Ultimate Guide: How to Create a Buyer Persona for Your Startup

As a young and relentless entrepreneur, I constantly prioritized tenacity, fierce execution, and speed over strategic thinking and planning. “Fail fast and fail often” was my mantra, and I followed it with blind obsession.

Though speed is important, it’s critical to know in which direction you’re running towards.

There are many important channels for growth: SEO, SEM, email, affiliate, WOM, and sales to name just a few. To maximize customer acquisition, you need to get into the head of your customer; you need to become your customer.

The best way to do this is through buyers personas.

Who this article is for: growth marketers who lead a company that has found product market fit and is ready to accelerate customer acquisition.

What you will learn: how I accelerated customer acquisition at Bunny Inc through the creation of customer personas. You will also see several examples of well done customer personas.

What is a buyer persona

A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer based on data-driven customer research. You will often have more than one customer persona — we in fact have five for VoiceBunny.

A buyer persona has a name, age, hometown, wants, needs, and goals, which help you better target your customers with growth initiatives.

Take a look at the two examples below:

  1. An accounting professional based in the United States that makes $50,000 – $75,000 per year and is greater than 30 years of age
  2. Joseph Ma is a Senior External Auditor at Deloitte Consulting. He is 32 years old and makes $73,000 per year. He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife and child.

Of the two examples above, which is the right way to build a buyer persona?

Example number one is too vague: it’s a generalization of what a customer looks like.

Example number two on the other hand is very specific: you know the name of the professional, where he works, how old he is, how many kids he has, and how much money he makes.

When it comes time to build your growth initiatives, example number two will help you craft a message that is targeted and optimized to convert.

Not every company is ready to build buyer personas

Buyer personas are built from a data-driven analysis of your customer base. You should not build customer personas unless your startup has paying customers.

Furthermore, you need to have more than just one paying customer to build customer personas that are useful and representative of your target market.

A good rule of thumb is to analyze at least 100 paying customers. Your analysis will consist of surveys, customer development phone calls, and database research.

Before we begin…

Take note that Bunny Inc builds marketplaces where buyers can purchase voice overs. You will definitely be able to use the methods and principles that I used to create customer personas, but the execution may differ from company to company.

Step 1: Analyze your current customer base

Your first step is to get a complete data dump of all of your customers. I asked for the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Email
  3. Revenue
  4. Client acquisition date

I asked my personal assistant, who helped me remove the Google manual penalty on one of our sites, to categorize our clients into the following types:

  • Audio guides
  • Narrations
  • Podcasts
  • Video games
  • Movie trailers
  • Explainer videos
  • Audio books

I then used a pivot table to analyze our customer base and determine which types of clients have driven the most money for our company.

Why this is important: this helps you segment your customer base to pinpoint exactly who are your most important customers.

Step 2: Survey your customers

The next step is to continue gathering information through a customer survey. This is how you gather demographic and psychographic information from your buyers.

The tool I used to survey our customers is Survey Monkey.

I asked the following questions:

  1. What does your company do?
  2. What is your role at the company?
  3. How did you learn about us?
  4. How did you get voice overs before VoiceBunny?
  5. What publications do you read?
  6. What are your biggest pains at your job?
  7. Who makes the purchasing decisions at your company?
  8. Gender?
  9. Age?
  10. Location?

I used MailChimp to send out the following email to our customers:

Subject: Help us build the next version of our product

Hi David,

As one of our trusted customers, we greatly respect and value your opinions and feedback. We are a technology driven company and heavily invest in the growth of our product. As we begin to build the next version of our product, we’d like to learn more about you so that we can build you a better product.

Please take this 2 minute survey.

Thank you very much in advance for your help.

Once I received the information, I asked my assistant to categorize/normalize all of the survey answers. I used a pivot table to analyze our customer responses and segment our most important customers.

Step 3: Customer development phone calls

The last step in the information gathering phase is to conduct customer development phone calls with your best customers.

I gathered a list of our 200 biggest customers based on revenue. I sent them a personalized email and asked for 15 minutes of their time to learn more about them.

Subject: I’d like to learn more about your business to build a better product

Hi Sarah,

My name is Jun Loayza and I’m the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc.

I’d like to schedule a 15-minute phone call to learn more about you and your company and find ways that we can build you a better product and overall experience.

Please let me know if you’re available the following days and times:

Thank you so much and I look forward to speaking to you.

I scheduled 25 customer development phone calls and asked them the following questions:

  1. Tell me about your company
  2. Who is responsible for getting the voice overs?
  3. How did you learn about us?
  4. What did you use before VoiceBunny?
  5. What advice can you give me to find other great customers like yourself?

I used this very detailed buyer information to craft detailed buyer personas.

Step 4: Create the buyer personas

Now comes the most challenging part: how to create customer personas out of the tons of information that you’ve gathered? It can be an incredibly daunting task, so it’s important to have processes in place to help you do it.

Find your top customer categories

From “step 1”, I found that 90% of our revenue is generated by the top 15% of our clients. I took that top 15% of customers and analyzed the category types and found that 80% of that revenue is generated by the top five categories:

  1. Video games
  2. Narrations
  3. Audio guides
  4. Movie trailers
  5. HR

I now have the top 5 most important categories for VoiceBunny.

