How to Build a Buyer Persona

Buyer personas can be the best or worst marketing activity you undertake this year.

When done correctly, buyer personas help you understand your clients (and potential clients) better. This will make it simpler for you to produce content, campaigns and products/services to meet the specific challenges, behaviors, and worries of your target audience.

There are five areas that you really need to consider when building your buyer personas. If you breeze through these, you’re guaranteeing poor performance. But dig in and put in the work and you’ll set yourself up for success.

#1 Base Your Ideal Persona Based on Real Customers You Already Love

Some business owners have entered into the Buyer Persona creation process with a pre-determined, fabricated idea of an ideal customer that they’ve actually never met before.

This kind of beginning immediately puts them on the wrong path.

The secret to building effective buyer personas is building them based on your real customers.

And the strongest personas are those based on real research and insights that you gather from actual conversations you’ve had with actual customers.

If you are a service provider, ask yourself:

  • Which clients do I enjoy working with?
  • Which clients energize me, and which drain me?
  • Which clients pay on time?
  • Which clients are most profitable?
  • Which clients send referrals?

If you are marketing a product, ask yourself:

  • Which customers get the most value out of my product?
  • Which customers are repeat customers?
  • Which customers provide positive feedback?
  • Which customers leave positive reviews and interact on social?
  • Which customers have the greatest ROI?

When you take time to review your existing client base in this way, you will quickly come to realize the types of customers you want to be doing business with. Once you have this group of people in your mind, then you can begin defining a customer segment based on them.

#2 Define Your Customer Segment Based on Your Ideal (Real) Customer

A common mistake new business owners make is believing that they can be all things to all people. Or thinking that their product appeals to all people.

Your product or service will never appeal to all people. We know that at least 30% of people will never be interested in your offer (no matter what).

You will never win them over. Trying to do so is a waste of time.

The fact is, your offer can be much more appealing to a certain definable group of people rather than to all people.

The key word? Definable.

In marketing, we define a certain group of people using market segmentation.

There are four types of market segmentation.

  1. Demographics – anything that is factually true about a group of people, i.e. age, sex, race, etc
  2. Geographics – where they are located
  3. Psychographics – their attitudes, interests and opinions
  4. Behavioral – their actions

Use these segments to list out all of the things that your group of ideal customers have in common.

Start with each segment type individually, then begin stacking them. This will give you the most effective customer segments.

#3 Understand Your Customer Segments’ Before & After States of Mind

At its core, marketing is not complicated.

As a marketer, it’s your responsibility to develop messages that help your prospects move from the “undesirable” to the “desirable.”

Ryan Deiss, founder at, created a great tool to help you do just that. It’s called the “Before and After Grid.”

You should use this tool to help you dig deeper into your customer segments’ pain points, challenges and where they are looking to be in the future.

If your product or service does what it promises to do, then your customer’s life should be better after they use it.

Your job as a marketer is to build out messaging that empathizes with the customer’s before state of mind (i.e. challenge, pain point, anxiety, fear, etc.) and show them a vision of the future that overcomes whatever it is they’re facing.

You should know the answers to the following questions:

  1. What do your potential customers have now? What don’t they have?
  2. What are they feeling now? What do they want to feel?
  3. What’s their average day like?
  4. What is their status? How might their status change after your product/service?

Can you see how all of this needs to come from your real-life customers?

If you’re making all of this up, then you’re not doing your job. And you’ll never be able to advance to the next step.

#4 Know Where to Find Your Future Customers

Once you understand your potential customers’ pain points, then you will begin to uncover their touchpoints.

A touchpoint is a point of contact between a business and its customers or potential customers.

As a marketer, you have to know where to go to find your customers. If you don’t know, then you’re just throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks.

This misguided approach will eventually catch up with you.

It takes, on average, 77 touches for a prospect who is unfamiliar with your business to begin to think about taking a desired action.

At the same time, 70% of the buying decision is made up before a prospect ever decides to call, visit or fill out your online form.

This means the buying decision is happening at the touchpoints. To take advantage of this buyer behavior, you’ll want to make sure you are communicating your value proposition at every potential touchpoint.

#5 Make it Real

The final step to ensure that your buyer persona creation process is effective is to make it real.

This means you should go so far as to downloading a real photo from a real customer and using their real name.

Remember, your buyer persona is the personification of your customer segment. Your customer segment is a list of commonalities that your favorite, most profitable customers share.

By using one of your real customers as the face of your persona, you instantly make it personal. And that’s what it’s all about.

A made-up persona like “Sally the Shopper” or “Mike the Marketer” is a waste of your time, energy and resources.

We use our friend Russ Henneberry’s Customer Persona Canvas to visualize everything we know about our Buyer Personas. We suggest you use it too. Russ and the team over at Modern Publisher are experts in the space. Here’s a direct link to their worksheet.

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