Data-driven Buyer Personas: What They Are and How to Build them

Create personas you can leverage to ensure your digital marketing efforts hit the mark

by Salvador Lopez, Marketing Manager at Magnolia
Jan 14, 2020 | 7 MIN

Who are your customers?

The answer to this question has both fascinated and frustrated marketers for a long time, but marketers need to know who their customers are before they can deliver effective marketing campaigns. Companies that exceed lead and revenue goals, for example, are 4 times more likely to use personas for demand generation.

Today’s technologies allow marketers to learn more about their customers than ever before. Marketers can examine the data from previous customers, find relevant patterns in that data and create a profile of their ideal customer. Failing to create and use data-driven buyer personas will leave your marketing efforts continually one step behind.

Let’s look at what buyer personas and the buyer journey are, why you need personas before you map the customer journey, how to create your buyer persona and how to use personas to create a better digital experience.

What is a Buyer Persona?

Buyer personas are detailed descriptions of your ideal customers that you create using qualitative and quantitative data. The buyer persona serves as a guide for all the company’s efforts to attract new and retain existing customers. Marketers can use buyer personas for insights when determining target audiences and setting the tone of their brand messages.

What is a Buyer Journey?

A buyer journey describes the process by which a customer discovers, researches and makes a purchase decision about a product or service from a specific vendor. Marketers can map the buyer’s journey to evaluate how the customer learns about the product, how the customer evaluates various features of different products and how they choose one product over a competitor’s. Marketers can then implement the right strategies to meet their ideal customer’s needs at each stage of the buyer journey.

Why Are Personas Needed Before Journey Mapping?

Not every customer arrives at their purchasing decisions using the same path. Fortunately, the journey mapping process does not require that marketers track the buyer journey for every customer, but just for their ideal customers. With that profile, marketers can map out the steps that this ideal customer would take to make a purchasing decision, thus allowing them to focus their resources on making that journey as smooth as possible.

What Does a Good Buyer Persona Look Like?

A buyer persona can be as in-depth as you’d like, but it needs to be data driven. Otherwise, the persona is just a reflection of your perception of the buyer. A good buyer persona includes:

  • The goal: What problems do your customers have? What will they achieve by purchasing your product or service? How have they ended up choosing your company?

  • The obstacle: What concerns do your customers have about buying your product or service? What is their perception of your company? How do these factors impact their buying decision?

  • The expectations: What are your customer’s expectations? Are they focused on cost or quality? Do they have preconceived notions of your product or service? Are they open to changing their opinions?

How To Create a Buyer Persona

There are three essential tasks for crafting a highly data-driven persona from gathering and analyzing data to effectively applying it.

Gather Data

Marketers can craft buyer personas by examining data from various sources. The data can come from market research, survey results, and telephone or face-to-face interviews. The sources can be from current customers, former buyers and prospects that fit your target audience.

One way to capture customer data is through analytics tools like Google Analytics. Within GA, you can set up an audience based on geography or a variety of demographics. Then you can see which paths they're taking from initially visiting your website to making a purchase. This information is useful for optimizing your UI for conversions.

Look For Patterns

After gathering the raw data, marketers can look for trends and similarities within the findings. This step may require calling in experts in data analysis and trend spotting. These results can also sometimes yield findings that the marketing team did not anticipate, such as new channels that buyers use to access product information.

The patterns you identify should appear across data sources. For example, you may find that customer survey data reveals that customers look at case studies before making a purchase. You can back this up with heatmap evidence and Google Analytics insights that site visitors are spending a significant amount of time focused on case studies.

Craft The Profile

The next step is to create a profile around the data. The profile should not only include demographic information, but also a descriptive bio and a “day in the life” story that describes how the buyer goes about their daily lives, as well as the specifics about how they reach purchasing decisions. Once you’ve used your data to create a data-driven profile, it’s time to go beyond this to craft a story-driven buyer persona.

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Buyer Personas Go Beyond Data

The crafting of a buyer persona often consists of more than facts and figures. Just as an actor’s persona on screen serves to deliver a powerful story, a buyer’s persona creates a story that companies can use to drive marketing campaigns. Also, just as actors must know their character’s personality traits inside and out, marketers must know their buyer’s persona well to deliver an effective message.

Some of the types of questions that go into designing a buyer’s persona can include:

  • Backstory - birthplace, family history, childhood memories, first job, etc.

  • Personal life - marital status, family size, pets, diet and fitness habits, etc.

  • Career - industry, job title, experience level, retirement plans, etc.

  • Personality traits - introvert/extrovert, right brain/left brain, optimistic/pessimistic/etc.

  • Online behavior - favorite social media platforms, search engines, mobile devices, etc.

  • Purchasing behavior - favorite online retailers, payment methods, spending habits, etc.

  • Goals and challenges - dream job, customer service experiences, regrettable purchases, etc.

  • Objections - communication issues, product features, purchasing methods, etc.

The answers to these and other questions can help marketers shape their buyer persona and develop strategies to meet the needs of those ideal buyers.

Tips on Using Buyer Personas

Once the initial draft of the buyer persona is in place, the next step lies in testing how well that persona matches the company’s business goals. If the persona does not match the company’s target market, then the marketers must take a second look at the information in their persona document.

Effective buyer personas not only give marketers an idea of who their customers are, but also show them when and where their customers engage with various channels along the buyer’s journey. This can be a powerful tool to drive content marketing campaigns.

Magnolia CMS: Straightforward Digital Experiences

It’s well-known that personalized experiences drive conversions for many businesses, and buyer personas are essential for these dynamic experiences. If a buyer persona reveals that the ideal customer likes to travel overseas, for example, it can be highly effective to dynamically display content about discount travel packages.

Magnolia CMS can create dynamic digital experiences based on buyer personas out of the box. Within the CMS, marketers can define personas that describe your ideal customer. Marketers also define rules that determine which content is relevant for certain personas. From there, Magnolia will assign traits to website visitors, which could be anything from age to interests or language and apply the appropriate rules to dynamically display content.

With Magnolia CMS, companies can use personalization to deliver relevant and highly engaging digital experiences that drive real business results.

About the Author

Salvador is responsible for raising Magnolia's profile the North American market. He has 8+ years experience working in marketing roles at innovative software companies.

See all posts by Salvador Lopez