A customer persona is a fictionalized representation of a specific type of customer you are trying to reach and is used by businesses to guide marketing decisions and sales activities. Creating a customer persona involves researching and defining your ideal customer types, and then crafting a fictional persona based on your target marketing audience.
One of the most important aspects of creating a customer persona is having the right information so you can make informed decisions. Pipedrive lets you keep track of leads, customers, and deals, and also generates insights you can use to define your customer personas. Pricing begins at $12.50 per user, per month. Sign up for your free trial today.
What Is a Customer Persona?
Customer personas are a representation of your ideal, or target, customer. More than just a profile, a customer persona brings that ideal customer to life through a narrative description of their background, demographics, pain points, and ways you can address those pain points. It is used to guide your lead generation and marketing efforts and help you make decisions about qualifying and engaging with prospects.
Free Customer Persona Template
If all of this seems overwhelming, don’t worry. We created a template you can use to put together your customer personas. Use this downloadable PDF as a guide to help you think through the information you need to craft personas that will help you stay focused on your marketing efforts, but don’t be afraid to add information that affects your ideal customer.
How to Create a Customer Persona
Creating a customer persona doesn’t have to be complicated, but it definitely requires work to understand who is your ideal customer and what are their unique needs. We’ll walk through the steps to creating personas using our customer persona template as a guide.
Here are the six steps to create a customer persona:
1. Research Your Ideal Customer
Start by researching your very best customers. This doesn’t simply mean the customers who have generated the most revenue, though that’s certainly one aspect. More importantly, dive into the specific types of customers that are a good fit for your business. For example, if you are a business-to-business (B2B) sales organization, think more specifically about who within your customer accounts tends to be the best decision-maker for your products and services.
Two of the primary ways to begin researching your ideal customer include:
Look Through Customer Data
A good place to start researching your ideal customer is with your existing customer data. If you’re using a customer relationship management tool (CRM), you can generate reports that help you better identify common traits in customers who perform well. Specifically, this will give you information about the customer buying journey. You can find information about the types of roles that are common for your customer, their specific needs, and how you’ve addressed them previously.
Pro tip: CRMs like Pipedrive are a great place to find more information about the types of customers you currently sell to. Pipedrive lets you track deals as they move through your sales process, generate reports about customers and deals, and track your sales process. Pipedrive plans start at $12.50 per user, per month. Visit their website for more information.
Talk to Your Sales Team
No one has more insight into your customers than the people who interact with them on a day-to-day basis, and you should definitely include their expertise in your research. Ask them questions about the customers they have found to be a good fit, and more importantly, why. Talk to them about individual prospects that later became customers, and ask them to describe the buying journey, including the needs and pain points that they expressed.
Here are a few questions to get you started:
- What do your best customers have in common?
- What are some of the biggest challenges they face?
- What is their job title or role?
- What are their values or what is important to them?
- How did they first become a prospect or customer?
2. Identify Customer Segments
With the research you have done, you can start to identify different customer segments, or groups of similar characteristics. As you do, you can begin to cluster your customers into segments based on things like role, location, needs, and the products and services they purchase. The goal here is to identify groups of common customers that you can then represent with a customer persona.
As a best practice, don’t limit your efforts to only your best customers. It’s actually beneficial to try to come up with as many types of like-customers as you can, and later you can go back and determine which are the best representation of your ideal customer. In addition, this will help you identify “negative personas” that you want to avoid or disqualify during your marketing process.
3. Talk to Real People
Researching your customer data and talking with your front-line team are good places to start, but to really understand your customers and create effective personas, you’ll need to have conversations with real people. Ideally, you should identify a handful of customers who have a demonstrated fit with your business, and reach out to connect and learn more about who they are and what matters most.
While focus groups are often an effective marketing tool, for developing customer personas, I recommend more informal one-on-one conversations. When I was a field account executive, my team would often schedule informal appointments with some of our best customers over a cup of coffee as an opportunity to check in and strengthen the relationship. We would often learn far more about our customers in these settings than in any other part of the sales process.
Since you’ve already started your research and have grouped customers into different segments (at least in your mind), these conversations should be focused around testing what you’ve found so far. I recommend having a list of open-ended questions you can ask, but it shouldn’t feel like an interview.
You might say to a long-time customer, “I was curious, I know there are a lot of options in the market. So that I can better help other businesses like yours, can you tell me a little about how our solution has worked so well for you?” You’ll find out information about what they like, what they don’t, and how you are able to address their pain points. As an added bonus, you’ll also likely encounter areas where you can improve your process moving forward.
4. Complete a Persona Profile
Imagine you are writing a fiction book about one of your most valuable customers. How would you develop that character? Think about the qualities and characteristics they would exhibit. Think about their needs, desires, goals, and challenges. All of those are the same considerations you should give to your fictionalized customer persona. Our free downloadable template can be used to complete this step.
Specifically, think about the following aspects of your customer persona:
Your persona is more than a title or a role. There are any number of variables that contribute to who they are, and the better you can define those qualities, the better your persona will represent your ideal customer. For example, if you are creating a persona for “Dave the Purchasing Manager,” consider what education and work experience led to his current circumstances, and ask yourself what motivated Dave to pursue this particular line of work.
