Buyer personas provide incredible value to organizations in understanding who they should be focusing on and how to sell to and communicate with these consumers more effectively.
Traditionally, these have mainly been created by conducting 1-on-1 interviews or through surveys. However, in today’s digital world, it’s hard to NOT find someone’s opinions and interests online, and this provides a great new way to approach building buyer personas.
This post will guide you through a first-hand account of building buyer personas using data from blogs, forums and review sites. I also provide a template to help you jump right into the process.
Let’s get started!
1. Start by outlining your objectives
First, you’ll need to start off with some questions you want to answer (think about what you really hope to learn afterwards).
- What are the most important aspects of my business to my ideal customer?
- What are the least important aspects of my business to my ideal customer?
- What kind of content will excite my ideal customer?
- How can I better communicate to my ideal customer?
2. Identify where ideal customers are active
Think about where your customers talk online.
Don’t have much traction online with your customers? No problem. Think of your closest competitors and use them.
For example, let’s pretend you just opened a mom and pop coffee shop locally. You are going to want to use data from reviews left on other local shops you compare closely with and not big chain coffee shops like Starbucks / Caribou.
Be realistic with your business and include data you truly compare with. It’ll make your job creating personas much easier and more accurate.
3. Collect as much data as you can
Here’s the thing. You can never know too much about your customers. The more, the better!
Often times, the reviewers are linked with other social media accounts or give you enough information about themselves on the review site to find them on your own (first name, last name initial, location are good search points to seek out additional information about your reviewer).
I know, this sounds creepy, but hey, after all, we’re only looking at public information.
So, what should you be collecting?
For starters: Date reviewed, name, age, education, marital status, occupation, interests/hobbies, things they love and hate about business X.
If you can’t find all the information for each person, don’t freak out. Leave blanks when necessary and make assumptions when you feel there is supporting evidence.
For example, Jill Sanders doesn’t have on her profile that she loves animals but all her profile photos are with her dog, Bubbles. Therefore, you can safely assume that she’s a dog lover.
4. Categorize the data
This part of the process is delicate and in some odd way, is an art.
Let’s say, for example, we have collected information for a restaurant where various people have either mentioned the high appeal of the lights, wall décor, or other furnishings.
Instead of making each one of these items a category of their own, you should combine them in one category called “Aesthetics”.
Rinse and repeat.
5. Score your data
I typically use Excel or Google Spreadsheets to do this.
Input your categories and start going through your data collection to input each reviewer a point if it correlates to your categories.
The template I use to do this can be found here: Buyer Persona Template
To use it for your own project, click the File menu and select Make a Copy.
6. Identify commonalities within your sample
With all of your data entered and organized, it’s time to find commonalities. Use filters or graphs to help you identify these patterns.
If you don’t know where to start looking - Start with the basics. Look at common demographic backgrounds first and branch off from there. You may find that you have found more than one buyer persona (and that’s okay!).
Tip: Maneuver your columns around Excel to find new insight about your persona(s).
Before creating individual personas, put together an outline of the aggregate information.
Customer Profile for JoeBob’s Sports Bar (hypothetical)
- 70% of my customers are males
- 70% Caucasian
- 60% of males are between the ages of 25 and 35
- Males are interested in local sports team (45%), being active (23%), and cars (15%)
- Males married (30%)
- 60% active on Twitter
- 45% of Males hold a management position in an agency setting
- 80% of Males have at least a Bachelors and 50% of them are in Business
- Top Pros: Staff are accommodating, decently priced, variety of foods
- Top Cons: Wait time too long, not enough TV’s available, small beer selection
7. Bring your personas to life
Let’s make our personas real by giving them names and adding descriptions.
Buyer Persona: Daniel Russo
Daniel Russo is a 30 year-old Caucasian male. He is currently single with no kids and spends a lot of his free time being active outside and learning the newest gears in the auto industry.
He is a huge fan of local sports and stays active on Twitter when it’s game time. Russo holds a Bachelor’s in Business and is currently working at a mid-size agency, where he holds a position as an Account Manager.
When Russo comes into JoeBob’s Sports Bar, he is most appreciative of how accommodating and friendly the staff is, how much food choices there is and how it is all decently priced.
However, Russo finds the wait time in the evenings to be the most frustrating to him. When game time comes around, he feels like there aren’t enough TV’s and wishes the beer selection menu was wider.
8. Put the data to use
Now, use your new-found data as leverage.
But wait, how?
Reference back to point #1 and answer your questions utilizing the new insight you just gained. This should be a sturdy starting point for you in ultimately understanding your ideal customers.
Based from the earlier example, you can see that customer service, diverse food choices, and price is what’s most important to this persona. The wait time, having few TV’s and a small beer menu are their pain-points.
If you are trying to figure out what areas you should invest your company’s dollars and time into, the personas you have created will help you make the best decisions with the best possible outcomes.
9. Taking these buyer personas a step further
Can I get more out of my data? Yes! Most definitely.
As I had mentioned before, most personas are created through the use of conducted 1-on1 interviews or surveys.
However, going through social media first to build a persona puts you at an advantage because now you can ask more tailored questions to specific personas.
Referring back to JoeBob’s Sports Bar, when you interview a single 30 year old male, you know that more than likely that they’re interested in local sports, beers, wants more TV’s and is active on Twitter.
Here are three questions you could ask someone like Russo:
- Which sports team do you keep up with most often?
(Now you know which channels you should have on deck and what promotions you should be anchoring more towards!)
- If you could have any kind of beer right now, what would it be?
(Would you have known to ask interviewees for specific beer preferences without knowing this was a pain-point for them? Maybe not. I’m tellin’ ya… advantages!)
- In your opinion, where is the very best place locally to watch games at?
(You know you’re slacking on TV’s but this question allows you to do more than just “add” more TV’s. You now can compare and revise your current TV set-up even better by knowing where your consumers best enjoy game time locally! You’re welcome.)
Using online data to build buyer personas is not a complete replacement for traditional methods like 1-on-1 interviews and surveys.
However, if you don’t get around to interviewing customers, creating a persona strictly from reviews/blogs/forums will give you a solid knowledge base on who you should be paying attention to.
Particularly, what major problems being addressed, where you should be focusing more of your business dollars, and why your current strategies and tactics have or have not performed well.