How to create an ideal customer persona
May 24th, 2023, Jen Garside

How to create an ideal customer persona

Customer personas help to tailor your marketing, delivering a personalised customer experience. Looking to create a customer persona to understand exactly who you’re marketing to, and boost marketing ROI? We can help you there, with our handy guide to knowing your customers on a deeper level

What is an ideal customer persona?

A customer persona, sometimes known as a buyer persona or a marketing persona, is a fictional representation of who your ideal customer is, data-informed using market research. Brands, agencies and businesses will gather information about the demographics, behaviors, goals, motivations and challenges of their target customers – using existing client data and researching their target audience.

Developing a detailed ideal customer profile enables you to draw a detailed picture of what your customers look like, creating a robust starting point for your activity. This in turn, should ensure that your future activities will truly connect with your customers, and ultimately play a key role in influencing their behaviors or purchase decisions.

When developing your marketing and campaign strategies, it’s hugely important to understand exactly who it is that you’re trying to market to, so you can guarantee stronger ROI. Without putting proper thought into this, you risk spending time, money and effort on talking to the completely wrong audience!

What are the steps to creating helpful customer personas?

  1. Data analysis of existing customer data: The best way to understand people who buy your products and services is by looking at the data you have. Identify a key group within your existing customer base to see how they align, and inform who you might want to research
  2. Get feedback from sales and client success teams: Be shaped by the positive and negative experiences of teams who work with your clients day in and day out. Take anecdotal stories and turn them into learnings. What trends occur regularly? What marketing messages resonate most? What benefits are helping close the deal?
  3. Conduct client interviews and customer research, asking key questions: If you want an accurate representation of how clients perceive your tools – ask them! This is where research surveys come into play. Let your existing clients tell you their story – their needs and pain points.
  4. Identify a persona opportunity: When you spot a trend or key audience group where you have the most success, where behavior patterns, goals, pain points and background are similar, this is your opportunity identified! It’s time to take that buyer identity and build it out into a persona.
  5. Create a persona template: Create a templated document to capture all of the learnings from previous steps, make it user-friendly and memorable.
  6. Bring persona to life: Tell your persona’s story – flesh them out fully, name them, shout about them in all your regular internal communications and ensure they’re a part of all key teams’ education: marketing, sales, client success, account management and more!
  7. Organise & refine: Optimise your persona work by coming back to it regularly – nobody stays the same. Be nimble and reactive to changes in industries and behaviors.
  8. Adapt for other segments: You’ve found yourself a key buyer persona – success! In an ideal world, they won’t be the only person you’re marketing to; if they are, chances are that your persona is not specific enough! Create new personas for different segments, with varying experiences, pain points, and demographic information, so that you can tailor your marketing with personalised experiences for all your key buyers.

How do I create a customer persona template?

A customer persona template should cover all the key details about your target individual. Here are some of the information points you might want to consider / questions you might want to ask:

  1. Demographic information:
    Income level
  2. Psychographic information:
    Problems to solve
  3. Habits and media consumption:
    Online activities
    Buying habits
    Media & social media consumption
    Preferred communication channels
  4. Professional information (particularly if you’re working in B2B)
    Job title
    Decision-making power
    Tools already used
    Professional objective
  5. Decision-making factors:
    Challenges and pain points
    Obstacles to purchase
  6. Narrative
    Name of image to represent target customer
    Fictional bio explaining their story
    A quote reflecting their needs

Customer persona example

Here’s an example of how YouGov might develop a persona for YouGov Surveys: Self-serve – our survey building tool.

We know one of our key use cases is ad testing, and we see agencies do this regularly for their clients.

Agency ad-tester

Occupation: Strategy Manager

Company size: 400 

Goal: Winning a new client pitch for an advertising campaign

Challenge: Looking to give prospective client a data-informed proposal to prove their concept

Problems to solve: Need to test adverts with a key audience segment to add evidence to their pitch

Pain points: Reaching a representation of the client’s target audience quickly

Buying habits: Looking to self-serve and pay with a credit card

Price: Keen to select a cost-effective option as they haven’t yet secured the client

Social media consumption: Champion LinkedIn user

Obstacles to purchase: Quick turnaround times resulting in issues with budget sign-off and unable to raise a PO quick enough

This persona information could help YouGov find the appropriate USPs to push when marketing to the target audience. We know to lean on our cost-effective price and 24-hour results turnaround, and that we can reach this audience best by advertising on LinkedIn.

Persona case studies and success stories

Persona work can be difficult to undertake without the data, so YouGov helps clients to get the best out of their audience segmentations and develop them into usable personas that can shape their strategies.

Here’s a key example of how we helped a UK agency create and work with 5 personas:

GOOD, a strategic and creative agency in the UK, wanted to help a large volume of clients who were looking to make a positive impact but lacking the tools or audience understanding to do so. GOOD approached YouGov to create a market segmentation strategy to result in personas, with an emphasis on how different audiences view purpose-led marketing efforts.

They wanted to collect data to build audience personas which had clearly defined attitudes towards different media platforms, brand identities and topical issues. YouGov was trusted to deliver the required audience intelligence and assist in designing questions for GOOD’s survey to better understand these target groups.

YouGov's dedicated research team worked with the agency to design bespoke questions around attitudes to purpose and brands, to inform the audience understanding. The size of the audience sample was essential to ensure the results were robust enough so that GOOD could research the attitudes and interests of the different personas in depth.

The fieldwork was then connected to our living consumer intelligence in YouGov Profiles, which holds thousands of variables on YouGov’s most active panel members. This connected data was used to enhance and cross-reference against the questions asked, giving GOOD granular insights into the different personas.

The findings identified 5 different Purpose Personas for GOOD to work with. Once these were defined, YouGov helped the agency to get further insights into these personas, conducting nine qualitative in-depth interviews to bring the segments to life and build the narrative.

These new segments enabled GOOD to gain a deeper understanding of their clients’ audiences, and to lead the way with purpose-based marketing strategies. GOOD were able to continuously look at trends within their new segments via YouGov’s connected data capabilities.

The survey data was also used to create a ranking of the top 100 purposeful brands. GOOD also published a data-backed whitepaper and ran a webinar to promote their work to both prospective and existing clients, ultimately positioning them as thought leaders in purpose-based marketing.

How to use personas to improve marketing performance

Once you’ve built your ideal customer persona, you might want to segment it further – or create additional personas around the different types of buyers you encounter.

These personas can be circulated to teams around your entire business, so that they can always have in mind the end-goal, personalising every single sales, account management, client success or marketing communication to the type of client or prospect you’re engaging with.

Here’s a few areas where your personas can help:

  • Shape your product development to fix pain points
  • Personalise marketing strategies per account or sector
  • Target specific audience segments on the channels that best reach them
  • Streamline your inbound marketing funnel with automated journeys
  • Tailor your sales pitches to persona types
  • Improve customer experiences within product
  • Inform the tone of voice you adopt with key clients and prospects
  • Identify negative buyer persona traits – who are the people that didn’t become customers, how can you avoid the same pitfalls in future?

Creating customer personas with YouGov

If you’re looking to produce customer personas, YouGov can help you to better understand your existing customer base, and draw out key audience segments that you can then fold into your marketing and sales activities.

As with the case study above, we can help determine the wider target audience personas of your business or support a specific objective with clearly defined profiles.

“YouGov Surveys and Profiles allowed us to develop entirely bespoke segments based on our needs and gave us credible data to position ourselves as thought leaders in purpose-based marketing”.

Pete Grant
Planning Director at GOOD