The following is a guest post by the talented Chris Kilbourn of TOFU Marketing.
Your customers are the heart of your marketing. You know that.
So why is your company still using awkward, generic stock photos on your website and marketing materials?
Why do your blog posts read like you’re throwing darts in the dark?

Harry Potter meme "Come at me bro"

(Harry Potter could probably throw darts in the dark, but ordinary muggles? Not so much. We’re human. We need to do our due diligence.)

Worst of all, why does your marketing copy sound like a cheesy late night infomercial?
It’s because you haven’t taken the time to research your audience.
But why should you do that?
As an experienced marketer or CEO, you may think know everything there is to know about your customers. Well, that’s precisely your problem. You don’t.
Intuition isn’t enough for building customer connections. You need to validate your ideas and humanize your audience by researching who they are, what they care about, and how your company meets their needs.
Marketers call this process buyer persona development.

So what exactly is a buyer persona?

Now, you may be saying, “Here we go again. More marketing jargon.”
Relax. This one’s easy.
Buyer personas are customer profiles based on fictional representations of your target market. Literally speaking, the process involves assigning a face to a name. Think like a marketer, but talk like a storyteller.
For an effective marketing strategy, you need to profile your customers’ key personality traits that are most relevant to your business. Where does your customer live? What does she value? What are her hobbies? Heck, what is her favorite color?
Analytics can get this process started but will only carry you half-way. Here’s what you need to push you to the next level: imagination.
Let’s imagine that we’re in charge of a brand that sells high-end children’s products.
If we were to make a large generalization about our target audience, we might say that we’re targeting stay-at-home moms between the ages of 32 and 40, who have disposable income they like to spend on their children.
Okay. That’s some decent detail. But do you get the sense that you’re ready to start a conversation with a real human being? Nope.

marketing woman with hands under chin

Source: Deposit Photos, purchased by TOFUmarketing

Let’s imagine that this person is Beth.


  • She’s 35 years old, who is married with two kids.
  • She’s a stay-at-home Mom.
  • Her husband is a high power executive.
  • She’s deeply involved with PTA.
  • She loves her iPhone and iPad.
  • She was in a sorority; Naturally, she was the Social Chair.
  • She loves driving her Audi.
  • Beth’s friends look to her for trends and fashion advice.


  • Image is everything to Beth. From the clothes she wears to the car she drives to the coffee she drinks – the clothes her kids and husband wear – these ALL reflect who she is.
  • She is pleased when she does something better than any of her friends. She is super competitive.
  • Beth is tech savvy. She’s glued to her phone and can Yelp like a pro.
  • She subscribes to Living Social, Groupon and all the other “deal” sites.
  • Beth is pressed for time. Between shuttling the kids around, coffee and lunches with friends, yoga, cooking and shopping, she has very little time to research and read online. All content needs to be viewed while she waits in line at carpool or at soccer practice.
  • Beth loves fashion and entertainment. She reads People, US Weekly, and Vanity Fair.
  • Beth is 100% digital. She spends what little time she has using Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

Now this gives you a real idea of who Beth is and what matters to her.
Selling her a high-end baby stroller is an easier task because you know what’s important to her (her image).
Having the best products for herself and her kids is her biggest concern.

Harry Potter awkward face

(No Harry. Based on Beth’s personality, this is absolutely not the right marketing message for reaching her. In fact, we’re all a little bit scared.)
Source: Tumblr |

Creating a Persona: a Step-by-Step Guide

Buyer personas aren’t magic. They’re carefully designed representations of your target audience. Success means following a clear methodology – even if you’re the most experienced marketer on the planet. The basics matter.

Hermione meme about time travel

(Hermione knows that she has the power to do almost anything in the world. She’s the best and one of the most influential students at Hogwarts. But even she knows that success starts with following a clear recipe, experimenting, and doing your homework.)

So let’s get to it.
Here are the steps you need to follow to define your buyer personas:
1. Define this person’s demographic characteristics
It’s kind of like you’re filling out the Census form all over again. Start with outlining basic facts about your customer segments like:
● Age
● Sex
● Location
● Job Title
Piece the information together into a comprehensive one-liner or story:
● 18-year-old male student at a boarding school in the UK
2. Understand your persona’s values
Not sure where to start? Ask questions before tossing out answers. Here is a list to get you started:
● What does a regular day look like in their life?
● What are the pain points they experience on a regular basis?
● What are their life goals?
● What do they value the most?
● How do they get information (tv, web, print, mobile)?
● What kind of experience do they seek when shopping?
● What are their biggest reasons for wanting your product?
● What are their biggest fears about purchasing your product?
Let’s build upon the 18-year-old male student that we described in #1:
● He’s kind of shy and timid but extremely loyal to his friends.
● A key pain point is that he is sometimes afraid to take a risk and push limits, but at the end of the day, he’ll do what it takes to help his friends and family.
● He enjoys quiet evenings, prefers to study, and stay out of the limelight.
● He’s an all-around great friend.
3. Put it in perspective
The final steps to rounding out a sample persona would be to include a picture, quotes, anecdotes and personal stories. Including these keen details will boost your team’s knowledge and deep understanding of that persona.
The example from #1 and #2?
It kind of sounds like Ron Weasley.
Ron Weasley meme

Why Use Personas?

By now, you get the point. You need to understand your customers on an interpersonal level. Stop fixating on sales, and focus on people instead. Customer personas will keep your team grounded. Remember that on the other side of the screen, you’re talking to a real, amazing person.
Here are some final thoughts to help you craft the best buyer personas possible:
1.  Prioritize clear targeting.
Using personas presents crystal clarity for targeting the perfect prospects.  Personas enable you to pull partial information about people and then create a coherent, bigger picture, which can then be projected into new situations. This is exactly what profiles should do – point prospecting efforts unequivocally towards perfect customers.
2. Use clear messaging.
Personas provide a specific target audience for developing unified marketing and sales messages.  Think how much easier and effective copy writing for ads, websites, and brochures will be when speaking to that perfect reader, the persona.
3. Focus on generating better leads and referrals. By improving your current marketing initiatives, you’re going to be in a better position to generate higher quality leads and referrals. Think about it. If your marketing message is going directly to those who care about it most, it will be inevitable for those people to share, tweet, and instagram their love for your product.

To Sum It All Up

Buyer personas should make your marketing as actionable as possible. Rather than fumbling over what to say, you’ll already have the perfect conversation starters at the forefront of your mind. Choose the right words. Your buyer personas will guide you there.

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