These are more generalized characteristics about your customer persona, like where they live, age, gender, income bracket, and job (if they are a consumer). The goal is to look at their overall life circumstances since that has a significant impact on their specific pain points and challenges. If you sell to customers in diverse areas, you’ll find that customers will have different needs based on their location, income range, profession, and even race or gender.
Personality & Preferences
It might seem strange to talk about your customer’s personality and preferences, but it’s what makes a “persona” personal. In fact, it’s a critical aspect of using a persona to inform your sales and marketing efforts, since it tells you about how you’ll best be able to connect.
If you’ve ever started to send out a customer email and said to yourself, “Well, Joe doesn’t really read emails, so I should probably give him a call,” you understand that personality and preferences play a huge role in the customer relationship process. Building those into your customer persona will help you make better decisions about how to connect with prospects in the future.
Whether your customer is an individual consumer or another business, they have specific objectives. Some of these may relate to your products or services, but ideally you will paint a more general picture of their goals. This will help you relate to what is most important to them, which is important in connecting with any prospect or customer.
For example, if you are a financial services advisor, you might create a persona for “Hank the Homeowner,” who wants to pay off his home, save enough for retirement, and have enough discretionary income to travel with his grandkids in the next four to seven years. Those objectives directly relate to your services, but even if you’re selling new roofs, knowing what Hank’s goals are related to creating value for his family will make a huge difference in how you approach him.
Whether your customer is a business or consumer, they have specific challenges and problems that presumably you are interested in solving. Identifying the pain points for each of your personas helps you better understand why they might be engaged with your marketing campaign. This helps you make decisions about what message is most likely to connect with your prospects and help them move further in the sales process.
If you identify a persona whose greatest pain point is finding a better way to help their kids eat healthy, your marketing to that persona might highlight the organic aspect of your product. On the other hand, if their greatest pain point is that they are trying to feed a family on a budget, your marketing message will probably focus more on the value and affordable nutrition provided by your product.
How You Can Help
The ultimate purpose of a customer persona is to identify and put in writing the specific ways that your business can address their specific pain points. Having this as an explicit part of your customer persona provides you with a solid reminder that you can use as you plan your sales approach. Different personas will have different needs, and therefore will benefit from different products or services, and it’s important to identify and understand each of these.
Don’t underestimate what a powerful tool this is for your sales team. While they should always engage in a needs dialogue to better understand the customer in front of them, a customer persona provides a valuable starting point for researching and approaching new prospects since it provides a framework for identifying their likely pain points and possible solutions.
5. Give Your Persona a Name & a Story
This is where you turn your profile into a story about a fictionalized person who represents your actual customers. Using the profile you’ve created, your job is to craft a narrative that brings your persona to life. This is an important step because it is what solidifies each persona in your mind and makes them more relatable. When you talk about your personas as your team creates marketing campaigns, you want to be thinking about them as if you know them.
For example, when my team was working on a new marketing initiative, it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone at the table say something like, “I don’t think that Susie the Solo Entrepreneur is really going to resonate with this message.” Eventually that simply became “Look, Susie isn’t going to care about that; what we really need to do is address her real pain point.” Susie had become a part of the conversation because she was real. She was our customer.
Ideally, your customer personas will become a natural part of the conversation in your business, and will help you make better decisions about how to most effectively attract the right kinds of customers. Giving your persona a name and a story takes them from an abstract idea and turns them into something tangible that you can act on.
6. Match Your Strategy to Your Personas
Translating these narratives into specific marketing activities is the final step of the process, but don’t overlook how important it is to take a look at what you are currently doing to attract customers through the lens of your newly created personas. It’s a waste of time to go through the effort of researching your customers and creating fictionalized personas, and then not actually implementing them into your marketing planning.
A few of the specific areas your personas should inform your strategy include:
- Where to focus marketing efforts: Once you know who your persona is, you can make decisions about what channels are most likely to reach them effectively, whether that is social media, digital ads, direct mail, or traditional advertising.
- What to say: Your customer personas should also help you decide which messages are most likely to resonate with your ideal customers. Tailoring your marketing message to specific personas increases the likelihood they will respond and become customers.
- Sales process: The overall customer journey should be clearer now that you better understand their needs, values, and background, and you should now adjust your sales efforts and overall process to match.
- How to measure: Because you have a better alignment between your customer personas and your marketing and sales efforts, you can match the way you measure performance to whether you are actually reaching those customers.
Example Customer Personas
To help you get started, we’re including a few example customer personas that represent what a finished product might look like. If you’re using the template provided, this would be what you would use for the “Customer Story” section.
Here are a few example personas for a digital marketing agency:
Susie the Small Business Owner
Susie started her own business because she wanted to do something she loves. She has always had the entrepreneurial spirit, and she worked hard to turn her passion into her own company. She works hard to balance her business and her family because she wants to build something that will last and make a difference in the life she provides for them.
