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4 Simple Steps To Building Ideal Customer Personas

Does your business use target customer personas, or ideal client avatars? If you’re reading this, I’m gonna guess the answer is something like, “Well, not yet but I’m interested”.

You’ve likely seen the terms customer journey and target audience avatars mentioned. And as it’s never too late to get on board with some marketing best practice, we’re gonna help you understand how to create customer personas for your business.

What is a customer persona?

The customer persona, often referred to as a customer avatar, defines a specific type of person, or the ideal client for a business. Having this profile to refer to takes the guesswork out of many factors, from product development to marketing. 

Creating customer personas involves identifying a specific sort of person by their interests, job or unique demands. In fact, there are no limits on what you use to define your ideal client profile. You can easily go deep into behaviours, habits and random personality traits, if it helps. 

Yes, we as humans are all different. But we do often fit into similar archetypes or cohorts. In fact, it’s kinda spooky!

Building the customer profile is actually a simple process, and one that, with the right materials, can be done in a few hours.

Customer personas or avatars are useful tools to visualise your customers

What do I need to define to build an ideal client profile?

When it comes to building ideal client personas, different businesses will want to focus on different things. 

But, having said that, there are common factors that all ideal customer profiles will take into consideration.

Very generally, a basic customer avatar should consist of:

  • Age range of ideal customer
  • Gender, or gender split (demographic range)
  • The problem they have (Do they need new clothes? Do they have trouble remembering online meetings?)
  • Online habits such as preferred social media or devices used

As mentioned though, you can get super granular with the data when building a persona.

But where do you get your information from to build this ideal customer profile? Can you just do some guesswork and go from there?

Well, yes, you kinda can, although there are some more effective methods you can use.

If you’ve worked in your industry long enough, you might know exactly the kind of people you’re targeting.

Examples of customer personas

Let’s say you are creating a software product for real estate salespeople. As you’re setting up a product for realtors or the property market, you have most likely had some experience dealing with people in the industry.

As an example, you will have met countless fellow professionals, worked in different offices, pitched to prospective clients in real estate, attended conferences and all sorts.

This is all great material to use as the foundation for your typical customer personas. 

Some genuine examples of customer avatars from a real estate focused company are:

Bob

An example of an ideal customer persona

Has worked in property sales for 15 years. Now runs his own small agency and employs six people within his company.

Bob is 35, married, lives in a nice town just outside a major city, has two kids and two dogs.

Bob’s business turns over a profit of $250,000 each year.

He reads industry newsletters and business news at work, both in print and online.

Bob drives to his nearest train station where he commutes into the city by train. The journey takes 30 minutes and goes into a central train station.

His preferred social network is Facebook where he shares pictures of his family, and he is also active on Linkedin.

Bob likes to use software products to optimise his business, but is wary of cost. He is frugal in many aspects of his life, although he likes to use quality products when he does buy anything – both in work and personal life. 

Linda

An example of an ideal customer profile

Works for a mid-sized real estate agency as an administrator. She has worked in the sector for 25 years, and prefers to manage the office paperwork than to do sales.

Linda is 50, and lives with her husband and her dog in a suburb of a large town.

She is slightly tech-phobic, but she uses Facebook regularly. She also reads celebrity and tabloid news websites.

Linda takes home $50,000 a year.

She commutes to work in her 5 year old saloon car. Her route passes several major intersections where traffic gets congested, and there are a variety of billboards. 

Linda regularly complains about how the work she does could be made easier if people filed their paperwork properly. 

Are these people real?

Although customer personas are usually a work of fiction, they can be based largely on one or two people.

In fact, these two personas above are based on some similar avatars that were used with a client I used to work for.

So although ‘Bob’ and ‘Linda’ aren’t real people – their behaviours and their interests are based on typical people. These might be people that you’ve met in your line of work, or those that your sales team speak to on the phone or via email.

We’ll look at how you can harvest the data for these persona templates later in the article. But generally, we’ve all had interactions with customers in different capacities. Even if you don’t work in real estate, you’ve either rented or bought property before – so you have likely spoken to and engaged with a variety of realtors. 