Find the demographics and psychographics of your top categories

I know the demographics and psychographics of my customers because of “step 2”. I used a pivot table to find the customers who most closely resemble the top 5 categories. I used the first question “what does your company do” to determine if they fit within one of the top 5 categories.

I now know the demographics and psychographics of my top 5 categories.

Paint a picture of what a professional in each category looks like

Lastly, I used the customer development phone calls in “step 3” to paint a real picture for each category. I used LinkedIn to find the educational background, professional history, and picture of the professionals that I interviewed.

Step 5: Storytelling and examples of buyer personas

We all learn through stories, so it’s important for our buyer personas to tell us a story about who these professionals are. Using the information in “step 4”, our in-house designer, and professional stock images from iStock and ShutterStock, I painted a story for each customer persona.

Joshua – the Audio Producer

examples of buyer personas

  • # year old ethnicity and gender
  • Lives in Location
  • Professionat Company
  • Graduated from University
  • How he learns about new products and services
  • Reads publication
  • Biggest pains about his work
  • Who has the final say about purchasing voice overs

Joshua is a Title by profession and a Hobby at heart. He is artistic, creative, and plays the lead guitar in a band as a hobby. Joshua leads the production of videos at Company and is self-motivated to find the best solution for his team so that he can progress in his career. He uses Website to get professional voices, but actively seeks solutions that will save him time and resources at his job. Name is able to make the final decision about which voice over fulfillment service to use.

Michael – the Designer

examples of customer personas

  • # year old ethnicity and gender
  • Lives in Location
  • Profession at Company
  • Graduated from University
  • How he learns about new products and services
  • Reads publication
  • Biggest pains about his work
  • Who has the final say about purchasing voice overs

Michael is a do-it-all creative designer that specialized in specialization. He takes great pride is his artistic ability, and even went to school at University to refine his skills. Michael is a Title at Company where he supports the department team by creating Products. He uses Website to create Products, but is in need of a professional service that can help him do many thingsName is able to make the final decision about which voice over fulfillment service to use.

Francis – the Sales Trainer

examples of customer personas

  • # year old ethnicity and gender
  • Lives in Location
  • Profession at Company
  • Graduated from University
  • How she learns about new products and services
  • Reads publication
  • Biggest pains about his work
  • Who has the final say about purchasing voice overs

Francis is a Title that takes great pride in her career. She is detail-oriented, and greatly committed to her work at Company where she has spent the past # years dedicating her hard work in pursuit of her passion to Objective. Francis leads the Department for her company; she constantly seeks out new technologies that will allow her to do her job better. Francis personally recruits and manages Professionals to narrate her Products. Name is able to make the final decision about which voice over fulfillment service to use.

Karin – the Marketer

examples of customer personas

  • # year old ethnicity and gender
  • Lives in Location
  • Profession at Company
  • Graduated from University
  • How she learns about new products and services
  • Reads publication
  • Biggest pains about his work
  • Who has the final say about purchasing voice overs

Karin is a Title at Company. She’s not incredibly passionate about her career, and puts her family and friends first. She doesn’t actively seek new technologies or services; she does a good job at her work, but only enough to keep her job. In her role, Karin creates Products to promote her Company. She currently uses Professionals for narrations, but is actively seeking a new voice over provider. Name is able to make the final decision about which voice over fulfillment service to use.

Henry – the Freelancer

examples of customer personas

  • # year old ethnicity and gender
  • Lives in Location
  • Profession at Company
  • Graduated from University
  • How he learns about new products and services
  • Reads publication
  • Biggest pains about his work
  • Who has the final say about purchasing voice overs

Henry is Title based out of Location. For years he worked as a Title for other people, but always had the entrepreneurial spirit in him. He finally started his own Company and utilizes his talent to produce Products. Henry currently uses Professionals to get voice overs, but as a motivated entrepreneur, he’s always open to new products or services that will allow him to better service his clients and help him increase his margins. Name is able to make the final decision about which voice over fulfillment service to use.

More examples of customer personas

I must credit MailChimp as a big inspiration for my methodology in creating our buyer personas. Below are examples of how MailChimp built their customer personas:

examples of customer personas examples of customer personas

Full credit of course to the terrific MailChimp team.

Who are your buyer personas?

I most definitely want to know. If you have any questions about building your customers personas, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. Once you’re done building them, send them my way — I’d love to take a look at them.

Published by

Jun Loayza

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc. In his startup experience, he has sold 2 technology companies and raised $1M in angel funding. Jun lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife Kim.

8 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide: How to Create a Buyer Persona for Your Startup”

  1. Hey thanks so much for the article! Why are the bullet points below each customer persona so generic?

    1. Good question David. I actually removed the details from each bullet point because many elements of our buyer personas are for internal knowledge only. I added the stories and bullet points so that you can use them as a template for building your own.

  2. Question. You state in your article “You should not build customer personas unless your startup has paying customers”, however, I have been tasked with creating a content marketing strategy and every good book I read shows the first step is to create a buyer persona, yet we are pre-revene, what do I do?

    1. If you don’t have paying customers or users, then you don’t know who your customers or users are. Don’t waste time on building personas. Get clients.

      Content marketing is a slow and methodical way of building a customer base. Your first step is to email your network and sell them your product.

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