5 Research Tips to Build an Effective Customer Persona

03 Feb 2020 11:22 am by Megan Burnside

5 More Tips on How to Craft a Well-Researched Customer Persona

Many brands find that developing a persona to represent their targeted customer or client helps them create and evaluate their strategies for everything from advertising and public relations, to donor relations and product development. A persona - a detailed description of a brand’s prototypical customer - is a tool, similar to brand narratives and equity pyramids, for keeping a brand’s communications laser-focused on the customer. A brand persona is, by design, more imaginative than other tools; it’s rooted in data, yes, but it’s brought fully to life via some strategically sound creative embellishments.

As an example, here’s a portion of a faux customer persona created for an ultra-premium brand of electric lawn mower:

    “Perfectionist Paul” is a married, 55-year-old accountant who spends some portion of every single day between March 1 and November 1 examining his lawn to determine if his grass needs to be cut, watered, weeded or fertilised. His lawn is a reflection of him, and Perfectionist Paul can’t sleep well if his lawn isn’t, well, perfect. His pursuit of perfection goes beyond his lawn: his yard and gardening tools are always clean and neatly displayed; his Toyota Prius looks new and is rarely without a full charge, ready to go; and his closet is smartly organised. When not obsessing over his lawn, Perfectionist Paul enjoys crossroad puzzles, …

How do you go about creating an effective, helpful customer or client persona for your brand? Here are 10 tips to get you started.

1. Free Yourself

For some, there can be an initial hesitation to creating a customer persona since it can feel like stereotyping, something we all work hard to otherwise avoid doing. Obviously, not every current or prospective customer of your brand is identical or, for that matter, even close to being so. Every person is unique. But unlike most attempts to paint people with a broad brush, this one has good intentions: the better you know your customer, the better you can communicate with him or her, which is beneficial to all involved.

2. Start with what you already know

The bones of your persona are your quantitative data that likely already know about your target: gender, age range, household income, the regions where they live, etc. The brand persona you create should reflect, and in no way conflict with, your quantitative data.

3. Look at what your quantitative data tells you.

To begin adding flesh to the bones of your persona, you should consider any qualitative data you have. For instance, perhaps through previous focus groups or online surveys, you have a clear reason to believe that your target customer is more apt than others to snow ski or to read romance novels. This is the kind of “texture” that makes a brand persona come “alive.” You do very much want your persona to “feel” like a real person. In fact, if he or she doesn’t feel real, doesn’t feel like someone who may actually be out there walking the streets, you haven’t realised him or her as fully as you should.

4. Make it about more than your brand.

As with the “Perfectionist Paul” example above, your persona should contain details directly related to your brand, but it should also include plenty that aren’t. This is actually the more important information as it’s the detail that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. Someone who buys a high-end lawn mower is, almost by default, someone who cares intensely about their yard. That’s obvious. The additional context is what gives your persona the interesting detail that then helps you evaluate your brand’s communications to ensure it’s on target.

5. Imagine having coffee with your persona.

One way to think about some of the details that bring a persona to life is to imagine a conversation with him or her in which you’re meeting for the first time. If you were getting to know a real person, you would likely ask the questions that most of us do in that situation: What do you do for work? Do you have a family? Where do you live? What hobbies do you have? Ask the same questions of your persona.

Ultimately, having this sort of mental image of what your consumer looks like can help to make decisions that foster the valuable dialogue between brands and their audiences. The more research that goes into building a persona, the more valuable it will be.

Take the next steps to RPA:

1. Check out these research tips for media producers!  
2. Read our latest blog post on '' And the next contestant is....The repercussions of missing background information'
3. Learn more about how Nexis and research can provide better information, better results.