The types of buyer persona

Another method of building customer avatars is to look at the types of personas and how they react to marketing. Depending on which source you’re looking at, there are between four and seven core types of buyer persona.

These ‘types’ are categorised by their behaviour when it comes to making purchases, and their approach to research or even their want/need responses.

To summarise, based on a number of different sources online, these buyer personas are:

  • Competitive/innovative
  • Impulsive/spontaneous
  • Humanistic/Social
  • Decisive
  • Methodical/analytical

Although people can fall into one of these categories, let’s be honest here – we’re human and we don’t fit in boxes. So that also means that we can adapt and change depending on the product we’re looking at or what we’re trying to achieve.

So although you might think that our made up avatar of Bob sounds like he’s going to be analytical and methodical when it comes to business, he might also be impulsive if he sees that a close competitor is doing XY or Z. 

In short, these buyer persona types are a guideline, not a rule. But you knew that already right…

What can you do with customer avatars?

You can probably already understand how having access to these ideal customer personas can help you. For example, by understanding aspects of their life, you can construct content designed to appeal to these personas.

Looking again at Bob and Linda, you might already have seen that their attitudes and interests could define certain factors of their online behaviour. And once you can see this behaviour, at least as an outline, you can understand how to deliver your message.

For example, where might a Bob or a Linda go for information about buying a new product?

How would your potential customer find you if they weren’t actively looking for you?

What is the trigger that makes Bob decide to invest in cutting edge software that he doesn’t actually know he needs?

If Linda is the gatekeeper, how can you convince her that this product will make her job easier – without using overly obvious sales techniques?

The list goes on. And if you’ve ever had a sales and marketing meeting, you’ve probably asked these questions before.

Now that you’ve seen how useful buyer personas can be, how do you actually put them together?

How to build buyer personas

As I mentioned earlier, you probably had some target customers in mind when you created your business plan. You might even have had a specific person that you’d actually spoken to, and you had found a solution for their pain points.

So first things first…

1. What is your product and who is it for?

Developed an innovative range of camping gear? Got a different angle on meal delivery services? Created a cool software service for tourists and travellers?

You should have a specific target audience already. So now it’s time to get granular.

Before segmenting your audience into different personas or types, get as much raw material as is reasonable for you to process.

From people you know personally, who might be part of that audience, to in-depth research. 

Send out questionnaires, check out people’s profiles on social media, stop people in your local town centre and ask them annoying questions (maybe not that one, unless you structure the questionnaire in an engaging way). 

Asking real customers is data gold, but if nothing else, look at your own experiences, and back that up with some online research.

This data will form the foundation of your ideal customer avatars moving forward.

2. Segment that audience

OK, I mentioned that people can’t be pigeonholed. I lied. 

There are definitely ways that you can build a typical customer profile, and distilling this from your raw data is going to be key.

You might want to start by age group, gender, job title or type of user.

For example, looking at that camping product, you might find that there are lots of casual campers between 20 to 30. They go camping at music festivals and glamour locations and focus on socialising and partying. 

But then you might also find that your serious orienteering hikers will be active all year round, and are mostly in the 40 to 60 age bracket. Maybe their thing is reconnecting with nature or exploring.

Who are these people? What makes them tick? What do they have in common, especially around online behaviour?

3. Refine

Now that you have the overview of these target customers, you can start to get down to the fun part.

Give them a name, and a face, and try to imagine how they live their lives. 

The more detail here, the better. But if absolutely nothing else, you will probably want to look at:

  • Shopping behaviours
  • Online habits
  • Emotional response types
  • Their location (or places they visit)

You could go crazy at this point. But remember, the point is to make it useful to you and your sales/marketing teams when it comes to making marketing decisions.

Will your marketing team find it useful if your target persona likes to binge watch Netflix shows on a Sunday evening? Or is it relevant that your average 35 year old potential customer experiments with cooking foreign food?

