What Are Personas, Why Do They Matter, and How Do You Create Them?


Apple, it goes without saying, is one of the most successful companies on earth. With Bloomberg recently reporting it as the first company to ever be valued at $800 billion, it’s hard to imagine a world where Apple isn’t on top.

Before it became the technology giant we all know, however, Apple originally had trouble generating interest among consumers. Business Insider explained in its chronicling of Apple’s history that the company was near bankruptcy in the late 90’s.

Yet with the advent of the sleek minimalist designs and its patented software, Apple was able to build a reputation with consumers on its way to becoming the massive company that’s known the world over.

How has Apple been able to tap into the needs of the consumer so effectively? What makes the company’s loyal customers rush to purchase the newest iPhone and Mac rather than the Android or a PC?

Hubspot would contend that at least a portion of the company’s success can be attributed to the fact that Apple understands its buyers’ personas.

Understanding personas

Marketing personas, or the process of putting together a public persona, is usually talked about from the brand’s perspective.

However, you can’t frame your product in our current business climate without understanding your audience.

The secret is in the use of buyer personas.

Here’s what you need to know about personas, what they are, why they matter, and how you can use them for your own purposes.

What’s a persona?

In a piece titled “The Definition of a Buyer Persona (In Under 100 Words)”, Hubspot succinctly describes a buyer persona as a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers”.

From a company perspective, buyer personas are another way of looking at the motives, thoughts, and emotions of your ideal buyers without the guesswork involved in creating an outright fictional character.

Why do personas matter?

A lot of people say that the public is fickle and that at the end of the day there’s no telling what people are willing to buy. A persona makes it possible for companies to defy this common expectation.

For our purposes, however, we’re going to cover two of the main reasons why personas are so valuable to businesses.

1. Personas let you speak the language of your prospects

Picture a manufacturer who specializes in selling steel-toed work boots directly to consumers. What types of individuals would be in the market for a product like that?

Probably construction workers as well as oil rig and other labor workers.

So if the company knows that it’s looking to sell steel-toed boots primarily to employed skilled labor workers who want to be safe at the worksite, it wouldn’t make sense for advertisements to stress how fashionable the boots would be at a high society function.

This is because it’s possible to have a high demand product that won’t sell because of how the company is presenting its product. A persona allows your company to figure out how to phrase things in a way that resonates with its audience.

Empathy maps are a valuable tool to that end. We’ll talk more about them later.

2. They help you understand your buyers

Whether it’s fishing for votes or impressing more shareholders, brands ought to emphasize themselves and what they have to offer.

Sometimes it just comes down to forgetting that the buying public is comprised of individuals. They’re people with reasons and motives for conducting their lives the ways they do and nobody wants to be treated like a means to an end.

A persona allows you to put yourself and your brand into the shoes of your customers. Making inroads with clients often comes down to understanding the thoughts and feelings of your target demographic.

How do you create a persona?

Okay. So we’ve covered what personas are and why it’s useful to have one. The next step is creating a persona that your company can use. Over time you’ll eventually establish your own workflow when it comes to persona development, but here’s a quick process to get you started on the right foot.

1. Segment your audience

As many brands have learned the hard way, buyers can technically be in the same general age demographic but still have wildly different personalities and expectations. What resonates with one group isn’t necessarily going to work with the other.

Case in point, an enthusiastic shoe shopper, a reluctant shoe shopper, and the loved one of either shoe shopper are all relevant to your marketing needs. However, these individuals aren’t necessarily all going to respond to the same types of advertising.

This is why before you create a persona, it’s often suggested that you segment your audience into identifiable groups. Typically this means that you’re looking at 3 – 5 personas.

2. Listen to your audience

This is the “market data” part of Hubspot’s buyer persona definition from earlier. Imagine hours of work and planning into your persona only to discover that you aren’t saying anything that your audience wants to hear.

How do you find out what the customers want and need? Well, you ask them.

Here are the best tools at your disposal for that.

i. Interviews and surveys

If you want to find out what customers want straight from the horse’s mouth, interviews and surveys are invaluable tools.

Although on paper they may appear to accomplish the same tasks, companies should make a point to have a certain number of interviews during the research phase. The reason for this is the reality that over 50% of communication is non-verbal.

The smaller details about your customers, such as, what they think, how they feel, and tone of voice, are things that you won’t pick up from a survey.

ii. Google Analytics

Another way to build a profile of customer behaviors and preferences is to take a look at the analytics of your current customers. Everybody knows about how Google offers data on the traffic you get. However, few people are aware of how Google allows you to get additional demographic information.

Have you ever wondered how old your customers are and what their interests are? How do the active buyers and searchers for your term compare with how others are browsing and checking your material out?

Snap Tech offers a really insightful overview of what building a persona through Google Analytics looks like.

iii. Social media

Sometimes businesses have to contend with customers being indecisive or unconsciously dishonest. This is especially true in situations where the problem the company solves is particularly embarrassing for the consumer.

If only there was a venue that allowed you to see what people were thinking and looking for, without any filters.

Luckily for today’s companies, social media makes it possible to do exactly that. As Chicago Now explains it, social media is not only capable of offering insights into your audience. It’s also possible to build an entire persona through social media by carefully scanning customer profiles and collecting useful data.

3. Have a template

In 2016, Forbes published an interesting article entitled “Why Consistency is the Key to Successful Branding”. You can read it for the full nuances, but the gist of it is that consistency from the perspective of the consumer is how brands can differentiate themselves and build trust even in competitive industries.

This is relevant when building personas because if the final persona is inconsistent or if customers are consistently being treated without regard to their needs as individuals, then the persona exercise hasn’t done what it’s supposed to.

A template during the persona-building process will streamline the marketing process while also putting everything together in a single, digestible format.

4. Connect the dots for your personas

This step is where the magic happens.

The reason why mind maps are so effective is that they don’t just explain the “what” of a situation. They encourage an understanding of the “why”.

Empathy maps can be used the same way at the beginning of your marketing process to create personas efficiently because they provide an intuitive means of understanding the feelings and needs of your users.

UX Pin claims that an empathy map can help you build a persona in 10 minutes. We’re not sure if you can replicate that speed, but an empathy map will certainly help you speed your persona creation up.


How would better conversions change your company outlook?

What kind of a difference would more consumer trust and engagement make for your brand?

A buyer persona will allow you to speak to would-be customers while maintaining brand consistency, adopt the language of your audience, and craft a marketing plan with laser precision.

Whether you’re marketing music or new software, excellent marketing in the 21st century comes down to how well your brand can connect with users. A buyer persona is a proven means of accomplishing exactly that.

About the author

Matt Naus

I have been building web applications and other digital products for more then a decade. Currently on an exciting journey discovering the ins and outs of content marketing while growing my newest business. Dedicated to helping digital agencies and entrepreneurs around the world succeed!

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