Buyer personas are a crucial component of successful inbound marketing, particularly for the sales and marketing departments. After all, the marketing team needs to know to whom they are marketing, and the sales team needs to know to whom they are selling.
But once you sit down to craft your buyer personas, you may find yourself staring blankly at a white screen for some time, wondering where on earth you're supposed to begin.
Before you spend time and money on research, ask yourself these questions to help you develop your personas, and then use our free buyer persona template to share your personas with the rest of your company.
Creating Buyer or Marketing Personas? Ask These Questions
1) Describe your personal demographics.
Collecting demographic information is a great place to begin drafting your personas because it's easy to obtain and starts to paint a clearer, more personal picture of your customer. Are they married? What's their annual household income? Where do they live? Are they male or female? How old are they? Do they have children?
2) Describe your educational background.
What level of education did they complete? Which schools did they attend, and what did they study? Get specific here. "Boston University" is better than "liberal arts college."
3) Describe your career path.
How did they end up where they are today? Did they major in a subject that's very similar to or very different from their current role? Has their career track been pretty traditional, or did they switch from another industry?
4) In which industry or industries does your company work?
5) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?
Knowing details about your persona's company like industry, size, number of employees, and other details will especially help you when you're building the fields for your landing page forms.
6) What is your job role? Your title?
How long have they had this role and title? Are they an individual contributor, or do they manage other people?
7) Whom do you report to? Who reports to you?
The importance with which you should regard your buyer persona's job and seniority level certainly depends on the product or service you're selling.
If you're a B2C company, you may simply consider this information as another way to better understand nuances of your persona's life.
If you're a B2B company, this piece of information becomes more crucial. Is your persona at a managerial or director level, and well versed in the intricacies of your industry? They'll need less education than someone at an introductory level, who may need to loop in other decision makers before making purchasing decisions.
8) How is your job measured?
Which metric(s) is your persona responsible for? Which numbers or charts or waterfall graphs do they look at every day? This will help you determine what makes them successful, and what they might be worried about when it comes to "hitting their numbers."
9) What does a typical day look like?
What time do they get to work and what time do they leave? What do they do when they're most productive? What's their "busy work" look like?
This should include both the tasks they do for their job, as well as what happens during the day outside their job. Are they spending more time at work or at home? Where would they rather be? What do they like to do for fun? Who are the people in their life that matter most? What kind of car do they drive? Which TV shows do they watch? Heck, what outfit are they wearing? Get personal here.
10) Which skills are required to do your job?
If they were hiring someone to replace them and had to write a job description of what's actually required, what would it say? What are the ideal skills for this job, and how good is your persona at each of them? Where did they learn these skills? Did they learn them on the job, at a previous job, or by taking a course?
11) What knowledge and which tools do you use in your job?
Which applications and tools do they use every single day? Every week? Understanding what products they love (and hate) to use can help you identify commonalities in your own product (and adjust your positioning accordingly).
12) What are your biggest challenges?
You're in business because you're solving a problem for your target audience. How does that problem affect their day-to-day life? Go into detail, and focus on the nuances that illustrate how that problem makes them feel.
For example, let's say your company sells personal tax software directly to consumers. One of your personas may be a first-time tax preparer. What are the pain points of first-time tax preparers? They're probably intimidated by the prospect of doing their taxes by themselves for the first time, overwhelmed by a tax code they don't understand, and confused about where to start. These pain points differ from those of a seasoned tax preparer, whose pain points may be not knowing how to maximize the amount of their return and find creative loopholes for deductions.
Try coming up with real quotes to refer to these challenges. For example, "It’s been difficult getting company-wide adoption of new technologies in the past;" or "I don’t have time to train new employees on a million different databases and platforms."
13) What are you responsible for?
This goes beyond the metric(s) they're measured on. What's their primary goal at work? What about their secondary goal? Knowing these will help you learn what you can do to help your persona achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.
14) What does it mean to be successful in your role?
What can you do to make your personas look good? Companies that take the time to understand what makes their personas successful will likely enjoy more effective communications from both the sales and marketing teams.
15) How do you learn about new information for your job?
If you're going to market and sell to these personas, you need to understand how they consume information. Do they go online, prefer to learn in-person, or pick up newspapers and magazines? If they're online learners, do they visit social networks? To Google? Which sources do they trust the most -- friends, family, coworkers, or industry experts?
16) Which publications or blogs do you read?
In an effort to piece together how a typical day in their life runs, figure out where they regularly go to stay informed. If you know how they prefer to gather information, you can make yourself present in those spots and work on establishing credibility in those communities.
17) Which associations and social networks do you participate in?
You should be investing time and resources on social media marketing, but the question is: Which social networks should you be investing more time and resources than others? Identify the associations and social networks your buyers spend their time. Then, you can prioritize which accounts to create and which conversations to participate in.
18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors?
The experience of purchasing your product should align with your persona's expectations. What should their sales experience feel like? Is it consultative? How much time do they expect to spend with a sales person? Do they anticipate an in-person meeting, or would they rather conduct the sales process online or over the phone?
19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?
Again, which avenues are they using to find new information? Do they search online, look at review websites, ask their friends and family, or something else?
20) Describe a recent purchase.
Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?
If you can anticipate the objections your persona will have, you can be prepared for them in the sales process and perhaps even educate them in your marketing collateral to help allay fears right away. What might make them reticent to buy from you or any other provider in your industry? Is this their first time purchasing a product or service of your kind? If not, what caused them to switch products or services?
Once you've gone through this exercise and worked out any lingering questions about what makes your persona tick, browse through some stock imagery and find an actual picture to associate with your persona. Going through this exercise forces you to clarify an image of your target audience in your entire organization's mind that will help keep your messaging consistent.
Another useful exercise is to practice being able to identify your buyer persona so you can tailor your communications. How will you know when you're talking to this persona? Is it their job title? Something about the way they talk or carry a conversation? Their pain points? How they found your company? Once you've established not only who your persona is, but also how you can identify them when you encounter one or another, your employees will be able to maintain a consistent voice that is still customized to each person they talk to.
Then, use our free, downloadable persona template to organize the information you've gathered about your persona. Share these slides with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from the research you've done and develop an in-depth understanding of the person (or people) they're targeting every day at work.
Have you developed buyer personas for your company yet? What helpful questions did you ask yourself in the process that weren't included on this list?
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.