Creating customer personas should be simple, right? They’re fundamental to a good marketing strategy – the starting point for tailoring your marketing messages to the right types of customers, ensuring they’re relevant and in the right tone of voice.

But in our experience, many marketers struggle to create personas that are actually useful – often making them too broad or too specific.

We’ve been doing a lot of work with customer personas lately, and have come up with a few tips to make developing usable personas a bit simpler.

Keep it focused

A common mistake when developing customer personas is to make them too generic. Personas should sound like real people, rather than broad market segments. If you’re targeting “working mums”, for example, you’ll need to be a bit more specific; “working mums trying to balance school runs and sports” is better, but still too broad to be of much value. A more useful persona would sound something like this:

“Lisa is a working mum with two children, one in primary school and the other in high school. Between working, picking up the kids from different schools, and running them to football practice and violin lessons, she’s strapped for time.”

Include enough details to make your persona realistic, without adding too much extraneous information. Common practice is to break down your persona by:

  • Description: Who are they? (age, gender, career, marital status, etc.)
  • Pains: What are their needs? What obstacles do they face that your product / service can help them with?
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve?

List the description, pains and goals of each persona

Keep the description, pains and goals relevant to your product / service so your personas stay on track and don’t get bloated with unnecessary information. For example, if your customer’s weekend hobbies don’t impact their decision to purchase, there’s no need to include them in your persona.

Humanise your persona

To be useful, personas must help you visualise real people – a nameless, faceless list of behaviours, pains and goals won’t do. Pick a reasonable name for each persona and choose a real photo (not a graphic) to represent them.

This will help you remember that you’re talking to real people when you begin using them to tailor your marketing messages. It also helps your brainstorming sessions stay focused and accurate during the creation process.

If you’re struggling to come up with names or photos, Random User Generator is a helpful (and free) tool. Don’t worry about all the code – simply hover over the photo and click the ‘new’ button to refresh the name and photo until you get one that fits your persona.

Validate with customer feedback

Before you finalise your personas, you’ll want to make sure they really do describe the people that are buying from you – and one of the best ways to do that is by using your existing customers as a point of reference.

This is an important step, although the way you go about it will vary based on the relationship you have with your current customers and the opportunities you have to engage with them. You’ll get the best results by simply talking to individual customers about their pain points, needs and goals – whether that’s in a focus group or simply in casual conversation. A survey or feedback form can also work well.

Make sure the questions you ask will give you insight into your customer’s goals and biggest challenges, and how your product or service helps. Then use their responses to validate the pains and goals you’ve described for each persona.
 
 
Well-developed personas should be a key element of your marketing strategy. They’ll help inform the content and tone of voice, not only for your outbound marketing comms, but also for your website, blog and other collateral.

That’s why it’s important to get them right – and why we’ve put together a best practice guide to help you do it.

Download the free guide to get more in-depth tips on developing and using customer personas.

Download guide