Customer personas are an important part of market research. They help you to understand your target audience and to create targeted and engaging marketing materials.

This article explains what customers are, why they are useful, and provides 7 tips on how to create effective customer personas that increase conversion.

What are customer personas?

An customer persona is a fictionalised representation of your target prospect, lead customer, or whoever it is that you’re ultimately trying to get to buy your product or service.

Customer personas help you to map and understand important information about your existing or target customers such as:

  • Geographical or demographic information
  • Their needs, desires or goals
  • Their frustrations or pain points
  • Where they are most likely to engage with advertising materials (e.g. online, social media, print, TV)
  • Which sort of tone or messaging they are likely to respond to

Why you should use customer personas

Creating customer personas help you to understand your customer in greater detail. Knowing as much as possible about your customer will help to make sure that any advertising or marketing material is targeting the right people, in the right way.

customer personas target audience
Create targeted advertising and marketing with customer personas

Having marketing materials which are based on fully informed customer personas should mean that you are getting maximum engagement from your ads. It ensures that you’re not wasting money advertising on the wrong platforms, putting out the wrong messages and targeting the wrong people.

What is the risk of not understanding my target audience?

Without understanding your target customer or audience, firstly you run the risk of targeting the wrong people. If you’re looking to sell rugby boots and target people who are looking to buy cake tins, sales are unlikely to be very high!

Secondly, you may be targeting the right people, (i.e. people who have a need for your product or service), but are focussing on the wrong things. Without really understanding the personalities, stress points or desires of your target audience, you won't know how to effectively communicate with them. You won't know how to pitch your marketing in a way that resonates with them on a sufficiently emotional level to get them to buy.

In summary, if you don't use customer personas, you run the risk of:

  • Targeting the wrong audience
  • Not communicating in the most effective way
  • Placing your marketing material in the wrong places
  • Not engaging your target audience

So how do you create fully informed customer personas?

1. Start with a hypothesis

When considering how to develop customer personas, you should start with a hypothesis - your best guess of who your target audience is.

Always select participants you think will be relevant

Let's say you are a clothing brand that sells to plus-sized women aged 20-30. As you already know the age range and gender of your target audience, this tells you where to focus your research efforts. You know that you will be researching the buying behaviours and motivations of young women and can exclude researching elderly men, as this is not your main target audience.

At this stage you might not know much more about your target audience, but that's okay - this situation enables you to start research activities.

2. Undertake customer research

By now, you will have your best guess of a customer persona. In the previous example, you know you're selling to plus-sized young women. Next you should undertake customer research to profile and understand your chosen group.

You can use surveys (quantitative) or customer focus groups (qualitative) research your target customer. Surveys are great for creating data sets, whilst customer focus groups allow you to interview your target audience, and get some really detailed, spontaneous responses.

You need to consider that your target market may contain multiple customer types. If you are a clothing brand and sell to children, teenagers, adult men and women, you will need to research and create personas for each of these types of customer.

Undertaking customer research helps you to flesh out substantially more information about your customer personas. It also makes sure that any customer personas are based on real people, your current or target audience, rather than just your hypotheses.

For more information, check out our article on how to run effective customer focus groups.

3. Collect research results in an empathy map

It can be useful to create an empathy map for each of your customer personas. Empathy maps can also be used as a questioning framework - to work out which questions to ask during your customer research.

An example empathy map is shown below:

customer personas empathy map
Use empathy maps to create customer personas

Using an empathy map ensures that any research you undertake, or any advertising and marketing materials you create, remains customer-focused.

For more information on how to use empathy mapping, or to read some examples of questions which fit into this framework, check out our empathy mapping article.

4. Create both positive and negative personas

Whilst positive personas help you to understand your target audience, you can also gain insight from using negative personas.

negative customer personas
Always create negative customer personas

Let's take the clothing brand example again. Talking to satisfied customers is great; it helps you to understand what you do well, and what your customers value about you. But you should also bear in mind that you can learn a great deal from the unsatisfied customers.

You could choose to profile unsatisfied customers to understand why your brand was not relevant for them, what they didn't like about the purchase journey, product or service, and what they prefer about your competitors. Such information helps to provide focus on changes you need to make to create a more attractive offering.

5. Categorise personas by archetypes

When categorising and naming your customer personas, it can be useful to group them by archetype. An archetype reflects a further breakdown of apparently similar personas.

Taking our example of the plus-sized clothing brand, it has interviewed 200 plus-sized women aged 20-30. Although all women interviewed were considered to be the brand's target audience, or main persona, these women all had different personalities, aims, needs and frustrations.

Through research, it was discovered that the women interviewed fell into 4 distinct archetypes:

  • The trend-setter
  • The unconfident shopper
  • The fashionista
  • The bargain buyer
customer personas segmentation
Segment your customer personas into archetypes

Recognising that your target customers fall into distinct archetypes or groups helps you to understand your audience better, enabling targeted marketing and advertising to be aimed at each group.

6. Tie in your company, product or service

Another important step in creating customer personas is to tie in your brand, product or service.

You should be able to use your personas to understand exactly how your product or service fits with the goals, needs, frustrations or problems of your customers.

You should have a clear idea of what problem (or problems) your product or service solves for the customer and how it makes your customers' lives easier. Having this information will enable you to market to them more effectively.

7. Continually test and update your customer personas

You should bear in mind that creating customer personas is a piece of work that requires regular updating. Your customers are unlikely to remain the same forever and their needs, motivations and buying behaviours are likely to change over time.

The most successful e-commerce brands undertake almost continual customer research to make sure they fully understand their customers. Successful brands are likely to consult current and target customers every time they release new marketing materials, launch a new product, or simply to check that they remain relevant with their target audience.

You should therefore regularly revisit your customer personas to make sure that they stay relevant and correct.

Example customer personas

Below is an example of a customer persona:

example customer personas
An example customer persona

This is a very simple version of a customer persona as an example and actual customer personas often contain significantly more detail.

Next steps

Now that you have created a fully formed customer persona for each of your customer types, you can begin to create some really targeted advertising and marketing material.

By using your customer personas, you'll understand more about:

  • Where to place your advertising
  • What tone to use
  • Which messaging to present
  • Whether to use advertising that is problem or solution focused
  • What sort of tone and language to use

How can we help?

Cambray are a specialised digital marketing agency. We have over ten years of experience of creating customer personas across a wide range of e-commerce and service industries.

Contact us today to learn more about customer personas or to book a free 20-minute consultation with one of our experts. Alternatively, fill out the contact form below to receive a call from one of our experts.

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