A customer persona, also called a buyer persona, is a representation of the customers that buy your products or services. This enables marketers to understand better who their ideal customer is, what leads them to look for a solution like theirs, and how they make decisions.
There has been much discussion about the benefits of customer personas. When done right, they help marketers truly understand their customers and support targeted personalized campaigns and programs.
People Persona vs. Customer Persona
When marketing first started creating personas, they built “people” personas. People personas outline a fictional character with a name, age, personal interests, job title, and other personal information, in addition to their needs, buying habits, and decision-making process. While some of the attributes of a people persona are still used in customer personas, adding that level of personal characteristics isn’t necessary for many situations.
A customer (buyer) persona is built from performing actual buyer interviews and pulling together the common emotional and practical aspects of the buying decision, including barriers, success factors, and decision criteria. It doesn’t typically detail the personal characteristics of the individual; instead, focusing on attributes related to the person’s job and role in the buying process (e.g., decision-maker, influencer).
B2C Persona v. B2B Persona
Is there a difference between creating a B2B customer persona and a B2C persona? The truth is there isn’t much difference in how you build personas, but there is a difference in the attributes you apply to the persona.
B2C personas tend to have more personal attributes, including demographics (e.g., age, income, education, occupation), geographics (location), and psychographics (e.g., interests, what makes them buy, frustrations).
B2B personas can include demographic information, but the most important attributes are job title and description, goals, challenges, role in the buying process, trusted sources, perceived barriers, and how they move through the buyer’s journey.
Another consideration is the type of product purchased. For high consideration purchases, personas should include more information about the buying process and what drives the persona to buy (or keep them from moving forward). For low-consideration purchases, you don’t need to go as detailed.
How Many Personas Do You Need?
Most companies create more than one persona, defining each persona as a segment of their customers and representing the most common attributes of that segment. Other companies develop personas for each buying role in the company (e.g., decision-maker, influencer). There is no right number of personas you need. However, having too many makes it challenging for marketing teams to effectively work on each persona-based strategy.
The most important way to understand who your customers are and how many personas you need is to interview existing customers. You can also gather customer data from systems that store customer data, such as your CRM, marketing automation platform, ERP system, and other systems. If you use a customer data platform, you can easily pull this data together and get a single customer view. In addition, talk with your Marketing, Sales, and Support teams to gain customer insights that help you identify key characteristics of your customers.
Once you have all the customer data identified, look for similarities in key attributes, then decide which ones might require a unique persona.