Use buyer personas to understand your customer

By Sherry Bonelli / Guest Column

If you think about the last big purchase you made, you probably went online to read reviews, looked up features, got recommendations from friends on Facebook and searched online for stores with the best price. Today’s shopper uses the internet to help make buying decisions, and as a business, you need to understand how to use the internet to reach these potential customers.

But before you can start digital marketing efforts that guide potential customers to your business, you must first understand who your ideal customers are. One way to gain this understanding is to sit down with your team and outline details about who your ideal customers are and create a few buyer personas.

Buyer personas (a.k.a. customer avatar, marketing persona and target audience) are written documents that spell out specifics about your potential customers. When creating a buyer persona, you create a fictional “person” that represents your ideal customer – even giving that person a name, age, profession, income, number of kids, hobbies and more.

What’s in a buyer persona?

You need to understand your customers so that you can personalize content, offers and marketing campaigns that attract potential buyers. Your buyer personas will help you determine what blog posts and videos to create, what your potential customers are searching for online and the keyword phrases they use, what social media channels they’re active on, and what content to include in email marketing and paid-for advertising efforts.

Each buyer persona includes the following:

  • Goals and values – What is your customer trying to achieve? What values do they have?
  • Information sources – What books, magazines, websites, blogs, TV shows and other places does your ideal customer get information and entertainment from?
  • Challenges/pain points – What does your ideal customer hope to achieve? What difficulties do they face?
  • Demographics – Where does your ideal customer live? What is their ethnicity, gender, employment status, marital status, political preference, etc.?
  • Objections – What would make your ideal customer not buy products or services from your business?


Once you’ve identified these key things about your individual buyer persona, give your customer a name and find a photo of what your “client” looks like (go online and search for a photo that matches your buyer’s physical description and demographics). Give the customer a memorable name like “Busy Bob” or “Stressed-Out Susan.” It helps to add a descriptor before or after their name that reflects their situation, job title or pain point.

Create two to four individual buyer personas and then get your team on board. Write up the details about each of the buyer personas, add their photos and share with everyone on your team who has anything to do with customer outreach and/or marketing efforts.

Focus all of your marketing and messages to only those potential customers. If your message doesn’t “speak” to Busy Bob, then change the words or the message. If Stressed-Out Susan can’t relate to an image you’re using in your Facebook ad, find a different image.

Once you master and start seeing results from the first few buyer personas you’ve created, then create a few more personas to broaden your customer reach and expand. Before you launch any digital marketing initiative, remember to always ask yourself, “does this marketing effort address what ‘Business Ben’ is concerned about or what problem he wants to solve?” If not, rethink the marketing piece until it does speak to that buyer persona.

Sherry Bonelli, digital marketer and presenter/ speaker, is the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency in Cedar Rapids. Reach her at