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A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Buyer Personas

Laura Smous

Senior Director of Product Marketing @ AdRoll

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Marketers understand that to compete in today’s business environment, it’s essential to form bonds and connections with your audience. Some experts estimate that consumers are exposed to as many as hundreds of ads every day. To cut through the noise, brands must appeal to the unique interests and needs of their audiences and connect with them in a way that they appreciate. This is where buyer personas come in.

Developing buyer personas is the most critical step in achieving personalized and accurate marketing—especially as 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations. When marketers write for a buyer persona (e.g., “Rachel”) rather than a category of people (e.g., 35-year-old women in New York who like Pilates), they are better able to speak to consumers genuinely and engagingly. 

If that isn’t enough for you to get excited about this topic, consider that 71% of companies that exceed their revenue and lead goals have documented buyer personas. Are you ready to surpass your annual sales goals? Follow this step-by-step guide to get started creating buyer personas.

What is a Buyer Persona?

Think of a buyer persona as a fictional character who stands in for people you know. A buyer persona represents your best customer(s). You typically base buyer personas on information about them and how they interact with your products or services.

Buyer personas usually mirror your market segments and have names that correlate with buyer moods. These names usually pair the mood or description with an easily remembered name.

Consider a brand that sells consumer electronics. A buyer persona example for this store or company might include Tech Enthusiast Ted, always on the lookout for new products. On the other hand, you might have Budget-Focused Brad, who just wants to save money and doesn’t care about the latest and greatest features.

Why Are Buyer Personas Important?

Buyer personas are an essential tool to help you understand your target audience. They let you create more effective marketing strategies, including targeted ads and personalized messaging.

Some brands use their buyer personas to tailor specific product offerings to these shopper segments. You can even use buyer personas to inform decisions using audience segmentation tools like AdRoll. When you develop a set of detailed buyer personas, you reap huge benefits, like enhanced customer engagement and improved conversion rates.

What Are the Different Types of Buyer Personas?

There’s no shortage of philosophies when it comes to building buyer personas. Brands generally focus on demographics, behaviors, goals, or motivations. Some of the common buyer persona types include:

  • Demographic-based personas: These personas include characteristics like age, gender, income, education, or location.

  • Behavior-based personas: This type of persona may focus on online browsing habits, social media usage, or purchasing patterns.

  • Psychographic-based personas: This persona emphasizes psychological aspects of the target audience, like values, beliefs, attitudes, and lifestyles.

  • Goal-oriented personas: These personas  center on the primary goals or objectives of the target audience.

These aren’t the only considerations when creating a buyer persona. Some brands might build buyer personas based on how they make their buying decisions. In this situation, the personas might break down as follows:

  • Spontaneous buyers: This buyer makes fast, emotion-based decisions with limited information. Their major question is “Why should I choose you now?”

  • Methodical buyers: Methodical buyers make slow, structured, and logic-based decisions. They want to know more about how your process or solution works.

  • Humanistic buyers: Humanistic buyers are slow decision-makers, too, and they use emotions to inform their purchases. They want to be confident that they’re making a purchase that others have seen the value of, so they might ask, “Who used your solution for their problem?” 

  • Competitive buyers: Competitive buyers make fast decisions but are still focused on logic. They want to know what makes your solution the best.

One other note: How we talk about and identify buyer personas works differently depending on the type of customers you have. B2C buyer personas put the focus on individuals or families. Their decision to purchase is based on their buying power. The sales cycle for B2C customers tends to be shorter than if you’re selling to businesses (B2B).

When working with a B2B customer, you may have several buyer personas to consider as part of your sales or marketing efforts. Multiple people in different roles have varying interests, concerns, and goals. The customer journey might take a while. And the end-user for your product may not even be the decision-maker who’ll sign the check or invoice.

How to Create Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are an essential part of the marketing and sales processes. As you think about your ideal customer(s), don’t just guess. Take the time to use your data on hand to make intelligent decisions. How to build a buyer persona is just as important as why you build one.

Sometimes, the person you think is your ideal customer may not be. Don’t limit yourself to one specific buyer persona, either. Consider everyone you serve and how to reach them with tailored marketing campaigns.

