XO’s Buyer Persona Development Guide for 2021

Posted March 17, 2021

With everyone talking about them, Buyer Personas could well have been Digital Marketing’s “Customer of the Year” in 2020. Here’s how we’re dealing with them in 2021.

Buyer Personas and Marketing Personas and, now, even cuter, Customer Avatars, all come together to form what used to be called a Target Market. The words for them are nearly interchangeable, but they play a role as important as that of anybody on your team.

But don’t let the creation and understanding of your buyer persona seem daunting.

Your goal is to get a clear, fresh, and actionable understanding of who and what you’re dealing with: what kind of people are they? And the buyer persona is one of the most important steps to doing that.

Having that buyer persona, or a few of them is essential to:

  • Quickly teaching your entire team, including new hires and outside providers, with a one-glance understand of who they’re dealing with, selling to, informing, or otherwise interacting with.
  • Selling your services (or even your entire company) based on its following and community.
  • Understanding the channels and social networks where your customers are – and what they’re doing there.
  • Spending smarter on advertising or on any kind of marketing and ultimately maximizing exposure.
  • Better understanding the pain, desire, and aspirations of your market and your community.
  • Better developing and delivering apps, products, or services
  • And understanding in advance how trends, market changes or conditions will affect your customer pool – and thus, your business too.

So let’s look, quickly at turning out some really good Buyer Personas that will go right to work for you.

Defining your customer early is the first step to success.

XO’s Buyer Persona
Creation Quick Guide

(2021 Edition)

Effective buyer personas come from the combination of solid market research and data collected from your existing customer base. The longer you’re in business, the better you get at understanding your customers.

Surveys and online product and company reviews are some of the best sources for understanding who you’re selling to.

There are also pixels which can be added directly to your website, but most marketers rely most heavily on what they learn from social media interactions.

The basic information you need to collect is this:

  • Male or Female?
  • Age (ranges)
  • Family size/structure
  • Ethnic and political orientations
  • Educational backgrounds/highest levels of education
  • Industries in which they work
  • Annual earnings
  • Geographical locations
  • Interests, concerns, and leanings
  • Most common websites they visit and networks they use
  • Why might they buy your product?
  • What problems are solved?
  • What pain points are addressed by your product?
  • What other issues surround those pain points that might inform your Persona’s experience, day-to-day life, and opinions.

Write good answers to each of these. You may find one or more areas not really relevant, but the more information you can fill in, even if it’s seemingly irrelevant, the better you can communicate with and understand your Persona.

Issues Around Your Pain Points

That last one above is where Buyer Personas get interesting. As you might expect, for some industries and products these will be a lot easier than for others. But look at it this way:

  • People with diabetes use a variety of other products, dietary items, clothing, and educational services.
  • People caring for special-needs children unite in their need for understanding, information, and products and services.
  • People who go to nightclubs respond well to products and services that invite them into exclusive circles.
  • Payroll accountants work closely with HR and share much of HR’s concern for updated, easy-to-understand information on regulations, software, and security.

None of these people have anything to do with each other, but they’re all people with broad concerns related to the products and services they buy. That’s where we want to be working when we’re developing an adequate – or better-than-adequate persona.

multiple business peronsas for the multifaceted product
Yes, we’re going to make this even more difficult.

Dealing with Multiple Personas

Most eCommerce businesses deal with more than just one ideal customer.

This is fine, but it means you’ve got to do all of the above for each of them. While we speak a lot here about building and succeeding with the perfect eCommerce niche, many niches will further subdivide their customers down into the people who like them for reason A, and those coming here for reason B. It’s not difficult. But it can lead to doubling your efforts, depending on how far apart those two groups of people really are.

Most eCommerce specialists will start with the most important (or the most profitable) persona and then look at the lesser sub-groups.

We actually more often recommend starting with your lesser important sub-groups and making your mistakes there. Then use your newfound expertise to really nail it on the primary or Number One buyer persona.

Negative Business Personas

The persona you really don’t want as a customer is one that rarely comes up.

But there can be some value in documenting all of the gnarly things that made a few particular customer relationships unsuccessful. In certain kinds of markets, this can be important when trying to reduce customer churn, or when you really feel that your marketing has been aimed at the wrong people.

In those cases, we simply answer all of the questions above for those same people. Very often, these kinds of descriptions are of tremendous importance to newer members of a marketing team, and to outside providers who really don’t get you’re trying to reach.

XO Quick Guide to Nailing Your eCommerce Business Persona

# 1 List all of the simple demographic traits.

# 2 Develop a psychographic profile: values, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles.

# 3 Naming a Business Persona can help to humanize it, but don’t mock or make to much fun a persona. It’s actually more common than we think (“Everyone hates their customers.” Right?), but it’s a real death knell to successfully marketing to them. For some kinds of markets, we might also attach a stock photo, representing this persona. And in some business, we’ll really concentrate on both male and female personas with both male and female names and photos.

# 4 Develop a full-fledged dossier. This can look like a Human Resources file, but it’s essentially a complete story of how your persona uses those demographic traits, (in #2 above) to address and interact with the environment in which pain points are an organizing principle.

We often do this dossier in PowerPoint, or a similar presentation format, to make sure that all of the people who need to will understand who is our persona, and why are they in or around our commercial area. Are they following some of the same influencers we are on Facebook? Are they attending similar events or reviewing products or businesses online? This list can go on and on.

And now, we’re really speaking with customer service, and frontline social media people to understand how and why and what everyone needs to know about your Buyer Persona. We’re putting it in context and we’re going to use it so that everyone speaking on behalf of your company is really on the same footing as to that all-important Who and What and Why.


Customer Personas are not barbies
Customer Personas ARE NOT BARBIE DOLLS.

Marketers across the internet fall into the same trap about what to do with Buyer Personas.

They develop and talk about Buyer Personas and Customer Avatars. Then they pass them all off to a disinterested graphics team who illustrate them and then everyone goes back to doing things like you always did.

Don’t do that.

Your dossier presentation is really one in which you address the most important errors made in the past. It gets presented to:

  • Creative Team
  • Social Media Team
  • Sales Team
  • Customer Service Team
  • Outside Providers

Each of these should have been involved in the development of the dossier, and of the persona too.

In many companies, such developmental meetings will raise some heated discussions, some eye-opening revelations, and some brawling arguments, at least early on.

By the time your dossiers are ready to be emailed out to everyone in the company, most of your staff should be at 99% agreement that it’s pretty freaking accurate. If they’re not, then redevelop it and keep going. Do it again until they are.

But don’t say F it and go back to churning out Memes for Facebook based on what you always did.

Filed under: Blog

Tagged with: Buyer Persona, Digital Marketing, eCommerce, Niche Marketing, Online marketing


James is a technology and marketing writer with 20 years experience in advertising, media relations, and eCommerce. His articles have appeared in numerous publications around the web.