How To

A Start To Finish Guide On Using Personas



We’ve created this thorough guide to provide you with all the information you need to create and utilize personas.

You’ll hear customer personas referred to by many other names, including:

  • Buyer Persona
  • Customer Avatar
  • Target Audience
  • And others.

But they all mean pretty much the same thing: a mock-up of a real person, constructed out of your customer data. They can look like anything from a business card to a social media profile, including anything that helps to target a customer, understand their motivation or humanize them in the eyes of the marketing team.

Personas are often utilized for:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Software Development
  • Recruiting

What is A Persona

Customer personas personalize marketing for you. It’s way, way easier to figure out whether something will resonate with Melissa or Steve, than to target content or collateral at a bunch of demographics.

They also spur you on to fill in the gaps in your customer knowledge. Many customer personas are little more than invention, so when you insist on creating solid personas with actual evidence underneath them you have an opportunity to find out where your understanding of your customers is weak.

Don’t feel bad: most brands have a poorer understanding of their customers than they’d like. The higher up the company structure you go, the more acute the awareness of this becomes: among CEOs, just 6% think they have the knowledge they need to accurately address their customers’ concerns.

How do you use a persona?

A customer persona is there for you and your customers. If you think marketing to demographics and selling to statistics is uncomfortable, imagine how they feel. Customers are increasingly used to being served personalized experiences that take into account their preferences and identities – think Amazon, Netflix, Ebay. They expect the same from you! If you don’t deliver, they’re going to find it all to easy to go elsewhere.

Personas solve that problem.

Now, you’re writing emails to Jane the 30-something professional, or Middle-Management Mike.You know his age, so you know which cultural references he’ll get. You know his job, so you know what events you can refer to as part of a workday.

And you know that copy that talks about being sore and covered with brick dust at the end of a day will resonate with Self-Employed Steve, who’s a builder and contractor, but not so much with Media Mary. Personas make it easy and simple to keep marketing materials on target.

How many Personas do I need?

Businesses should have one to two personas for every segment of great customers they have.

That’s a statement that deserves to be unpicked. What’s a great customer? Don’t other customers deserve some love too?

I’ll explain. Maybe you’ve heard of the 80/20 rule, sometimes referred to as the Pareto Principle. This states that 80% of positive outcomes come from 20% of efforts. Efforts and outcomes aren’t normally distributed. (The unwelcome but unavoidable implication is that most of what we do is more or less a waste of time.) It gets wheeled out in discussions like this, but even though it sounds extreme it actually understates the case.

In reality, the majority of your revenue could be coming from as few as 5% of your customers. Your best customers are worth about 18X what a normal customer is worth. So focusing on them makes excellent sense. The place to start building personas is with these customers, the ones who really count. Dig through your analytics and identify customers with disproportionate spends, then backtrack and figure out what they have in common. You just started building your first persona!

Realistically, if this is your first foray into creating personas, it makes sense to create between three and five. You can always add more later, but unless you have a highly variated industry that sells a huge range of products you probably won’t need to. You don’t want to end up playing Who’s Who here.


Research is one of the most important aspects of developing your Personas. A great persona is only as strong as the information you collect and setup.

One of the biggest mistakes that organizations do is make assumptions about their target audiences. Leaders, salespeople, marketers and everyone in an organization can trick themselves into thinking they know their audience well. Often, these are based on specific types of interactions and limited discovery.

To really know your audience and do real research, you must dig through information and ask the right questions.  Some of the best tactics for getting actual customer data are:

  • Surveys
    Ask directly.
  • Research Sites
    Many research sites exist to find out demographic and firmographic information.
  • Competitors
    Use competitor sites — blogs, sections on industries, white papers — to glean information about targets.
  • And yes, your internal team.
    Even though your internal team can be fallible when it comes to your audience, it is important to collect people’s experiences but test them against every customer and prospect.

Selecting Target Markets

Narrowing your markets is a key tactic in a smart business strategy as well as your marketing strategy. Having too many target markets dilutes the effectiveness of your business:

  • first from a marketing perspective you won’t be able to focus your efforts for maximum impact;
  • from an offerings standpoint, you won’t be able to solve specific problems that reduce market competition;
  • your internal operations may not be able to optimize for efficiency.

On the opposite end, it is also important to identify negative markets that you do not want to target — these can help you and your team avoid wasting time on unprofitable audiences.

To get started, there are some great exercises that can help you define your target market:


Step 1: Dig Deep Into Existing Customer Data

Using any systems you have for accounting or operations.


Step 2: Market Brainstorming

Brainstorm markets…


Step 3: Target Mapping

Create four columns for Competition, Experience, Specialization & Opportunity.


Step 4: Negative Market Identification

Using your list, start by identifying the markets that are bad for your organization…


Step 5: Market Prioritization

Choose the top.

Determining Target Audiences

Researching Demographics

Researching Firmographics

Researching Psychographics

Researching Buying Factors

Researching Pains & Challenges

Researching Channels

Creating A Persona

Common Sections for A Persona

Data Types


Using Prints & Posters

Some businesses hang customer personas on the walls, or install cardboard cutouts of them in their marketing and sales rooms!

Negative Personas

While you’re building positive personas – the kinds of people it’s absolutely vital that you market to – you should keep an eye on the opposite. Every business attracts its share of customers who simply aren’t good for business. When what they cost in marketing, sales and support is subtracted from what they’re worth financially, they often represent a net loss.

If you can create one or two negative personas you can put a name and a face to the collection of red flags and warning signs these people represent, so sales and marketing stop trying to turn them into customers before they become your problem.

Using Personas for Marketing

Personas for Strategic Planning

Personas For Content Marketing

Personas for Advertising

Personas for Website Design

Personas for Search Optimization

Using Personas for Sales

Using Personas for Software Development

Updating & Optimizing Personas

Get Started. It’s Simple & Won’t Cost You Anything.