Creating and maintaining buyer personas is crucial for executing successful sales and marketing strategies.

Keeping updated persona profiles also helps your company produce relevant content and messaging around your product or service offerings and branding.

In our previous blog, Why Personas Are More Strategic Than You Think, we outlined the importance of buyer personas and their role in keeping your content and messaging relevant and in marketing-strategy-ready shape.

Not all buyer personas are created equal, however. It’s important to understand the different types of personas, how to choose a persona type that’s best for your business needs, and what steps to take to create your personas.

2 types of personas, and when to use them

The range in personas can differ depending on the needs and goals of your business. But that doesn’t mean one persona type is better than the other – if you use your time and resources wisely and prioritize your goals for creating personas, you can get started faster than you think. Depending on how much time and money you have allocated for building buyer personas, there are options that will work with your resources and priorities.

Persona types and the creation process depend on the depth of data and insights you need to achieve certain messaging and content goals. For quick creation and streamlined persona building, consider persona-lites, but if you have the extra time and budget, create research-based personas.

Persona type 1: Research-based personas

Timeline: 3 to 6 months

Research methods and sources:

  • Industry SMEs, such as sales team members, product marketers, and anyone with direct customer contact; and external market research firms
  • In-person interviews with focus groups, past and present customers and with audiences that did not buy, online surveys, phone calls, market and database research

Research-based personas are created using data and insights from subject-matter experts (SMEs) with internal and industry knowledge. Maybe you’re entering a new market or releasing a new product – you’ll need to find more in-depth information on your buyers because you may not have an existing database or any audience information to fully analyze.

Persona type 2: Persona-lites

Timeline: 6 to 8 weeks

Research methods and sources:

  • Internal SMEs, such as sales team members, product marketers, and anyone with direct customer contact
  • Online surveys and online interviews with past and present customers and with audiences that did not buy, existing market and database research

Persona-lites are created using data and insights from your internal subject-matter experts and that could be anyone in sales or product marketing – as long as they have direct contact with customers or prospects. If you know there’s enough existing research available to you, this method is a great way to get your personas created quickly.

Create personas in 7 steps

Your goal is to create effective personas that will allow your team to understand your customers and prospects better, empowering them to make actionable insights about your buyers’ goals, motivators, and behaviors.

1. Start by identifying who you think your buyers are and organize your buyers into buckets based on solutions that match your product or service offering. For example, you may have a technology buyer who is focused on business innovation and digital transformation. Your buyer can also be specific to an industry vertical, such as an operations buyer focused on improving the safety and work efficiencies of employees in healthcare. These initial buckets will be revisited in a later step of your persona creation.

2. Create your persona framework. Specify the information you want to learn about your buyers – what is need-to-know versus nice-to-have and create interview questions based on the following:

  • Pain points
  • Information sources
  • Buying process and role
  • Buying triggers and barriers
  • Measures of success in their role such as KPIs
  • Industry verticals

3. Set up interviews and identify key stakeholders that have the access or knowledge to your buying groups or set of customers.

4. Look into existing research on your buyers and pull information from as many relevant sources.

5. Once internal and external research is completed, analyze the trends, commonalities, and significant outliers. Compare your findings to the initial buckets that were identified in step 1 to determine if your buyers are being created based on correct criteria and determine what opportunities to further investigate.

6. Build your core personas by plugging all findings into the persona framework that you created in step 2. This is where your personas become a tool for improving the strategic efforts of your sales and marketing teams and product marketers. Stick to essential information about motivation, priorities and goals, and frustrations and delights around your personas’ job duties. Here are some tips for creating effective persona profiles:

  • Highlight who your personas represent.
  • Organize information in an easy-to-scan list of bullet points and categories.

7. Present to key stakeholders of your internal team. Refine your personas based on their feedback, align your messaging with the needs of your buyer personas, and continue to revisit and refine your personas as needed to achieve effective messaging and customer engagement.

Whether you’ve built your personas recently, can’t recall when they were created, or haven’t built any at all, there are always opportunities to reinvent and improve your personas, or to start from scratch.

Building and documenting personas will help your team gain clear, actionable insight into who your customers are and how to approach them. Take advantage of your existing resources and outsource help when you can. Unreal Digital Group can help your company understand and uncover the unique behaviors of your buyer personas so you can become more customer-centric and authentic in your messaging. (Stay tuned for more about creating persona-driven messaging.)

Contact us if you have any questions or would like to learn more about creating accurate, effective buyer personas. And, be sure to follow us on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook so you don’t miss out on strategies and insights.