Persona Development – Laying Out the Framework

Before getting behind the wheel of your car, you typically set a destination for where you are going. Without a destination in mind, you can’t possibly define a route nor direct your navigation. Your destination sets in motion every turn required to successfully arrive where you intend to be in the future.

persona-development-frameworkIn marketing, you also need to first define your destination before you can setup a campaign to reach it.. In this case though, your destination contains two components, one business-oriented and the other market-oriented. On the business side, your destination is a revenue goal. On the market end, it’s your buyer personas (target audience).  This article is going to focus on the personas because understanding who your buyers are and how to compel them to buy your product or service, will ultimately lead you to revenue generation.

A buyer “persona” is defined by Oxford Dictionary as, “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others.”  In marketing terms,  your persona should clearly define the demographic, psychographic and pain, gains and jobs of future customers.  Let’s break each of these components down and explain them in more detail.

Defining Demographics – the Dry Facts About “Who”

The Businessdictionary.com defines “demographics” as,

“Socioeconomic characteristics of a population expressed statistically, such as age, sex, education level, income level, marital status, occupation, religion, birth rate, death rate, average size of a family, average age at marriage. A census is a collection of the demographic factors associated with every member of a population.”

In B2B marketing, demographics mostly define a persona’s occupation/title, marital status, sex, income level,.geographic location, education level and age. For example, a buyer of a human resource technology platform may be a female, VP of HR, age 38-50, $100K+ salary, master degree, located in the United States, and married with two children under the age of 13. Understanding these demographic factors will help you better communicate, design, target and attract this profile of buyers.

Download this persona development checklist to help you reference this information when you get started.

What in the World are Psychographics?

Hubspot defines “psychographics” as,  “your buyer’s habits, hobbies, spending habits and values.” Unlike demographics that define the “who”, psychographics focus on the “why”.  Another way to compare the two is to consider demographics are things that can be observed from the outside, while psychographics are internal attributes or attitudes.  

Psychographics focus on factors including:

  1. Activity
  2. Interests
  3. Lifestyle
  4. Opinions
  5. Personality
  6. Behavior
  7. Habits
  8. Values

Rolled up, scientists would define these as “IAO variables”. You don’t have to worry about that though – let’s get into the business drivers.

Activities

An activity is something that someone does. It requires time, attention, energy, commitment and intent. In a B2B setting, I like to consider these “jobs” that breakdown into multiple components. I’ll get into these further below in this article.

Interests

An “interest” is an area of curiosity or desire for knowledge. It has a deeper resemblance of something that affects someone’s life, causing them to act in a certain way. Environmental interests, investment interest, family interests, political interests, career interests, and so on.

Opinions

Opinions are usually views that a person holds — weak or strong — that may or may not be based on fact.

Behavior

An individual’s actions in response to situations or stimuli. Behavior (not personality) is what we seek to change when we manage direct reports.

Lifestyle

The everyday “what” of a person’s life grown out of desire and necessity. Lifestyle is often framed by choices like healthy and active or couch potato and beer-drinking. Dictionary.com defines it as, “a set of attitudes, habits, or possessions associated with a particular person or group.” As you can see, all of these aspects touch or connect with one another to form a full spectrum that defines a person’s whole character.

Habits

Things people do without thinking about it.

Attitudes

A way of feeling (that leads into acting) toward someone or something. Whether negative or positive. Leadership expert, John Maxwell states, “People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”

Values

Values are characteristics considered important to an individual. Value, consciously or unconsciously, can guide and influence an individual’s behavior, interests and attitudes.

When I develop customer profiles (personas), I also include a method produced by Strategyzer used for creating value propositions. This method (pulled together from multiple research studies from leading academic and business thought leaders) focuses on identifying the customer’s jobs, pains and rewards. This approach targets the same factors as psychographics. But, in my opinion, when exploring and identifying personas, it’s easier to wrap your head around and take action than the seemly more scientific context of psychographics.

