 8 facts and statistics about families with young children:
Advantages: based on facts so you learn more about your customers; quick to do.
Disadvantages: little detail to base marketing, or product and service design on, doesn’t go into the emotional side of the customer, no explanation about why these facts are going to be helpful or what to do with the information.
Probably a more familiar framework and contains an overview of a customer type:
Advantages: Brief, high-level information, good for sharing.
Disadvantages: Lacks depth of detail needed to create marketing campaigns, messaging & so on.
The output of a customer workshop and contains quite a bit of detail:
Advantages: More details than the example above, quick to do, captures key information.
Disadvantages: Some unnecessary information, how the information is used isn’t included, not enough information to use for marketing, product & service design.
What would I recommend?
Include information that you’re going to use or will be useful.
Go into as much or as little detail as you need to – the idea of this is to save you spending time thinking of things and remembering details later.
Leaving details open to interpretation, also leaves them open to misinterpretation – make sure you’re clear about the details and significance.
Stay with the facts and avoid stereotyping your customers!
The template I use with my clients includes:
- Describing their perfect customer as a person – facts, interests, behaviours, likes & dislikes, what drives their decision making
- Details of the business they own or work for if it’s B2B
- What they want & need vs. what my clients offer & how it helps
Think about the implications of what you’re adding, ask yourself…
“So what does this mean for my business?”
“Why is this important?”
“How can I use this information?”
Pick a picture that represents this persona
It helps bring this person to life even more.
I have clients that have their personas on their office walls and talk to them!
Use it & keep it up to date!
There is no point spending time and effort creating something if you’re never going to use it.
Your customer persona should be where you can see it. I have mine on my office wall so I can sense check my decisions, focus on what matters, get inspiration, jog my memory on days when I have brain fog…
Your customer persona should be a ‘living document’:
- It’s not carved in stone.
- Your customer will change – times, technology and trends move on and this will affect your customers, how they use your business and what they want and expect from you.
- Your business will develop – just as changes in the world will affect your customer, they’ll affect you too. You’ll also learn more as you go – about your customers, what you do and about yourself.
Whenever you review your business, your plans and so on, spend a few moments reflecting on your customers.
- What’s changed for them?
- Have they changed?
- Are the people buying from you the people you want? If not, why not and who are they?
Every time something changes, update your persona. Even if you don’t have time to go into the file and type it in, pop it on a sticky note and add it to your persona.