Two women holding coffee mugs sit at a table and look at the screen of an open laptop. The woman on the left has shoulder-length dark blonde hair; she holds a lime green mug covered with white polka dots and wears a short-sleeved white button-up shirt. The woman on the right has long dark blonde hair; she holds a black mug with white polka dots and wears a black blouse. The table also holds several papers and a few fabric swatches in various shades of blue. In the background are a few clothing racks filled with dresses on hangers.
Personas are built off of patterns and commonalities found in your marketing research. Each persona should reflect both quantitative and qualitative data. — Getty Images/Eva-Katalin

Marketing personas are a tool to help marketing teams craft better, more targeted outreach to potential customers. A marketing persona is a fictional representation of a specific segment of your target audience. This composite sketch features demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data about your key audience to personify the user on the other side of your marketing campaign.

Marketing personas are useful for directing and honing your marketing messaging, improving customer engagement, and ultimately, driving sales and brand loyalty. Here’s how to build marketing personas for your business.

Start with research

The most helpful marketing personas go beyond basic demographic information to give you a clear picture of your key audiences. Use both quantitative and qualitative analysis to inform your profiles. Draw from primary and secondary data to carry out these analyses.

Quantitative analysis involves diving into your customer data to find patterns and trends from which you can create personas. Use quantitative data such as:

  • Demographic information, including gender, age, location, income level, education, etc.
  • Purchasing information, including average cart size, cart abandonment rates, frequency and recency of purchase, etc.
  • Buying habits, such as which social media sites they use, online vs. in-person engagement, and mobile app engagement.

Qualitative analysis can include marketing surveys, focus groups, and interviews to learn more about your customers’ psychographics. Psychographics in marketing refer to a customer’s beliefs, values, and goals. Qualitative data points are critical: Two people may show similar purchase habits, but be following those habits for different reasons.

“Remember, even though users may use the same product, they might use it to solve different problems. For example, a consumer can purchase a new computer for personal work or use, giving them different motivations for buying the product,” wrote MailChimp.

Ultimately, gather as much data as possible to start building 360-degree marketing personas.

[Read more: How to Conduct Market Research to Better Understand Your Customers]

A journey map is a visualization of the path your personas might take as they discover, buy, and use your product or service.

Santiago Castillo, Think with Google

Look for patterns to build personas

Look for similarities or patterns you can identify from your customer data. Customers with common characteristics give you the basis for creating fictional personas.

There are dozens of templates online that can help you start creating fictional characters to personify your data. HubSpot, Miro, and SEMRush all have tools to help you build personas for your marketing strategy. Or, you can do it by hand — just give each persona a narrative, name, and list of characteristics.

“As you flesh out your customer personas, be sure to describe both who each persona is now and who they want to be. This allows you to start thinking about how your products and services can help them get to that place of ambition,” wrote Hootsuite.

Create a journey map

A journey map takes a marketing persona to the next level by describing how a persona engages with your business. “A journey map is a visualization of the path your personas might take as they discover, buy, and use your product or service. Your maps should identify all the moments or touchpoints when and where your personas would interact with your brand,” wrote Think with Google.

Journey maps are essentially smaller sales funnels tailored to marketing personas, describing the key moments when your brand can foster loyalty or drive purchase intent. These journeys help you put your marketing personas to use, informing the assets and budget you’ll need.

[Read more: What Is a Market Segment and How Do You Find Yours?]

Translate your personas into a marketing strategy

The marketing personas you develop will help you determine which marketing channels to leverage, the messaging that will resonate best, and how to allocate resources according to your most valuable persona groups.

“With up-to-date buyer personas, decisions about who to target and how to communicate with them become easier for your team,” wrote Shopify. “When you use personas you can expect increased engagement on your social media channels and a greater return on investment (ROI) for your online ads.”

Personas should be living and breathing (well, not literally) documents, so keep them updated regularly. It’s likely that as your business grows, your customer data will too. Make sure the marketing techniques still serve the people who make up your core audience by revisiting your personas annually.

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