Buyer Persona – how to use this tool so that the results don’t end up in the drawer

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It happens every day in companies all over the world. Someone comes up with the idea that channels should be used more efficiently, messages should be designed more appropriately and individually and, in essence, customers should simply be understood better.

You then expect to find a miracle cure by developing a few personae and pinning them to your wall. Honestly. This will just become another initiative that costs you and your team resources, and ultimately ends up as a toothless paper tiger in the drawer of oblivion.

Deliberately a little overdrawn, this article wants to point out preventable traps, which at best should be avoided in your company.

Buyer Persona - statements that will drive the CEO crazy

Persona profiles often disappear unused in the drawer, despite the sometimes extensive effort in the initial development. A sentence such as “Of course we have personas, but they are lying in our marketing department and are not used across departmental boundaries” is likely to leave you as a managing director just as bewildered as it does us.

But this experience is not uncommon. This kind of silo-thinking suffocates any attempt at enthusiastic customer relationships or a cross-departmental understanding of customers in the early stages.

Buyer Persona is just the beginning!

Customer Insights Suite Light bright version

Buyer Persona and the big question of the WHY ?!

If you were lucky enough to grow up in the 80s and 90s as a child and teenager like I did, then you know there were still a few traditional corner stores at that time. In Germany we used to call them “Tante Emma Läden” (aunt Emma stores). These were small stores, in which an older lady or an older gentleman had nearly the same range of products that you would find at a big discount store today. Except that they had a store area of about 10 square meters.

Aunt Emma’s concept had the following advantage: She knew her customers very well. She didn’t treat all her customers the same, no. Rather, she knew the preferences and types of shoppers and was thus able to cater to the different buying needs. Like this Aunt Emma managed to communicate very well on a 1:1 basis. An ability that many companies are envious of today.

Tante Emma Laden
Example of a "Tante Emma" Store, Germany, ca. 1956

3 Benefits of the Buyer Persona - Lessons from Auntie Emma

  • A buyer persona gives your target group a face. It makes them human and more tangible.
  • With this concrete vision, you will find your appropriate response attitude more easily.
  • You’ll be able to answer the question “what would my ideal client do?” much more easily.

Common problems with personae in practice - beware of the following pitfalls

In the following short paragraphs, we have compiled a few lessons we have learned in practice and from quite a few customer projects in this field.

The work with the persona is finished after the research

Probably the most common mistake in connection with methods such as the Customer Persona or Buyer Persona is that it is understood as purely theoretical research work. The results with nice colorful pictures are then put on the whiteboard or on the wall, and that’s it. Wrong.

That’ s how it really works: The work on personae, just like the work on the customer empathy map, is not completed with the research. The initial research serves to set up hypotheses, which should then be validated or invalidated by an in-depth interview with target customers and target personae.

Useless Buyer Persona

Leading through information advantage - knowledge about the persona only remains in one area of the company

The creation and constant further development of personae do not serve a pure end in themselves. The company as a whole is not transparent, which means that every department is cooking its own soup. That’s a waste of time.

This is how it works better: Customer-centric processes in your company help here. In this way, you enrich customer data with insights from the personae and vice versa.

Homer Simpson - jeder sitzt in seinem eigenen Sandkasten

The insights from the persona work are not applied in your company

As mentioned above, it has become quite hip to collect pretty colorful pictures of customer personas and then proudly pin them on the wall or flip charts. If this concludes the work on personas, then you can directly save yourself the effort from the very beginning.

This is where you really apply the insights from the persona work:

  • Customer strategy: Where are your customers heading? And where are your solutions heading? Are they going in the same direction?
  • Content: What topics do your customers deal with and is your existing content tailored to them?
  • Product: Where are the pain points and needs of your persona? Is that where your focus is?
  • Communication: Where and how does your customer communicate? Do you also speak in these ways and in this style?
  • Design / Style: What do your customers like and what not? Which aesthetics appeal to them and which don’t? Are you providing the stylish answers?

Conclusion – In-depth work instead of superficiality

Many company managers have already failed at Persona work. It may look extremely easy, but then you are mostly only working on the surface.

Therefore: Go deeper to understand your target group, enrich the personae bit by bit, work with them and, above all, transport them within the company.

FAQ - Frequently asked questions about the Buyer Persona

The term “target group” refers to all the people you want to attract with your solutions, products and services. A target group is a subgroup of the entire market. You create a target group analysis to achieve market segmentation.

There are several ways in which you can select this part of the entire market:

  • by firmographic characteristics (sales, number of employees, location/region)
  • by socio-demographics (age, gender, education)
  • by actions (first time buyer, returning customer)
  • based on psychological characteristics (early adopter, late adopter)
  • By media consumption (specific social networks, devices, content).

Unlike a target group, a buyer persona has a face. It is a fictitious person representing your typical customer.

This concept will make it easier for you to better understand the needs, challenges and actions of your ideal customers.

Collect internal data and information

  • Analyze company and customer data, e.g. in customer relationship management
  • Use performance data in your ads and traction channels
  • Go undercover in the world of your persona, e.g. through activity in digital platforms, underserved needs among competitors

Communicate with the customer


Compile, prepare and enrich findings

  • Visualize the current state in the buyer persona
  • Complete this within the Lean Startup cycle, adjust your procedure and test again.

Here is an overview from our experience, where Customer Persona are used:

Creating a good Customer or Buyer Persona is not a one-time thing that is then put away. Better think of it as a live working document that becomes more and more detailed and accurate over time.

The steps to create it are more like a cycle and should be gone through time and again accordingly:

  • Research (e.g., in your CRM).
  • Exchange, conversations and interviews
  • Collecting and gathering customer insights
  • (then again from the start)
  • Questions about the person itself (if not researchable in advance)
    • Most appropriate to the career path, e.g: How has your career path been, traditional or more unusual?
  • Questions about the company (if not researchable in advance)
    • What does a typical day/work routine look like for you?
    • What are the main tools you use for your job?
    • Who other than you is involved in this activity? (information on the buying center)                                                                                         
  • Questions about challenges
    • What do you struggle when it comes to your activity in this field?
  • Questions about Goals 
    • What are you responsible for (in a company)?
  • Questions about information gathering
    • In your line of work, which magazines or media are the ones you simply have to follow?
    • Which associations are the ones you have joined for professional reasons (insight on opportunities for stakeholders and business development)
  • Questions about procurement processes (or buying habits in B2C)
    • How do you approach a typical new procurement for solutions in your field nowadays?
    • What has your last buying process looked like for [product/service/solution]?

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About Me

As a founder and entrepreneur, I experience every day how important customer focus is for companies.

Integrate the essential customer perspective into your product genesis and marketing processes. That puts PS on the street, that it runs.



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