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How to Do Buyer Persona Research for Content They Can’t Ignore

TL;DR for my most busy readers 💚


  • Writing content without understanding the buyer persona is wasting your time, money, and emotional stability. 

  • Start by gathering data you have inside the company—CRM, website analytics, sales records, support tickets.

  • Continue with qualitative research—conduct 30-minute interviews with prospects. Validate personas with quantitative research—conduct surveys.

  • Finish by getting real-world context through social listening.

  • In a Buyer Persona template, include demographics like age, title, and company size. Also note psychographics like pain points, goals, challenges, and attitudes (likes/hates). 


Writing to No Names Was Losing the Game for Me


I know how it feels. Writing without clear buyer personas is like trying to find your way in the dark. You are always hesitating—is your writing really helping them? Or do you spend your life creating a faceless addition to the millions of generic and irrelevant information on the web?


This feeling sucks. And the well-written Buyer Persona doc kills it once and for all. Buyer personas give your target audiences names and faces, preventing you from writing content aimlessly. 


When I first started in content marketing, I made the mistake of thinking we could write articles for "anyone interested in our product." But spreading our efforts so thin meant our content lacked focus. No one felt truly spoken to. 


That's when I realized we desperately needed buyer personas.


I discussed it with my manager, took my time, and did comprehensive research using the method I will describe later in this article in the smallest detail.


With personas in hand, I was able to craft targeted content experiences for each. 


Growth-focused startups received how-to guides on maximizing productivity, while enterprises found strategic whitepapers addressing their scalability challenges more useful. The results were dramatic — our qualified traffic doubled within 6 months.


The moral is: to succeed with content, you need to know your ideal buyers intimately.



buyer persona

I like how Stephanie Shirley, Founder of Bennis Public Relations, Inc, compares Buyer Persona document to the Christmas wish list.


Think of it this way: You do not have any idea what to give to your friends and family this Christmas. Luckily, you have a couple of notes that list what exactly they like and need. This cheat sheet enables you to finish your holiday shopping in a breeze. 
—Stephanie Shirley, Founder of Bennis Public Relations, Inc

Developing buyer personas through customer research prevents you from guessing what content may interest people. It ensures you focus squarely on solving the specific problems of well-defined audiences, which is key to driving real business impact with content. 


Step 1: Gather Preliminary Data


Preliminary data from your existing customer base provides raw material to identify patterns among your most valuable customers.


Some of the key sources of data to examine include:


  1. Customer database. If you have a CRM system like Salesforce or Hubspot, this contains a wealth of profile information on past customers, such as company size, industry, job role, purchase history, support requests, and more. Run queries to segment customers by common traits.

  2. Website analytics. Tools like Google Analytics allow you to see patterns in user behavior—what content and product pages high-converting visitors engage with most. You can also view basic demographic data on location, technology used, and more. 

  3. Sales records. Review past deals to understand what solutions were purchased by which types of companies. Note any commonalities between your big-spending customers. 

  4. Support Tickets. Patterns in support requests can indicate the unique challenges different persona groups face. For example, small businesses might require more implementation help.

  5. Surveys. Send a brief survey to your existing customer base collecting information like company size, job role, industry, challenges faced, and how they prefer to learn. 


When gathering preliminary data, I've found it most effective to export it from these sources into a centralized spreadsheet. This allows you to easily spot trends using pivot tables and filters. 


The insights generated set the stage for validating your hypotheses through primary research like customer interviews. With some initial data in hand, you'll then be ready to start sketching out your first draft buyer personas 👌


Step 2: Identify Buyer Persona Research Methods


Basics—there are two broad groups of Research Methods:


1. Qualitative.


They include interviews and focus groups. I've found interviews most effective for buyer persona research. Schedule 30-minute conversations to understand perspectives in-depth. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen. People open up one-on-one. 


Focus groups work well, too but require moderation skills. I keep them small, six people max, and use a loose structure. The group dynamic provides unexpected insights.


2. Quantitative.


Surveys offer a quantitative perspective but risk superficial answers. I use surveys to validate personas, not define them. Include open-ended questions for nuanced feedback. 


Social media analysis gives an unfiltered look at discussions. Follow relevant industry hashtags and brand mentions. Comment sentiment shows hot topics. I analyze two weeks of posts to identify trends.


No single method tells the full story. Blend qualitative and quantitative approaches. Here is how it works for me:


I start with interviews to define key personas. 

Surveys then quantify trends. 

Social listening provides real-world context. 


buyer persona research

Vary methods based on your resources. Small teams can't moderate groups but can conduct phone interviews. Tight deadlines mean prioritizing interviews over focus groups. Starting the Buyer Persona research is crucial, but completing it promptly is equally important.


