Developing Buyer Personas

Learn 7 Key Approaches to Developing Buyer Personas

Table of Contents

Want to Know What a Buyer Persona is?

A buyer persona is a fictional, generalized character built to represent your ideal customer profile. They usually encompass not only demographic information like age, location and income, but as well, psychographic information, such as interest and motivations and concerns in their decision making process.  While they are very similar to your customer persona, they somewhat different.  Let's dive in and learn more about the process of creating personas.


Need to know where to start in developing your buyer personas?

Have you ever heard of the Gillette model of almost giving away the razor but selling the blades? 

Or have you ever noticed that while the price of printers continues to drop and their functionality continues to improve, the cost of ink remains stubbornly high? 

Perhaps you travel frequently, as I do, and have wondered why most airports are basically uncomfortable, yet the business lounge is usually ok, even has a few perks, like "free food" or drinks. 

These are actually sales models that came out of deeply understanding what makes someone buy a product or service.

Buyer Persona and Sales Process

Aligning Your Buyer Persona to Your Sales Process is Critical


These are all well known classic sales models, yet when they were developed, it was regarded as a revelation.  


Yet, consumers change constantly, and thus, these models of buyers and their habits must also change. 


Companies that fail to detect a change in their customers 'buyer persona', stand a good chance of being blindsided, perhaps eliminated from the marketplace.


Business Strategy Must Be Constantly Revisited


Take the Blackberry, sometimes called the crackberry by dedicated users. 

It now finds itself on the block, having been blindsided by first the iPhone and then the iPad, and many competitors, and suffering from device quality issues.   


They completely missed the shifting sands of their consumer base.


Perhaps even Microsoft, with a couple of flops on its hands, could stand to learn to listen a little better to their customer


More Effective Listening Strategies


But how might they do that?  What sensors are out there and how could you use them to best advantage.  What are the first steps or techniques they can take toward developing their buyer persona(s)?


There are several obvious ones, and a few not so obvious:


  1. Long Tail Keywords.

    At the top of the list, at least in terms of the internet, has to be researching long tail key words, or rather, long tail keywords, using tools such as CRM, google keyword planner, or Hubspot's keyword tool, which combines data streams and provides additional information about searches.

    Google Analytics - if you already have your site up and running, and it is receiving organic traffic, Google Analytics will tell you which search terms your potential clients are using when Google decides to surface your website in response to their queries.

    Ask Your Sales Team - The first step this author always take, if it is an existing business, it is to have a chat with sales and marketing team.

    Talk to Customer Support - Another great source of customer insight, is your customer support team.  They will have heard about every single problem your existing customers may have experienced

  2. Surveys

    There are a number of good online tools to run surveys with, such as survey monkey.  The trick is designing an effective survey.  Many top consumer products companies would never have heard from their customers that they wanted what was about to hit the market.

    Market Research using paid surveys can be very effective at uncovering your buyer personas.  The challenges are many with this approach, starting with designing effective interview questions.  But a well designed and conducted survey can be invaluable uncovering customer pain points, what they do in their free time and even collecting real quotes from clients during the interview process.  

    Build Rapport:  One the key skills of an effective market researcher, indeed, of anyone who needs to deal with other people, is the ability to establish and maintain good rapport.

  3. Field Research

    This can range from people hired to stand in a location, such as a mall or train stations and taking notes (cameras, iffy these days) to conducting meetings with key customers, prospects or even random strangers.

    1. Analyzing Demographic Data. 

      For example, you might decide to distinguish between B2B and B2C or B2G, (Business-to- Business, Business-to-Consumer, Business-to-Government) to first decide “what” type of Business environment your consumer lives in.

      In the case of the B2B model, you might then decide to focus on the size of a Business, for example, small, medium and large, or by revenue range, <$10,000,000.00, >$10,000,000.00 to $100,000,000.00, >$100,000,000.00 to $1,000,000,000.00.  

      Why might these numbers be useful?  One way is to assign them to different sales channels. 

      Direct vs. Indirect or Channel.

  4. In the case of the B2C model, you have a huge number of possible data points, but not all of them will be useful to you in your sales process design

    Just a few of the possible demographic characteristics you could consider and possibly find data on include:

  • Disposable Income Level
  • Job Title
    It is a good idea to list various Job Titles that all turn out to mean the same Job.
  • Zip Code
  • Educational Level
  • Past and Current Jobs
  • Marital Status
  • Age Range
  • Hobbies
  • Generation, i.e., Baby Boomer, Depression era, Gen y, x, millennials, etc.
  • Social Media Channels

B2G or C2G.

The government buyer has many characteristics to consider, but the most important one may be simply that they are generally highly constrained by procurement rules. 

Sales Process for Government Customers

Essentially, the U.S. government, and perhaps others, at least on the surface, have put in place procedures to defeat the 'civilian' sales process
Nevertheless, they have a large budget, and if you don’t mind “death star’ class paperwork, then they may be worth pursuing. 

Or not. 

What are some typical characteristics of the government buyer:

  • Usually needs to buy off a GSA (General Services Administration) “Schedule” if possible.

  • You still need to find the right person to sell to, but the buying will generally be handed off to a procurement department to try to get the best price and ensure compliance with an almost infinite number of procurement rules (Federal Acquisition Rules), which have been largely designed to keep the small business out of the government’s business, though that won’t be obvious. 

    The upside is that some government business is set aside for various classes of small and disadvantaged business, but if you're one of these, you will find you are forced to invest far more in ‘compliance and reporting’ than you would in a B2B sales process.

  • The above means you have to build a relationship, as in any other sales process, but it won’t quite play out the same way as far as doing the deal is concerned.

