Customer Personas

How well do you know your customers? – Defining a Persona

Alex Johnson
Owner, Designer & Strategist

Your customers are everything to your business. For many businesses word of mouth is very important. Reviews of your business are also important. They both need to be good. But it can be hard to achieve good reviews and referrals when your ideal customer is not well defined. Targeting the wrong customer makes them very hard to please. A persona will do exactly that.

Does my business need an ‘ideal’ customer?

No business can cater to everyone. But many try to be the everything for everyone business. No matter how hard you try, you will never please everyone. And you will end up hating every second of it. It is better to be specific.

Being specific does not mean you have to pick one customer type. Rather you define each of those customers and direct marketing to them alone. Marketing sent to customers that have no interest is a waste. Let’s define some proper customer profiles or ‘personas’ for your customers. Then your marketing will hit the right people every time.

The persona basics

I find it works best if you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes. you need to know everything about them. How they act, what they own, are they in a family? Sit down with some paper and list anything you can think of. And I mean anything. You can narrow it down later. For now, get some ideas on the paper.

For example, let’s look at when we defined our ideal customer at Pacific Northwest Web Works. We thought about who we loved working with. Tracking that, we determined that we liked working with small businesses best. Times that we worked with larger customers were not as enjoyable.

Next, we needed to narrow it down. Our audience was much too wide. We asked ourselves what age is the most common for small business owners? Do they tend to have a family? What is the average income of those businesses? The number of employees? Owner structure? All these questions helped us to define the persona that we wanted to use.

Included in this post is PDF with persona questions to help get you started. Questions courtesy of Hubspot.

Get interviewing

Customer Interviews
Conduct thorough interviews

Your next steps need to be boots on the ground research. Talk to everyone that falls into the questions you asked above. Verify that your answers are the right ones. Be specific, ask previous and current customers why they were/are your customer. Get as much detail as possible. Keep it centered on their habits, needs, etc. Answer every ‘Why’ question you can.

Don’t forget the opposite customers. If at all possible, talk to as many customers that you feel might not be a good fit. Learn these traits as well. This will help you to define the negative customers. These will be the ones you want to avoid in the future. A well-defined persona will allow you to repel negative customers. It will also attract the right ones to you.

Talk to both current customers as well as future customers. Avoid talking to family or friends. They will tend to give a colored answer to the base questions. It is not intentional, but your family will always be after your best intentions or so they think. Interview at least 5 people, but we recommend not more than 20. There is such a thing as overthinking it.

Don’t forget to write down some actual quotes. These will be useful when building the final persona.

Putting it all together

You should now have tons of good data. Start by sorting the data. Try to look for patterns in the data. Do you tend to have a specific age range? How about job titles? Do the customers you interviewed have similar styles of leadership?

Build a chart that lists all these factors. This will give you a good overview of your ideal customer. From this data, you can build your persona look-a-like. Give him or her a name. A name will allow your team to or even yourself to better connect with the persona. Use the quotes you gathered in your interviews. They will help give your persona life. Add a photo if you can. People connect better with other people.

Your persona is now ready

Treat your new persona like a future customer. Use them to guide your business. When you make a decision about your business, bounce it off this ‘customer’. Testing your ideas you will ensure that the idea is compatible with your ideal customer. It will help you direct marketing to them as well. Using the persona, you will know where and how best to connect with your customers. The savings can be immense when you are not wasting time talking to the wrong customers. In the end, you and your business will thank you.


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