The 5 Questions to Building Your Persona

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The 5 Questions to Building Your Persona


“In the simplest terms, buyer personas are examples or archetypes of real buyers that allow marketers to craft strategies to promote products and services to the people who might buy them.“

– Adele Revella


Who is your customer? We see her every day. We talk with her, share a laugh, and hope she comes back. She makes us giddy when she shows up often, and fretful when she stays away. She’s the reason you’re in business. So who is she?

First things first: you’ll notice I said “she.” Women make 80% of all household buying decisions. If you’re selling to businesses, anything goes, but if you’re selling to consumers, you’re going to have to make a strong case to persuade me that it is wise for you to label your core customer as a man.

Women run our economy. A business that isn’t talking to them directly is playing with fire.

Get to know her

So… Who is she? Have you ever sat down to really think about who puts food on your table? If you don’t know who she is, how can you talk to her?

A persona is a composite sketch of your core customer. It includes who she is, how she’s looking for answers, and why she’ll choose you—or a competitor—to help her. It’s the most foundational tool in Content Strategy. After all, you can’t talk to someone if you don’t know what she wants to hear.




How to build your personae

Talk to 100 marketers and you’ll get 100 different formulas. I’m not a believer in building a personality profile. You don’t need to know what they eat for breakfast. You need to know what they’re looking for, how they find it, and what they expect when they do.

First, figure out the age/ gender of your base persona. If you manage a small business, you’ll know this already.

Name him or her. Don’t do it randomly. You want to think of your persona as a certain age, and names matter. Google the most popular names in their birth year and pick one. My base persona, born in 1958, is called Mary.

To implement my tried and true model, you’ll need answers to each of these 5 questions:

  1. Who Are They? : the answer is a matter of basic demographics, plain and simple. Don’t get carried away; you’re not making a character in a novel. You only need the info that is relevant to your business/customer relationship.
  2. Why Are They Searching? : Make an assumption. Your persona is looking for something. She’s searching for something and it’s up to you to know what it is and to offer what she’s looking for.
  3. How Are They Searching? : If you’re going to offer what she’s looking, you’ll need to know where she goes to look. Her age, amongst other things, will determine where, when, and in what format you can reach her.
  4. Why Will They Choose You? : What do you offer her that the other guys don’t? Once you offer her what she’s seeking, why will she become your customer?
  5. Why Won’t They Choose You? : This is the most important question of the 5. You won’t answer it honestly as first, but it’s crucial that you get this one right. Answer it, then return to it later and answer it again and again, until it’s a real reflection of how your business needs to change in order to be the right fit for her.

Once you’ve answered the 5 questions, start to think about what actions you can take. As an extension of each answer, develop an action item that you can reasonably implement.  Take your time with these questions. Filling in the blanks takes me, in collaboration with an Owner, at last an hour. Don’t rush it, and don’t do it over your coffee break.

In the next article, we’ll look at what kinds of personae you can build, and where to get the answers to the 5 Key Questions.