How to Build a Better Buyer Persona

Tips on understanding your target audience.

One of the biggest (if not the biggest) jobs of a marketer is to get inside the heads of his or her target audience. We need to understand their work and home lives, what motivates them, and what demographic and personal traits make someone more or less likely to purchase our products or services. Gaining this level of understanding is not easy — it takes a lot of work and a lot of research to get it right. If we’re going to talk about how to build a better buyer persona, let’s start with some basics:

What is a buyer persona?

At its core, a buyer persona is a representation of your target audience. This can run the gamut from just an age range, occupation and interests, up to something that is much, much more complex. Let’s start with a simple example:

Image Credit: Referral SaaSquatch

The above is what I’d refer to as a “quick and easy” buyer persona. This information was likely obtained anecdotally based upon the shared experiences of a sales team at a company. They all know (in general terms) who their target audience is and a few basic tidbits of information about them. There are two scenarios where this style of buyer persona is all that you need:

  • Through trial and error, you’ve stumbled upon your ideal target customer and need to quickly document some basic information about who they are for use in future training materials.
  • You’re selling a product or service that doesn’t necessarily rely on in-depth knowledge of your target audience (e.g. household paper products, office supplies, or generic pharmaceuticals)

If the above two scenarios don’t apply to you, then it may be time to invest in learning to build a better buyer persona.

How to Build a Better Buyer Persona

The reality of today’s marketing landscape is that most of us are going to be pursuing a niche market. We’re seeking to sell our product or service to a very specific type of person with very specific needs and we need to say and do all the right things to convince them that our solution is the best. Why? Because unless you’ve got a monopoly on your good or service, there will be others competing for your customers’ attention.

One of the best ways to gain an edge is to deeply understand who your customers are and what may motivate them to purchase your good or service. This goes beyond knowing their occupation, age, and demographic information. What are their goals and frustrations? Can you identify their personality traits? Do they have favorite mainstream brands and what marketing channels are they most responsive to? When talking about how to build a better buyer persona, these are the questions that we need to be asking ourselves.

I’d like to introduce you to Jill Stevens:

How To Build a Better Persona - Road Warrior Creative

The first thing you should know about Jill is that she isn’t real. She’s actually based upon the combined data and findings of 22 different demographic and marketing studies that we pulled together for a client. Jill represents the vast majority of this client’s target market, including her basic demographic information, motivations, preferred marketing channels, and personal goals.

Taking a data-focused approach to marketing creates results like you see above. Our client will be able to leverage the highly detailed findings and data we uncovered while creating Jill Stevens in order to gain an edge on their competitors and increase the effectiveness of their marketing strategies. When comparing our method of building a better buyer persona to the more simple, anecdotal approach, it is evident which is going to yield the best results.

Challenge Your Preconceived Notions

We all have assumptions we make about our customers. For established businesses, these are based upon our experiences during day-to-day operations. For start-ups, this may be based upon “shallow” research (i.e. reading Wikipedia), hearsay, and oftentimes unreliable outside information.

The most rewarding part of utilizing data-focused market research to build a better buyer persona, is we’ll often hear that some of our findings challenged a client’s long-held beliefs about their target audience. Imagine if for months or years you were targeting your marketing efforts towards individuals or groups who would never be interested in your product or service. Imagine how many mistakes and wasted resources might have been avoided by conducting proper research before hand!

In my experience, far too much value is placed upon gut feelings and instinct in today’s marketing world. It’s like playing darts with a blindfold on: Sure, sometimes you’ll get a hit if you’re lucky. That still doesn’t make it a good approach!


Let Us Help

We’ve built and executed comprehensive marketing strategies for start-ups, small businesses, and national brands with large-scale distribution. Whether you’re near our home base of Fort Collins in Northern Colorado or you’re on one of the coasts, we believe every business deserves an innovative and compelling online presence. Contact us and tell us about your goals for this year and beyond.

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