If it’s going to help you find a way to touch these people, put it in.

If it’s all a bit too much detail, leave it out.

Detail is good, noise is distracting. 

4. Pin them on the wall and use them for every marketing decision

Your marketing team enters the room with a cool pitch. It really is amazing and everyone is dazzled.

So ask them, “How will Bob react to this?”

“Is Linda going to want to find out more?”

Because you’ve done your research on those ideal customer personas you’ll be able to refer to them and check things such as:

  • Are we speaking their language?
  • Is this going to solve one of their pain points?
  • Could this capture their attention among the sea of online noise?
  • Is this designed for a channel that they actually use?

And there you have it… That is how you create, and use, ideal customer personas.

How often do you need to update/revisit customer profiles?

Like everything in marketing, nothing is set in stone.

It’s always worth going back and revisiting these profiles to see how accurate or effective they are. Missed some details? No worries, add it in.

Got something way off the mark? That’s fine, take it out…

Again, these profiles are marketing tools to make your job easier. And like your brand pillars, they can be used to guide you in your business decisions.

As your business progresses too, you might also find that your target audience or ideal customer changes. Maybe you started out targeting one type of user, but found that your product resonates with another audience.

Business and marketing are fluid and ever changing things. 

If you’re still using the exact same custom avatars five years later, it might be time to revisit them. You’ll likely find that a lot has changed.

Audience targeting in your marketing

The great thing about customer personas? You can use them everywhere.

You can use them to create blogs and guides, design videos, courses, structure your ads and plan your marketing strategy.

Very simply, the buyer persona can be an essential tool.

Is it indispensable? No. 

You can run a perfectly effective business without sitting down and creating a set of ideal customer avatars. And as we mentioned at the top of the article, you know who you’re selling to.

But can it make your life easier? Absolutely. 

When you’re looking at your Bob or your Linda, you have considered who these people actually represent. And, perhaps more importantly, it can help the rest of your team visualise your ideal customer.

And when a business is growing, and you have more people joining the team, working remotely or bringing their ideas to the table, you can point them to your perfectly researched customer profiles to help them get up to speed. 

Fake vs real

Using your customer avatars, you’ll be much more efficient with your targeting. And this does apply to both your paid digital marketing as well as to your organic or offline campaigns.

With paid campaigns, the issue of fraudulent traffic is a spectre that haunts digital marketing. 

From bots to malicious clicks or click farms, it’s been found that on average 14% of all clicks on paid campaigns are not genuine. This invalid traffic, or IVT, is designed to siphon off your advertising budget, often by organised fraud.

Read more about click fraud in our guide.

But even your organic or direct traffic isn’t immune to these damaging fake traffic campaigns. Bots and fake profiles can interact with your website, your social media accounts and even your website to generate spammy or useless leads. 

And they can even perform activities that damage your marketing efforts. 

If you’re running PPC ads, ClickCease is the leading fraud prevention solution for businesses of all sizes. By blocking invalid traffic, businesses maximise their return on ad spend and cut out mis-attributed sales across search, display and social ad campaigns. 

With our 7 day free trial, you can run an audit on your Google, Facebook and Bing Ad campaigns and see who is really clicking your ads.

Oli

Since working for ClickCease, Oli has become something of a click fraud nerd, and now bores people at parties with facts about click farms and internet traffic stats. When not writing about ad fraud, he helps companies to optimise their marketing content and strategy with his own content marketing business.

2 comments

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  • I believe that customer personas come in to play the most, when you start considering copy. Copy is so incredibly impactful for conversion and lead / customer quality – and the persona defines how closely you copy will resonate!

    Another great article as always Oli, I’ll be following your work for awhile. Hopefully we can collaborate some time!

    • Hey Jonathan! Yup, knowing how to speak your customer’s language is definitely one of the main reasons to do the whole persona exercise. But it’s so much more than that… Product development, partnerships, all this ties in to understanding your target audience.

      Thanks for your comment Jonathan, and glad you enjoyed the article 🙂

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