Boss Lady

How to create personas of your target customers


The way we conduct business and engage with clients and customers is changing at lightning speed.   Traditional marketing – making cold calls, placing large print media advertisements and interruptive advertisements on TV – was all about the company finding the customer.

Today, we flip the traditional marketing model on its head.  Instead of pushing content out to potential customers, we try to attract and empower customers to find us.  It is customer focused

and about fulfilling a customer’s needs rather than the company’s needs.  Marketing today is about drawing people in and creating marketing that people love, and the customer being part of the conversation.

A good place to start in this buyer-centric, inbound marketing approach is to create personas of your target customers.

What are personas?

A buyer persona is a fictional, yet detailed description of your target customer.  A good persona will include demographics, hobbies, family and career information and is written like you are describing a real person. I usually give them a name too – like ‘Jane from Bega’. If you were to read your persona back to someone they should be able to envisage the person you are describing.

Why are persona important to your business?

Personas are representations of your business’ ideal customers that you create to help your team develop focused content and nurturing strategies.  They help you understand your customers and prospective customer better and makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development and services to the specific needs, behaviours, and concerns of different customer groups.

Ideally you would create several personas for your business as every customer is different.   This is important as the way you market to each of these personas will be different – how you market to a 20-year-old female versus a semi-retired male will be completely different.

How to create personas

Marketing companies and customer experience (CX) consultants spend a of time researching who the target audience or personas are.   They use surveys, focus groups, interviews, and data mined from websites, industry databases etc..   They also include customers (present and past), prospects, competitors and stakeholders (internal and external) that might align with the persona.  But how can the small business owner create personas?  Just like the marketing or CX firms you need to conduct some research.  Some steps to follow are:-

  • Find some people to interview, survey and/or participate in the focus. I recommend a mix of
    • customers – both good and bad
    • prospects – people that have not purchased your product or know much about your business
    • referrals – ask you staff, existing customers, or reach out to your social media contacts to find you would like to interview or get introduced to.
    • People you don’t know – how – by using a third-party network to find them such as, or Airtasker.
  • Decide how many people you need for the interview, survey or focus group. You need a mix and several people for each persona you are developing.  When you can start to accurately predict what your interviewee is going to say you probably have enough people.
  • Develop some questions to ask. Start with making some categories of questions and then develop a few questions for each category.  A category might be Role and the questions might be What is your role, How long have you been in that role, What skills do you need for that role, or What does a typical day look like?
  • Ask ‘Why’a lot. One of the best techniques I’ve seen in action was a three-question survey.  The first question asked the respondent to rate something from 1-10.  The second question asked Why they gave that rating.  The third questions asked if someone could call them regarding their response to the first two questions.  This was effective as the respondent got to articulate what they wanted about the first question, however the real gold was when someone rang them – most people have verbal diarrhea so when the interviewer asks ’Why’ the respondent actually tells you a lot and one question might generate a half hour discussion.
  • Once you have done your research distil the information into common group or personas. Then use this information to write a persona.  I use the headings Background, Demographics, Identifiers, Goals, Challenges, and What can we do.  I also add some real quotes from the respondents and common objections they may have shared.

When you have completed the research and written your persona you will have a real picture of what your customers are like and one that can be shared among your team.  One thing that usually surprises people that develop personas for the first time is that the way they had been marketing to, and who they have been marketing to, were quite different to the way they had being doing so before they developed personas.  Have a go – it will transform the way you think about your customers.

About Stephen Barnes

Stephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors. He has over 20 years advising clients from new business start-ups to publicly listed companies and across a wide array of industries. He prides himself on quickly understanding the client’s business and issues, and synthesising problems to develop pragmatic solutions. He is also the author of ‘Run Your Business Better - Essential Information Every Business Owner Should Know and Use’. To find out how Stephen can help you run your business better visit

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