Why Develop a Buyer Persona?


You might wonder why you need to develop a Buyer Persona?  Or even how to create a buyer persona.  Glad you asked.


Marketing Strategy Depends on It

One of the key reasons you need to develop your Buyer Personas is that they form a key part of developing an effective marketing strategy


Importance of an Informed Buyer Persona

An Informed Buyer Persona (also called a a customer avatar or target audience profile) is a living document.  It should evolve constantly, both as you learn more about your customer and as your product or service changes over time.  Changes affect your understanding of your customer's journey.


Customer Journey Driven Marketing Strategy

Marketing strategies can be fairly complex, when you consider that they must address your customer's pain points, across multiple channels, such as social media, the web, radio and even TV.  

Today's Complex Customer Journey


Your customer behaves very differently today than they did just 20 years.  Not that long ago, they relied heavily on the sales person, and above all, on recommendations from friends and family and colleagues. Now, they may visit your website multiple times, consume many blog posts that you publish, and almost certainly, they will check you (LinkedIn, in all likelihood, but possibly other social media profiles, such as Facebook) and your company out on social media.  This makes it very difficult to tease out just what pain point your buyer personas are actually trying to solve.  That's why you need a marketing plan that has, as its foundation, profound knowledge about your product or service and what benefit it provides to your buyer persona.

Content Marketing Plan Alignment

Due to the complexity of today's customer journey, your content marketing plan must align with both your buyer persona, your marketing and sales funnel design and the expected touch points of your buyer's along each step of their journey.  Due to the complexity of this process, we have developed buyer persona templates to cover most scenarios which can also be easily modified to suit our requirements.


Content Delivered at the Right Time


A key functional requirement of your Inbound Marketing Platform, typically the Hubspot Marketing Suite, is the ability to deliver the right content at the right time. That's why Advanced Inbound Marketers understand the importance of having in place all of the various tracking codes necessary to listen to the signals the your potential buyers are giving off.  For example, Facebook Audience Insights require that you have both the Facebook Pixel installed and in all likelihood, a number of events (more tracking code), configured in your Facebook Business Manager.

Hubspot Helps Tie All the Signals Together

Because you will typically have tracking codes from Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest installed on your website (usually via Google Tag Manager or GTM), you will quickly come to appreciate the ability of Hubspot to provide you with actionable information from all of these digital marketing channels.

Target Market


By delving deeply into the wants, needs and your customer's paint points during the market research portion of your Buyer Personas development process, you will uncover the key characteristics of your target audience.  The better you can identify your target audience, the better you can do at creating a Content Plan and the more effective your content creation process will be.


Multiple Buyer Personas Needed - Sometimes

In the process of creating buyer personas, it will often become obvious that you really are dealing with multiple buyer personas.  This is especially true in the Business-to-Business (B2B) space, and specifically (not exclusively) when you're using an Account Based Marketing strategy.

Buyer Committees

In these types of market scenarios, you may be targeting 3, 5 or even 10 or more 'roles' within a typical company that might consumer your product.   While the ideal is usually to have one or two buyer personas defined, the reality is, large complex products, such as SAP, are often bought by committees. 


Different Names - Same Roles


This is why you will often find people with different job titles performing a role you have defined during your buyer persona development process.  This is why this particular approach takes more time and resources, as well as deep expertise about what transformation your product brings to the customer's life or business.


Describe the Customer's Transformation


As you flesh out your customer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition.


Paid Marketing Campaigns


Your paid marketing campaigns will perform much better when they are targeted at exactly the right target audience, and your buyer persona will go a long ways toward helping you achieve this outcome.  You should create buyer personas that address, at the most granular level possible, each product you offer, the pain points it helps solve and the benefit of solving it will bring to your buyer persona.  This is no easy feat.

Sharing Your Buyer Persona

Brands typically create and share their buyer personas with the marketing team and the business owner in a variety of different ways. It might be a list of bullet points; it could be a robust, multi-paragraph story. It might include a stock photo or illustration. There's no wrong way to format these reference docs: do it in whatever way makes sense to you and your team and in whichever format helps your team understand your customers (and target personas) best.


Buyer Persona Development Kit


As it is one of the most critical aspects of your Inbound Marketing efforts, we have developed a complete Buyer Persona Template Development Kit that will take you deeply into the process of developing your buyer personas. 


To access it, just click the button below.


Download Your  Developing A Buyers Persona Kit


People Who Read This Also Read:

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How To Segment Your Customers Using SAP BW and CRM

10 Tips For Airlines To Leverage Inbound Marketing

The Art Of Assessing Your Market Segmentation


Do you have your buyer persona clearly developed?  Do you have special techniques you use to develop and focus on yours?  Please let us know in the comments below.



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Lonnie D. Ayers, PMP

About the Author: Lonnie Ayers is a Hubspot Certified Inbound Marketing consultant, with additional certifications in Hubspot Content Optimization, Hubspot Contextual Marketing, and is a Hubspot Certified Partner. Specialized in demand generation and sales execution, especially in the SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Partner space, he has unique insight into the tough challenges Service Providers face with generating leads and closing sales using the latest digital tools. With 15 years of SAP Program Management experience, and dozens of complex sales engagements under his belt, he helps partners develop and communicate their unique sales proposition. Frequently sought as a public speaker in various events, he is available for both inhouse engagements and remote coaching.
Balanced Scorecard Consultant

He also recently released a book "How to Dominate Any Market - Turbocharging Your Digital Marketing and Sales Results", which is available on Amazon.

View All Articles by Lonnie D. Ayers, PMP

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