Buyer Personas – Create Detailed Target Group Profiles

An extremely popular concept in marketing, especially in eCommerce, are buyer personas. These are semi-fictional representatives of the target group who represent “ideal” customers with all their needs, challenges and patterns of action. Personas primarily include demographic and psychographic data, but ideally should also be enriched with real customer insights. If this is not possible, personas can be enriched with the Empathy Map Canvas in an internal workshop.

Buyer Personas originate from software development, where they are used to simulate different use cases and situations. Gradually, the concept was extended to other areas, e.g.:

  • Product and service development and optimization
  • Content marketing
  • Communications (channel selection, tonaliy etc.)
  • Design

The goal of Buyer Personas is to understand purchasing decisions and the people who make them as well as possible in order to align products, services, content, communication and design as well as possible to the requirements of these people.


Buyer Personas vs. Target Group Descriptions

Buyer personas go much deeper and are more personal than target group descriptions. Target group descriptions are often based only on characteristics such as gender, age, education, income, and some superficial psychographic characteristics.
Buyer personas, on the other hand, represent concrete and tangible profiles of fictitious persons, with names and images that enable an even more target-oriented approach. The more detailed a persona is, the better products, content and design can be tailored to it.


Development of Buyer Personas

A good starting point for the development of personas is a joint workshop with employees from marketing, sales and service. Here important characteristics of customers can be compiled. In the B2B environment, typical positions in companies can also be identified that are mainly responsible for the purchase decision. These features can be enriched with data from CRM, Google Analytics or tracking tools.
In this way, very detailed profiles of the buyer personas can already be developed. Typical criteria are:

  • Name
  • Representative image
  • Socio-demographic data such as age, gender, education, income, occupation, family status…
  • Psychographic characteristics such as interests, motives, attitudes, values, character traits, goals (professional/ private), challenges (professional/ private), online affinity and online behavior


These profiles should then be verified and enriched with direct customer insights from customer surveys. For this purpose, personal or telephone interviews are recommended, in which the purchase decision is precisely examined in order to understand it in detail. In order to cover all important factors within the interviews, a procedure along the “Five Rings of Buying Insight”, developed by Adele Revella, is recommended:

Schematic depiction of the elements of Buyer Personas

The Five Rings of Buying Insight: Freely adapted from Adele Revella

The Five Rings of Buying Insight include the following components:

1) Initiative
What causes certain buyers to look for and invest in solutions like ours and differentiates them from buyers who are satisfied with the status quo?
2) Success Factors
What personal or operational results does the buyer persona expect from purchasing our or a similar solution?
3) Perceived Barriers
What concerns may make the persona assume that our solution is not the best option for them?
4) Customer Journey
Who and what influences the persona in the evaluation of the different alternatives? Who else is involved in the decision-making process?
5) Entscheidungskriterien
Which aspects of competing products, services, solutions or companies are perceived as most critical by the persona and what expectations do they have of them?

The aim is to understand the entire purchasing process, from the moment a need for action is identified to the final decision for a provider, in order to complete the buyer persona and to draw even greater added value from it.

Buyer Personas in Practice

In practice, companies are often content to develop Buyer Personas alone with internal expert knowledge. Often personas are developed in marketing and do not even include sales or service areas, which usually have the closest contact to customers and potential customers. This entails the risk that assumptions about the target group and the purchasing process are taken over into the persona that turn out to be incorrect on closer examination and questioning.
In order to really find out what moves potential buyers, how they really approach the information search, on the basis of which criteria they decide for your company, for a competitor or even completely against a purchase, can only be reliably found out by direct questioning. For this 8-12 interviews per persona are sufficient.
Moreover, such interviews are particularly useful for products with a high degree of involvement – i.e. high-priced products with which buyers deal intensively, as the purchase process can usually be remembered in detail here.

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