With digital marketing still firmly belonging to storytelling, buyer personas are absolutely necessary for success. Anyone with digital marketing know-how has tried their hand at developing persona profiles. Too commonly their buyer personas end up in a back folder or computer file, rarely used or thought of.

If you want to create powerful buyer personas that will become the cornerstone of your digital storytelling, keep in mind these nine persona development tips.

1: Define What Information You Need

Before you do any actual persona development, you first need to define all the information you want to collect. If you launch into surveys and interviews without defining a clear set of parameters, you might overlook a critical piece of information completely.

As a starting point, here are some important data points to collect:

  • Geographic location
  • Age range
  • Gender identity
  • Industry
  • Job title
  • Education level
  • Income level
  • Interests
  • Relationship/family status
  • Languages
  • Goals
  • Daily routine
  • Pain points
  • Potential buying motivation

While this list is a great baseline for persona development, you also need to consider information points you want to collect that are related to your products and services. Your buyer personas are only going to be relevant if they’re specific to your unique business needs.

2: Use Social Listening for Persona Development

Social listening is a great way to get insights into your audience’s interests, feelings, and pain points. SharpSpring Social allows you to find and filter conversations by hashtag, keyword and more. This way, you can stay in the loop on what people are saying about your brand and conduct your social listening and persona development alongside any other marketing automation efforts.

There are many other tools that give insights into your audience’s behavior on social media, like Social Mention, Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

With tools like these, you can follow social media mentions of your brand (or your competitors) to track general sentiment. You’ll be able to see what real customers are saying and reverse-engineer their engagements into demographic and mindset information for you persona development.

3: Start Broad, Then Narrow Down

The most effective buyer personas are very specific. But in order to get to that level of detail, begin by looking broadly. In fact, to get that specific, you have to start with the very general group that they all belong to: people interested in buying from you.

Once you’ve done analysis on the people you know are interested in your business, you can narrow them down by considering why they want to buy from you. This is where you’ll start to see divisions occur. For example, they could use your products at home or they could buy them for business reasons. These are two buyer personas that you would market to in different ways.

4: Use Analytics Tools

There are a variety of analytics tools on media channels you’re already using that contain great details about your audience. Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics are prime examples of tools that can tell you more about your current audience’s demographics and behavior. Having the genuine information contained in these outlets makes persona development more informed.

You can also use tools like Compete or SimilarWeb to see how your current audience measures up to those of your competitors. Comparing audience makeup can help you identify new personas you may want to target.

5: Use Your Website

You can gather a lot of valuable information about your audience using your lead capture forms. SharpSpring provides in-depth form insights to help you see which landing pages and content are driving the most conversions.

To get more form fills, create interactive content that offers value to your audience and helps you collect information as well. Quicksprout, for example, has a tool on their homepage that helps people analyze their site performance, while also collecting information about their audience:

6: Survey Your Audience

You can learn a lot about your personas from your current and past customers as well. Don’t hesitate to send out surveys to your email list to help you learn more about who they are and why they buy from you. Chances are, your best customers are your ideal buyer personas.

You can also learn a lot about cancelled and non-recurring customers. Don’t hesitate to ask why they chose to move on, as these objections can shape your persona development. This strategy works best if you incentivize them in some way to take your survey, such as offering a gift card, prize entry or discount on their next purchase.

7: Humanize Your Data for Persona Development

Once you have sufficient data related to different aspects of each buyer persona’s life and personality, you’re ready to shape that knowledge and turn it into something that can represent a real person, rather than a series of points on a page.

Sort your data by details and identify the most common data points. Use this to inform a more fleshed out story about this ideal buyer, including details like what their average day is like, their education level and the largest pain point they face. Don’t hesitate to fully develop this character – give them a name, photo, and compile this information into a profile one-sheeter that your team can continue to reference as they create new digital marketing content.

Here’s an example of one from OptinMonster:

buyer personas

8: Map Personas onto Your Sales Funnel

Once you have complete persona profiles, you should next map them onto your sales funnel and consider their needs at each stage. This is an important step for building out your buyer personas, as their needs and perspectives change at different points of the lead nurturing process.

Most marketers tend to focus only on the awareness stage when discussing audience needs, which is a mistake. People in the middle or bottom of the funnel are also much more likely to convert and care less about understanding the value of your product and more about understanding the value of your product and instead would want to know more about why it’s better than the alternative.

9: Apply Personas to Your Marketing Strategy

The last and most important tip for getting the most out of your buyer personas is actively applying them to your marketing strategy. So many marketers start the process with the best intentions, but don’t actually create content with the buyer in mind.

If you want to build the strongest marketing strategy possible, build your content through the lens of each of your personas. Identify any content that isn’t 100% relevant to a given persona’s needs, and then make changes to optimize it. Repeat this process every time you create new content for your digital marketing efforts.

Why Do We Need Buyer Personas?

While it may seem like a lot of work to invest in persona development, the reward is worth it. Buyer personas are the best opportunity to really know your customer. Invest time in building out the most accurate and relevant buyer personas possible. Be sure to use them in all areas of marketing, such as brainstorming, execution and analytics to consider if you’re making the most of your marketing efforts.

Koertni Adams