How much time you spend on the following tasks may differ, but they’re all essential steps for building buyer personas that will impact your business.


The purpose of building buyer personas is to deliver the sales pitch that will be most persuasive to consumers. These personas need to be based on real information to be useful. Marketers should never make assumptions about buyer personas. If they’re wrong, the error could throw campaigns drastically off-target. Instead, invest in thorough audience research about the people who want to buy from your company (not the people who you wish would buy from you).

Begin by gathering information about your current customer base. Some essential data to focus on includes:

  • Gender

  • Age

  • Location

  • Spoken languages

  • Income

  • Interest in activities

  • Lifestage (new parent, retired, etc.)

  • Level of education

  • Type of work

  • Role or title at their company

Also, try to gather information about their buying behavior, how they spend their day, who they look up to, challenges at work, career goals, and how they define success in the workplace. What are your audience’s most common objections? How tech-savvy are they, and what social networks do they prefer? Do they have a preferred method of communication (e.g., text, call, email)? 

In the internet age, data is readily available for marketing teams to access and analyze. You can begin gathering quantitative data about your customers from:

For qualitative data, consider:

  • Surveys

  • One-on-one interviews

  • Focus groups

If specific tasks, like focus groups, require an investment of time from your customers, it may be helpful to offer an incentive like a coupon, free sample products, or gift card. When determining which customers to ask, focus on your top ten clients who interact with your products or services more frequently than others. However, don’t forget about the unhappy customers, requested a refund, or canceled an order. These (would-be) customers can give you useful information about why your product didn’t work for them. The results can help to refine buyer personas or to improve your products for these types of consumers.

One critical part of your research should include interviewing your own sales team, customer service representatives, and other relevant employees. People who interact with customers regularly will have better insights about the benefits that they enjoy, the pain points that they struggle with, and common objections. 

Identify Customer Pain Points

To help customers solve their problems, you need to figure out what their pain points are. What’s holding them back from success? What barriers do they face in reaching their goals? If they switched to your company from a competing brand, what caused them to make the change?

Social listening is an excellent tool for finding answers to some of these questions. You can set up search streams to monitor mentions of your brand, products, and competitors to see what people are saying online. Once you understand why people love your products and what aspects of your customer experience don’t work for them, you can better serve your target consumers. 

Identify Customer Goals

In addition to understanding their pain points, you want to take a look at the positive things that customers want to achieve — their goals and aspirations. Your salespeople will have a good idea of what customers think about your products and the motivation behind purchasing them. You can ask your sales staff to collect quotes about customers’ experiences to gain more significant insights from shoppers.

Understand How Your Brand Can Help

Once you have a better understanding of where your customers are coming from and what they’re trying to accomplish, the next and most important question is, “How can we help?” While many marketers tend to focus on product features, the real conversation is about the benefits to your customers. 

For each pain point and goal that you identify, ask the question, “How can we help?” The answers will provide an excellent starting point from which you can craft essential marketing messages. By stepping away from the list of product features and focusing on how you can better assist your customers, you begin to put the conversation in the right framework.

Transform Research into Buyer Personas

As you analyze the research, look for common characteristics that can be grouped to form unique customer personas. When determining how much information you should include in personas, think about what you would expect to see on a dating site or what you might learn from a short conversation on the subway.

For example, one segment of your audience could be thirty-something women who live in major cities, own large dogs, and enjoy Pilates. Begin by giving your persona a name, job title, home, and any other defining characteristics that you find helpful. Make sure that they seem like a real person and be careful not to exclude any characteristics that would fit within the group just for the sake of creating a more specific personal story. Becoming overly specific could push important consumers out of your brand persona, which would misdirect your marketing efforts.

Here’s what this buyer persona example could look like:

  • Name: Sara in the City

  • Age: 35 years old

  • Location: New York City

  • Occupation: Fashion PR

  • Dog: Two-year-old American Bulldog named “Piggles”

  • Hobby: Pilates group classes in SoHo

  • Marital status: Single

Pain points: Sara is in a rut between work and play. She has a reasonable budget for clothes, but can’t afford to buy multiple outfits for every activity she performs. Sara has a hard time finding a wardrobe that transitions from the office to Pilates, the dog park, and drinks with friends. She’s also single and looking to find a relationship, so dating is part of her routine. With a busy personal and professional life, and as a mom to a very spoiled Piggles, she doesn’t have much time for shopping or making returns. When she buys something, she needs it to work the first time.