According to Strategyzer, Customer Jobs “describe the things your customers are trying to get done in their work or in their life.” They break a job into multiple components including:

  1. Functional: what activities are required of the individual to complete their specific job function? These are easy to define by researching job descriptions for target audience profiles or from perusing LinkedIn profiles.
  1. Social: what activities do individuals perform in order to look good, gain status or power within their social environment? Researching these jobs may require interviews or surveys.
  1. Personal/emotional: what activities do individual perform to feel good about her or his decision, gain security or peace of mind, job security, and so on. Similarly to social jobs, exploring personal and emotional jobs may require interviews and surveys. You may also be able to glean some information from reading group conversations in forums or LinkedIN Groups to uncover emotional responses.
  1. Supporting. This job has more meat to it according to Startegyzer and involves activities performed within context of purchasing or consuming value. It includes (1) buyers of value like comparing offers, deciding what to buy and completing the purchase. (2)  co-creator of value which includes creating value with your organization or participating in the creation of the product. (3) transferrer of value which includes canceling a subscription or reselling a product or service. For this job, I recommend clearly understanding your customer experience to streamline the processes to reduce any job resistance.

Customer pains which is defined by Strategyzer as “anything that annoys your customers before, during, and after trying to get a job done or simply prevents them from getting a job done.”  When identifying your ideal customer’s pains consider asking yourself some questions:

  • What negative social consequences to your customers encounter or fear
  • What difficulties exist with how an individual currently completes their functional job?
  • What fears do individuals feel if he or she makes the wrong purchasing decision?
  • What common mistakes do your customers make and are they using a solution the wrong way?
  • How do your customers define “too costly” –  does it take too much time, does it actually cost (in terms of operational or capital investment) too much money or does it require a substantial effort?  Note: don’t assume if an individual state “cost” as factor for not buying that it is related to a financial cost – or could be time or reputation oriented.

Lastly, we have Customer Gains.  For this, Strategyzer defines it as “outcomes and benefits your customers want.” Gains may be required, expected or desired by customers. Customer gains also include multiple components including functional, utility social, positive emotions, and cost savings.

As with customer pains,  it’s best to ask yourself questions when identifying customer gains. These questions may include:

  • What type of savings in terms of time money and effort would your customers value?
  • How can you help customers look good/favorable in the eyes of their peers and superiors?
  • what would make your customers jobs or lives easier?
  • what do customers dream about?
  • what do they aspire to achieve?

Research Ideas for Identifying Buyer Personas

Ideally, you’ll use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data (as well as primary and secondary research) to develop your personas. This basically means you’ll want to talk with some people, research third party data and survey groups to build a comprehensive profile. But, for the sake of small and even mid-size businesses who are scrappier yet don’t have massive budgets, I recommend, at least, pursuing these research efforts:

LINKEDIN

  • Find your target titles on LinkedIn and research their careers, group participation, credentials, location, companies, and other profile criteria. Evaluate 20-30 of these to build out common factors.

REACH OUT TO YOUR SALES AND CUSTOMER SUPPORT TEAMS

  • These people live on the front lines and should understand your target prospects and current customers pains, gains and jobs.

SEARCH RESUMES ONLINE

  • Like with LinkedIn, you can search for resumes of candidates seeking titles within your target market.

CONDUCT A SURVEY

  • Use a tool like SurveyMonkey or Quiz & Survey Master for WordPress or Google Surveys to conduct a survey of your current customers, newsletter subscriptions or similar list, Using Google surveys you can even buy a panel representative of your target market to survey.

PERFORM WIN/LOSS ANALYSIS

  • Conduct a simple win/loss analysis at the end of yur sales process to determine why a decision-maker decided to or not to do business with you.

READ FORUMS WHERE YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE PARTICIPANTS

  • Read and research forums like REDDIT or more niche oriented ones like WebHostingTalk to identify hot topics, pain points and target profile types.

Once you have gathered the data for your persona, there are some pretty interesting tools (most are frree) to help you organize the data into a structured persona document. Check out these free tools:

Download this persona development checklist to help you get started.

Creating buyer personas seem like a lot of work but it is a fundamental building block for creating effective marketing campaigns that will generate sales.  I highly recommend applying the 80/20 rule too. If you put in enough effort to feel good about your result then you’ll be farther ahead than if you did nothing at all.


Next Leap Strategy enables businesses to find their next customer through inbound marketing strategies and campaign execution. Get started on your persona development with the help from Next Leap Strategy. Contact us today to for a 30-minute assessment.