As her business has grown, she’s added a handful of employees and her role has changed from doing most of the work herself into managing and developing a team. She’s had to learn these skills through trial by fire, but loves that her business is providing a place for others to share in her passion. Her biggest challenge is putting in place systems and processes that will scale as the business grows. She may not be tech-savvy, but she learns fast and isn’t afraid of change.
We can help Susie by taking her marketing efforts off her very full plate and handling her website, social media, and email marketing. We can serve as her marketing department and strategize with her on the best ways to reach the right customers. We’ll also make sure she feels like she is in control with regular check-in meetings to provide her with analytics and reporting on how our combined efforts are working.
Michelle the Marketing Manager
Michelle is a marketing manager at a large regional credit union. She has worked her way up from a summer internship five years ago, and now manages a team of five marketing specialists. Michelle studied graphic design in college, but quickly discovered that she loves the process of creating marketing strategy and campaigns. She also discovered she’s good at it.
Michelle is ambitious and dedicated to both her job and her company. She sees herself moving up, though she enjoys both her current work and her team. Michelle is married and both she and her husband work hard, but enjoy traveling and spending time with their Goldendoodle puppy. Her biggest work challenge is that she often feels like her team is expected to do more with limited resources, and several current team members are wearing too many hats.
We can help Michelle by partnering and filling in the gaps in areas like digital design and social media. We can also handle larger projects when they come up, letting her outsource work that they aren’t able to produce in-house, especially media production. Our experience working with other customers like her gives us the ability to help her make the kind of strategic decisions that will generate qualified leads and make her team look good.
Types of Customer Personas
It’s important to recognize that there are differences between the types of personas you would create for a business-to-business (B2B) sales organization compared to a business that primarily sells to consumers. While both types of persona are essentially a fictionalized individual representation of your target customer, one represents both the needs of themselves and their organization, while the other might be focused on their family or other personal motivations.
Here are three types of customer personas to keep in mind:
B2B Customer Personas
A customer persona at a business you sell to might represent a purchasing manager, an end-user, or a C-level executive. More than just a role, a persona represents the challenges they face in their business, and how you can help address their specific needs. As you create a persona, it’s important to understand the unique challenges and responsibilities faced by each, and how that affects their buying journey.
Consumer Customer Personas
This is a customer persona for an individual who is making a purchase for themselves or for their family. They aren’t making the purchase on behalf of an organization they are employed by, but rather for personal use. Different types of personas that fit in this category might include a homeowner, parent, or pet owner. If your business primarily sells to consumers, they help dial in the types of ideal customers you want to reach and create a narrative to help focus your efforts.
In addition to clarifying the personas you are trying to reach, it can be equally as valuable to articulate types of personas you wish to avoid. There might be a variety of reasons, but primarily you might identify types of customers who don’t perform as well over the long run. For example, you might determine that a specific type of prospect has a poor customer lifetime value (CLV), meaning that you might choose not to invest your marketing and sales resources on them.
There can be a variety of reasons, but usually it’s because you notice over time that certain types of prospects don’t end up being a good fit with your product or services, and you’re unable to effectively offer them a solution that matches their needs. Or sometimes it can mean that you have found that customers who have certain types of needs or challenges will be too expensive to service to be profitable to pursue.
Why Personas Are Helpful to Businesses
If I asked you what the typical needs are of a 64- to 80-year-old female living in a midwestern town, you might have no idea. If I asked you to think about your grandmother, it would be completely different. Customer personas are helpful because they bring to life in our minds a segment of our target market, and help us to stay focused on the marketing efforts that will best attract and convert them.
Understanding your customers through personas helps create a vivid picture of who you are trying to reach with your marketing or sales efforts. They help to filter out the noise and concentrate your efforts where you already know they will be most effective. For example, if you are a small photography studio that caters to family portraits, your persona might be of a mom with kids, and your marketing efforts would focus on how to reach her and meet her needs.
Here are a few of the benefits of using customer personas:
- Keep everyone on the same page: Once you’ve defined a customer persona, everyone knows who you are talking about when you refer to “Melissa the Marketing Manager” or “Steve the School Teacher.”
- They focus your marketing efforts: Small businesses have limited resources and have to choose wisely how they use them to market their products. Customer personas help make decisions about which efforts are likely to be most effective to reach their target.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What’s the difference between a persona & a profile?
A profile is a collection of information, and a persona is a fictionalized representation of an actual person. One way to think about it is that the profile is a list of information about someone, where the persona is the story of who they are and what matters to them.
How many customer personas do I need to have?
Very few businesses have only one, and you should create a persona for each of the ideal customer “types” you sell to. Think about organizing personas by product or service type so that you are matching your marketing efforts to the customers you are selling to for each.
Customer personas are a valuable tool, and the process of creating them will help your business clarify the types of customers you want to pursue with your marketing efforts. They provide your entire team with a touchpoint to use when considering new campaigns and evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing and sales process.
One way to measure whether your customer personas are effectively guiding your decisions is to evaluate your sales pipeline. Pipedrive is a CRM that lets you organize and move deals through a highly visual pipeline tool and gives you the ability to track your performance. Pipedrive plans start at $12.50 per user, per month. Visit Pipedrive to get started today.