Aspirations: Sarah aspires to earn a promotion at work and eventually open her PR firm where Piggles can be the mascot. She wants to get married and have a kid or two before she turns 40. Ultimately, she sees herself as a healthy, successful, and professional woman with a well-balanced lifestyle.

Use Buyer Personas to Guide Marketing Efforts

For each buyer persona, create one marketing message that demonstrates how you can help that customer. Center your marketing communications around this message and remember to speak directly to “Sara” and your other personas. Avoid corporate-speak or buzzwords and always address Sara’s priorities instead of your own by focusing on how your products or services can benefit her.

Your buyer personas should guide each decision that you make from the social networks that you choose to participate in, to the way that you write your ad copy, and the design choices that you make on your landing pages.

Using buyer personas to develop your ad personalization tactics is essential for reaching more customers.

What About New Companies Without Customers?

If you have a new company, it’s okay to make some educated guesses. Think about your ideal customer, and use empathy and logical conclusions to speculate about what may motivate them to make purchases. Ask the following questions:

  • Who are your customers? 

  • What types of people could benefit from your products or services?

  • How does your product improve your customers’ work or home lives?

  • How does your product satisfy the needs of your customers better than your competitors?

  • Where are your customers located, and where will they likely purchase your product?

  • What life stage are your customers in?

  • What does the buyer’s journey look like for your customers?

  • What other brands have similar values and which personas they are targeting?

With this information, you can begin grouping your customers and creating buyer personas. As your company grows and you start to acquire new customers, you can use real data to create new brand personas or to better inform the ones that you already created.

Continue Updating Your Personas

Remember that none of this information is permanent. The analytics on your customers are constantly updating and changing, so it’s crucial to check in with your customers and analytics tools periodically. Over time, your customers’ needs may change. You may need to add new buyer personas as you introduce products and services, or as consumer interests shift.

Buyer personas are the key to gaining a better understanding of your customers and creating a personal connection with your audience. Though it may seem like an expensive and time-consuming marketing practice, you’ll find that the power of the buyer persona is immense and can result in significant benefits to your company. 

According to,, the addition of buyer personas offers drastic performance improvements. 90% of companies that use them have been able to create better understanding of their buyers, and those personas have helped increase their value propositions. Think about your buyer personas every time you make decisions about your sales and marketing strategy. If you aim to do right by your personas, you will build a bond with the real customers that they represent. This connection will help to boost your company’s sales and create brand loyalty and trust that lasts.

Creating buyer personas is an ongoing process that never stops. As your brand grows, you’ll attract new audiences and need to continue brainstorming ways to reach them. AdRoll can help you target these audiences with powerful segmentation tools for emails, paid campaigns, and more.

Buyer Persona FAQs

What is the role of a buyer persona?

Buyer personas help businesses and marketers better understand their target audience(s). They provide detailed, realistic representations of an ideal customer or customers. Buyer personas help companies tailor their marketing strategies, improve product development, and segment their audiences appropriately.

What information should be included in a buyer persona?

Your buyer persona(s) should include plenty of information to capture the characteristics, needs, and preferences of your ideal customer. That includes demographics, behavior patterns, psychographics, pain points, and how they make decisions. For marketers, buyer personas should also include preferred content formats and channels.

How many buyer personas should a business have?

Each business is unique. Some B2B sales require personas for every role that has a hand in the buying process. If you’re selling clothes to individuals, you’ll probably have fewer. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two to three.

Can buyer personas be used beyond marketing?

Buyer personas have plenty of applications outside of the marketing funnel. They can inform nearly every aspect of your business, from product development to customer support. Understanding the pain points of your different buyer personas lets your business develop products that cater to those needs. Your sales staff can also use buyer personas to tailor their communication strategy to different stakeholders in the sales process.

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