I like this insight from Jennifer Andrews, a Marketing Consultant:


As you’re gathering research, remember that this isn’t a scientific report! A buyer persona is meant to be a marketing tool that leaves room for interpretation and creative liberty. In other words, a full literature review is not needed (nor would it be helpful), and you’re not aiming to gather ALL relevant data. Yes, use reputable sources and include references, but avoid getting sucked into the data rabbit hole–I promise, it never ends!

Step 3: Develop Buyer Persona Profiles


Time to craft detailed buyer personas. This is where insights come to life.


Start by analyzing your data for patterns. 


Group common responses to identify key audience segments. 


For example, you may see MVP startups and Series A startups as separate personas. In real life, it would look like MVP startups in your interviews were saying many struggles and challenges that were completely irrelevant for Series A startups.


Create a template to capture the key elements of each persona. 


At a minimum, include demographics like age, title, and company size. Also note psychographics like pain points, goals, challenges, and attitudes (likes/hates). Personas come across as real people when fleshed out.


As you analyze, personas will emerge from the data. Document everything learned from interviews, surveys, and social media. 


💡 Direct quotes add authenticity and help others empathize with personas.


Consider additional elements that influence buying, like budget, decision process, and preferred content formats. This level of detail guides content tailored for each persona. 


Illustrate personas visually. 


Persona profiles with images, titles, and brief bios make the abstract tangible. Colleagues can then picture "Sarah" and her unique needs.


I like using a free Buyer Persona template by Semrush. 


semrush buyer persona template

Source: Semrush


Step 4: Validate and Refine Personas


Getting feedback from real customers ensures personas accurately reflect your buyers.


I start validation by sharing draft personas internally — with marketing, sales, support, and product teams. 


Note initial reactions and questions. Are personas easy to understand and apply to content planning? Refine any areas of confusion.


Next, present personas to a sample of your target audiences. 


Explain the research and profile elements. Ask customers if personas mirror their experiences and challenges. Direct feedback reveals inaccuracies to address. 


Validation can involve surveys, interviews, or focus groups. I find one-on-one interviews most insightful. Customers open up about how well personas represent them personally. 


Incorporate customer input to refine personas as needed. Adjust attributes based on consensus from validation. 


Be open—personas are never fully "done" and require ongoing evolution. If you get new insights that contradict your previous hypotheses and conclusions, that’s great! Now you know your customer better! 


Buyer journeys are dynamic, so don’t take continuous updates personally. It HAS to be dynamic. There is no way to do it once and for all.


Revisit personas annually or as the business changes. New research keeps profiles current with shifting buyer journeys. Refinement prevents personas from becoming stale over time.


Applying Buyer Personas to Content Strategy


With well-defined buyer personas, the real work begins—using them to develop a targeted content strategy. 


I start by reviewing each persona's goals, pain points, and preferences. This informs the topics, formats, and channels that will most appeal to that persona. 


Examples:


  • "Overworked Teacher" persona is busy planning lessons and wants quick tips. I create short, shareable infographics for teachers' communities in social networks. 


  • "SMB Owner" persona needs help managing finances. I develop a 5-part email course on basic bookkeeping in simple terms.


Personas also guide where and how I promote content. 


  • Content aimed at "Cost-Conscious Consultants" is pushed through LinkedIn ads since that's where they network.


  • To reach the "Senior Software Engineer" persona, I promote our podcast on coding forums and Reddit communities for programmers.


Testing different content and channels for each persona exposes what resonates most. I then double down on the high-performing combinations.


With personas central to my strategy, content is intentionally targeted rather than scattered. Buyers receive the specific solutions they need to move through their journey.


why do buyer persona research

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Based on my experience, here are some common issues Content Marketers face—and how to prevent them.


Not enough research.


Personas developed without robust customer insights won't ring true. I once rushed personas, only to find they bore little resemblance to real buyers. Thorough qualitative and quantitative research is key. Don’t shorten this path—it may have an unaffordable price.


Too broad personas. 


Vague personas like "all CEOs" are useless for targeting. It's better to have a few well-defined personas than many ambiguous ones. 


Forgetting business context.


Personas exist to further business goals. Ensure personas reflect your products and services.


Not validating.


Without validation, there's no proof personas are accurate. I validate personas with customers to identify flaws early. Their feedback is invaluable.


Not documenting changes. 


As research continues, personas evolve. Failing to note changes causes confusion. I recommend to version personas and note the rationale for any updates.


You've Only Just Begun  


Personas are not just a one-time project — they require ongoing research, validation, and refinement. But making this investment pays off.


Personas ensure every piece of content solves real customer problems, versus random topics. They reveal the most effective format, channel, and message combinations for each audience. 


This focus grows engagement and trust with buyers over time. 


As a Content Marketing Consultant, I've seen firsthand how personas transform content strategies. With personas front and center, we've boosted qualified leads by 40% with one of my Fintech customers. 


I encourage you to integrate buyer persona research into your own process. Start small with one persona if needed. But make personas the foundation of how you understand and reach your audiences. The long-term benefits of increased relevance and results are well worth it.

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