As a business owner, whether you run a SaaS company or produce online courses, you’re always creating and selling your product or service to someone. But to who?
You might think that as long as sales are coming in, it doesn’t matter who your customers are. But having a clear understanding of the people who are buying from you will help you focus your social media, content marketing and sales efforts, and help you grow your business or organization faster in the long term.
Besides, if you think you intuitively understand your customers, what about other people on your team? You need to make sure that everyone is aligned on who your ideal customers are so that everyone constantly makes an informed effort to reach them.
Finally, what if the customers your business is spending your time on and investing in right now are not the most profitable ones you can get? You might need to change your strategy, but you’ll only know that if you set out on the journey to find your true target customers.
In this article, we’ll dive into why creating a buyer persona is important and outline the exact steps you need to take to create a customer persona that works for you. Plus, you can use our free templates to help guide you through the process.
Skip ahead to a section here:
- What is a user persona?
- Why does my business or organization need user personas?
- What should my user persona include?
- 5 steps to creating the perfect user persona
- 3 user persona templates to help you through the process
A user persona (also known as a buyer persona or customer persona) is a profile of your ideal customers based on existing data but also your vision for the future of your business/organization.
Very rarely do audience personas fit existing customers exactly. Most of the time, your user personas will overlap with existing customers, but also leave some space for inspiration and improvement.
It’s a good idea for every business/organization to work out who their potential customers are for a few reasons.
First, you want to establish internal alignment among your team. Your customer support, marketing and sales teams should be on the same page when it comes to going after the same target audience.
Second, it’s more efficient to make sure your team efforts are focused in a single direction. You want to avoid investing in marketing strategies and marketing campaigns that have conflicting goals. Similarly, you want your UX designers to have specific user persona examples in mind when they create workflows. Otherwise, you risk making your web or app experience unoptimized for a part of your target market.
Depending on your industry and customer segmentation, there might be even more reasons to ensure your customer understanding is reflected in your work.
As you might imagine, every user persona is different since it answers specific questions posed by your company’s business activity, sales process and future plans.
However, there are also popular user persona templates you can use as a starting point and adjust them to your needs accordingly.
Here are a few sections you should consider including in your user persona:
- Demographic data. Think about what age and gender you’re trying to serve. Where are they located? What industry do they work in? What’s their income and education level?
- Psychographic data. Outline key points of your user persona’s personality. What are their interests, values and attitudes? What are their hobbies and any other notable traits?
- Problem/solution data. What problem is your target audience currently experiencing? What are they looking for? What are their needs, wants and fears?
- Brand narrative. While data gives you clarity, it’s often hard to remember. So consider weaving all important data points into a brand narrative — a semi-fictional story about your user persona.
Tip: Some brands find they benefit from having negative user persona examples as well. In other words, knowing who you shouldn’t sell to might be just as valuable as knowing who to focus your efforts on.
When it comes to creating a buyer persona, your business/organization should try to include historic customer data as well as your own vision for the future.
It’s also important to go through the process as a team, record other people’s contributions and make sure everyone is aligned with the new target audience you’ll be working with going forward.
Not sure where to start? Here are five steps you can take for creating the ideal user persona for your brand.
Your existing customers are a treasure trove of useful information. Chances are, they are also much closer to ideal customers than you might think — they are already buying from you! So understanding them better and focusing on their needs can result in a great foundation for your user persona.
If you’re looking for specific information on how to research your current customers, the definitive workbook on the matter is Users Persona Notepad by Character Designs.
Find what your customers like, what they don’t like and what they’d like to see in the future. Ask them how you can make your product or service better. Then find similarities between different interviews.
Towards the end of this article we have a few templates you can use to research your existing customers:
- User Research Guide & Template – this will help guide you through the process of researching your users.
- User Research Survey Template – you can use this survey template to get insights directly from your users.
Hearing from your customers first-hand is valuable, but so is looking at actual data points and seeing how your customers behave in real life.
Using data for understanding existing customers has been described at length in the book titled Data-Driven Personas by Bernard Jansen, Joni Salminen, Soon-gyo Jung and Kathleen Guan.
The key data you should look at is what kind of information your customers need before they commit to your solution.
Are they mostly worried about the price, the feature set or the testimonials?
Do they buy themselves or contact customer support first?
These and other similar findings will reinforce your target customers’ psychographic profile in terms of wants, needs and fears.
If you’re not sure that your current buyers are your ideal customers, you can run a few experiments to find the audience you’re looking for.
Start with a number of hypotheses, build out some content marketing materials (e.g. landing pages, articles, ebooks) and drive traffic via direct marketing campaigns (e.g. ads) to them. Track which audience becomes the most responsive to your marketing and double down on it.
For more on how to use content marketing strategically, refer to The Definitive Guide to Strategic Content Marketing by Lazar Dzamic and Justin Kirby.
Internal alignment is key when it comes to your target customers. It’s likely that different teams across your business/organization already know the challenges they experience with existing customers and can comment on the validity of proposed user personas.
Start with a brainstorming session and gradually bring your research, analytics and marketing into the mix, getting more specific as you go. Once you’ve reached full alignment with your team, you should have your ideal user persona to test out.
We’ve mentioned the user persona template above, with demographic, psychographic and problem/solution data as well as a brand narrative.
We’ve also included a user persona template workbook for free in the next section – fill it out with all the information you’ve discovered so far and start using your new “User Avatar” to better-serve your customers.
Tip: If there are any types of users that you don’t want to serve, you can use a negative user persona too.
We’ve created three relevant templates that you can use to develop your user personas following the steps above.
(We use some of the terms audience, and avatar synonymously with users and user personas.)
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to ask questions, and really listen to your audience.
The key to listening is being intentional about what you are trying to learn. Keep this in mind as you formulate your questions – how will you use this knowledge to inform all aspects of your business?
These questions will help you understand your audience’s struggles and desires. Use this information to help craft your buyer/user personas.
Use this workbook as a template to start crafting your user personas, which we also like to call Customer Avatars.
How to improve your offering with user personas
If you’re offering an online course through your business/organization, you probably already know the problem your customers are facing and want to get better at (e.g. how to write better press releases).
Still, there might be too many customer segments to focus on, so you might find that zeroing in on your ideal customer through more personalized marketing efforts, courses and site pages is much more effective than trying to focus on everyone.
Looking to improve the user experience with your brand? Download your free Ultimate Customer Success Guide now to get started.