KS&R Blogs


It's that time of year again - the beginning of the holiday shopping season! I am now in the process of putting together a shopping list of all of the people I need to buy for. And brainstorming about what they might like; what they are interested in; and the problems they have that the right gift could solve.

Visualizing each person on my list takes the guesswork out of my Christmas shopping.

Buyer Personas work the same way. A Persona brings your customer to life in such a way that you can make decisions based on this person - no need for guesswork!


So what is a Persona? The word "Persona" is Latin, meaning "mask", such as the role played by an actor, or the "social role" or "character" each of us puts on display for others as we go about our daily lives. In business, a Buyer Persona is a realistic and detailed representation of your customer. It is meant to be thought of as someone who actually exists, who has a "history", his/her own goals and priorities, wants, needs and problems.

Personas are fictional, but they are created with rigor and exactness through primary market research. A Persona begins life as a hypothesis. Company stakeholders brainstorm about the types of people who will buy their service or product in order to create "Prototype Personas". These prototypes and hypotheses are validated or rejected through ethnographic inquiry, employing observation, followed by an in-depth interview.

Observation affords you a first-hand look at the environment in which your customers work and live. And unlike an interview - in which the customer tells you about his or her behavior, likes, dislikes and attitudes - you get to see these things for yourself. This contextual inquiry can be very eye opening!

The in-depth interview is one-on-one, to allow you to devote your full attention to the customer. The interview questions are very open ended: "What went well today? What didn't go well today? What happened that caused you to look for a new solution? What did you do to find potential solutions?"

At this point you may be thinking that Buyer Personas look promising...but also time consuming, and probably not inexpensive. And you may be wondering, Are Personas really going to help me to make better decisions?"

YES! Here are 5 reasons why Buyer Personas are so powerful:

  1. Empathy. Buyer Personas yield a deep understanding and intimate profile of your target customer - and enable you to walk in your customer's shoes. This goes a long way to ensuring that the service, product, or online experience will align with actual buyer needs.

    If your organization is already customer centric, Buyer Personas make that thinking explicit.

  2. Integration. Buyer Personas round out learning and serve as the basis for other research programs. A Buyer Persona brings the customer wants and needs to the forefront of the process - whether it's service/product development or web or marketing materials design - before the planning or design actually start. (This also means you will save time and money and avoid disruptions to the project later on.)

  3. Alignment. Buyer Personas bring stakeholders and team members together with one shared vision of exactly who the customer is and they want and need. This is especially helpful when you have multiple stakeholders with different ideas of what needs to be developed first.

    KS&R Case Study Moment: A global technical services provider was preparing to expand its line of business with consulting services. Two key stakeholders had opposing views with regard to which consulting services to develop first: A review of their Buyer Personas, including Risk Averse Alonzo in Barcelona and No Gray Areas Greg in Boston, resulted in quick consensus on strategic direction!

  4. Better allocate marketing resources. A Buyer Persona will give you an in-depth understanding of where your customers spend time online and their "go to" information sources. This allows you to make highly informed decisions about where and how to spend your marketing dollars.

  5. Optimize marketing messaging. Buyer Personas enable you to speak your customers' language. You understand what they want to know, and why - and how best to tell the story. They allow you to create highly targeted website content and write blogs with specific Personas in mind, and to identify which channels you will post them on.

    KS&R Case Study Moment: A medical device manufacturer recently released a diagnostic product featuring breakthrough technology. When Marketing unveiled the sales aid that reps would use with the physicians, the product engineers were alarmed that it did not include in-depth technical specs of the new technology. The truth is that the physicians don't have the time or interest to focus on the technical specifications. The Marketing Department simply let the Personas explain why it was left out.

If you have employed Buyer Personas in your product or service development, web design, or marketing campaigns, I would love to hear from you! And I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about the power of Buyer Personas in customer engagement.

All the best,