At their best, personas can help us better understand users and meet their needs. 

At their worst (i.e personas based on poorly sourced data, or worse, no data at all), they can be highly misleading and result in failed product launches, subpar marketing campaigns, and lost sales. 

Intuition and gut reactions only get you so far. They don’t serve a whole lot of purpose when it comes to making personas the best they can be. 

In order for personas to serve your goals, they need to be data-driven. 

So what, exactly, does a data driven persona look like?

What is a buyer persona, and who does it help?

Customer personas can be thought of as highly detailed representations of segments within your target audience. 

In simpler terms, a customer persona is a fictional character that represents a real person — a real person that exists within your audience, and who would benefit the most from your product/service. 

Data-driven personas are useful to a wide range of people within a company, and particularly to marketers and salespeople. 

Think about it — a totally mapped out persona that provides accurate and detailed information about what users actually want. It’s no wonder 90% of companies using personas have been able to create a clearer understanding of their buyers.  

  • Marketers: Customer personas allow marketers to segment their campaigns, and send personalized content to each different profile type.. Because they know exactly who they are targeting, they can distribute customized content to potential customers using their preferred channels. Additionally, personas can help to enhance SEO strategy
  • Salespeople: Personas provide sales reps with a clear understanding of who they should be targeting, and allows them to better communicate with those individuals. Additionally, personas allow reps to be prepared for a variety of pain points, and better equips them to talk through any objections. 

Where Does Data Fit In?

Data should inform every step of your persona-development process. 

From creation to testing communication, data can provide you valuable insights along the way. But where does it come from? Customer data can come from a range of sources including:

  • Website analytics 
  • Social listening tools 
  • Digital surveys 
  • Social media 
  • Contact databases 

Obtaining the data is the easy part, but what you do with it will determine how successful you’ll be.

Steps to Building a Data-Driven Persona

So how do you go from a bunch of raw data to a comprehensive, clearly defined buyer persona

Step 1: Collect Customer Data

If you’re working for a B2B company, you likely have access to large databases, full of customer data. So where should you start? 

It’s important to get a mix of both qualitative and quantitative data, because one will inform the other. Below are a few sources to turn to when building up your reportoise of information. 

Behavioral and Firmographic Data: Typically found in your CRM database, these forms of data speak to things like page views, email sign-ups, webinar registrations, age, title, location, company size, etc. — the basic information that will allow you to begin segmenting your audience. 

Customer support systems: While a slightly more obscure metric, customer support systems can provide information about current customers that can then inform the building of a persona. Marking each case that a customer files with a tag can allow you to go back and look at things like feature requests.

Surveys: Perhaps the most common way to collect information on both existing and potential customers is with a survey. You can cross reference demographic data with site metrics or revenue to identify your most valuable demographics. As a good source of qualitative data, these surveys can inform the “why” aspect of your customer persona research. 

Site metrics: Site metrics allow you to gain a better understanding of who is visiting your website and how existing customers interact with it. Looking at your website metrics will provide you with good lead sources, landing pages, and average time visitors spend on the site. 

Contact database: Your contact database is also a great source of information because you can uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.  

Step 2: Identify Patterns and Commonalities

How can you turn this data into the perfect customer persona? 

This is where you’ll start to see some common traits come to light from both  previous and current customers share. You can use downloadable templates to organize your information, and then start to build up a primary persona to guide the development of your content.

Once you have a database of information on customers, you can begin to cross reference your qualitative and quantitative data.

Keep in mind that success stories are not the only ones that have significance here. Sales lost are great resources to look at to better understand why they weren’t successful.

Step 3: Create Your Persona

Traditional, non-data-driven personas are typically static, and quickly become out-of-datet. Data-driven personas, on the other hand, should be dynamic, ever-changing documents. 

To create your data-driven personas, cross reference user data about who your buyers  are and what they need. Use data to  figure out how well the latest version of your product met their needs. Every time a new feature is released, you should measure the results and make changes to your personas accordingly. 

People change, so why wouldn’t your personas?!

Final Thoughts on Building Personas with Data

Without data, your customer personas are a shot in the dark. Basing personas purely on what we think would make an ideal customer is no longer enough. 

With a data-driven approach, our personas are detailed, and backed by real, accurate information. 

We have the data, so we might as well use it.

What are you waiting for?

About the author

Reyna LaRiccia

Reyna LaRiccia is a Content Marketing Specialist at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact database and sales intelligence solution.

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