Defining your buyer personas consists in drawing a robot portrait of the clients you want. Marketers are starting to see how crucial this exercise is online. And above all profitable as long as you don’t go about making this big mistake …


The buyer persona exercise

At the end of this article, you will no doubt repeat several times in your head a funny sentence that you will discover below: “The exercise of the Buyer persona is a little PowerPoint and a lot of Excel”.

If this phrase does not scare you, and even on the contrary, if it reassures you, then you may recognize yourself in a flattering robot portrait. That of those who are said to be at the forefront of the digital transition.

But … not too fast. There is a condition. You must know how to avoid the most common mistake that is made when defining its Buyer persona.

It is indeed the most important, the most fundamental exercise of the marketing of tomorrow. It’s the future of your entire business that depends on it. So, you imagine, a little logic error in there?


To understand what it is all about, we will have to start by setting the scene. And for that, do a little experience. Ready (e)?

What image do you spontaneously associate with the word internet?

You know this thing with million page views, which we publish incredible figures about what happens there in a minute, especially on YouTube, Twitter, etc.

What are you thinking about?

Okay, help. If nothing
comes to mind spontaneously, choose from the following images:
internet is like:

Internet as crowded as the metro at 6 pm really?
  • A- the fight of the spermatozoa in front of the sacred door;
  • B- the metro at 6 p.m. (photo);
  • C- Lavandou beach on a heatwave day in August;
  • D- a vast dune in the Mauritanian desert.

You did not answer D?

Right answer

Too bad. It was the right answer.

All the
problem of digital transition of companies is found
in this viewing error. We are convinced that the only word
of the internet brings with it a compact and hungry crowd.

If you did not answer D, it is that you still see the web as a super advertising medium. And since we often associate big numbers with it, you see it more like TF1 at the time of the 8 o’clock newspaper.

The reality is different.


There are 130 trillion pages referenced by Google. Yes, you read correctly.

130,000,000,000,000 pages.

And this, for 5.9 billion people connected to the internet on earth.

Divide : every time you add a page to the web, it’s like you plant a poster in a place whose population density is one tenth of that which exists here:

Buyer personas: will you find them in the desert that the internet is in reality?

One inhabitant every 10 km2 to see your message.

It changes from the metro at 6 p.m., doesn’t it?

So your real problem when you go online is first find out where the Bedouins are hiding. Your real prospects. Your real problem is not that the poster looks good or that your hair is well-groomed.

Your real problem is to cross paths with those who are interested. It’s only by doing that you will meet the crowds.

Choose the front paths

And it does … BEFORE planting the poster, not after. If you don’t already have prospect lists or a site with traffic that converts very well … the urgency for you is to find where your Bedouins are.

All the people who hiked in the desert will tell you how surprised we are, in these kind of places, never to feel alone there. This feeling is linked to the fact that the guides take tourists on the right paths. The paths taken by all the nomads.

This is exactly the situation you are in. You have to look for the traces left by your prospects. You have to understand the paths they take. To better find them.

The journey of the buyer persona

Because there it is. This is the second fundamental context element to understand. Your buyer persona travels. It is not in a single oasis, with a large sign “here, this is the Oasis, your customers are there” at the entrance.

On the internet, your prospect is constantly on the move, going from page to page. No more than 8 seconds on average each time. He travels.

He is looking. And this is your chance.

You understand. The real question with Buyer Persona is not so much “who is he?” Even if that interests us a little.
The real question is “What is he looking for?” “

He is not looking for your product

And the first obvious answer to this question is … that he doesn’t usually look for your product!

With the exception of “notoriety traffic” (the Bedouin searches for what he already knows because he has already decided to buy), which represents a very small part of the traffic from search engines, the Bedouin seeks …… ……. (fill in the ellipsis).

The most interesting in the exercise of Buyer Personas is there. You have to fill in these dots.

But beware, it’s not about filling them once. No, you will have to fill them in as many times as your buyer persona searches for something (and I did not write every time he searches for a product).

The same Buyer Persona will indeed look for different things at each stage of their purchasing journey. The exercise must therefore be both specific and as complete as possible for each of these steps.

Purchase route

let’s remember that
this purchasing process consists of at least three phases:

  • Awareness (ah! My problem, that’s it …);
  • The assessment (what are the different solutions I have to resolve it);
  • Decision making (so I have to buy this).

Let’s take an example. You sell mattresses. One of your buyer personas is the forty-something who has back pain. It will go through the three phases:

  • Damn it, but it is of course, if I have back pain, it is because of my current rotten bedding (awareness);
  • What are the best mattresses when you are sensitive to the back: foam, spring, etc. ? (Evaluation) ;
  • I’m going to take memory foam (decision).

The big mistake there she is. This is the one that the Buyer Persona exercise will take you to if you forgot that the internet is first and foremost a thirsty desert. It will consist in defining your BP as follows:

Bad example

Michel, 41, financial executive, married, two children, lives in the near suburbs.
He is athletic, active but also very fragile on the back.
What makes him vibrate: “sport, motorcycle and football, in particular”.
He does not really remember the date when he bought his last mattress.

Verbatim: “Ah if only I could find a mattress in which I feel worn like when I do the board during the holidays at sea”.

If you paint your portrait robot in this way, you will certainly describe a living character, with whom we imagine very well living everyday in the company, but you will forget the main thing: Michel’s trip before he came to talking about “mattresses”.

You are so focused on the product that you forget the path to think about it.


Result : on arrival, this Buyer Persona will not be used for anything other than writing sales texts like: “Tartemuche. The mattress that carries you like when you do the board ”.

It’s perfect. Except you’re only interested in the target of people who already know that they want to buy a mattress. You only work the decision phase from your buyer persona.

This is the number 1 problem of the vast majority of marketers today. They focus on the buying phase, the very last stage in the life of the buyer persona, where it is the most expensive, the hardest to be heard by him. Everyone is talking to him at the same time.

This problem is simply related to the fact that these companies reason from “their products and services” instead of looking at the world as their buyer persona look at it.

However, for a buyer persona, there is a life before the purchase.

On the internet, to think only about the decision to buy is to miss 90% of the most profitable prospects. In B2B, as in B2C.

By doing this, you also reason from the start in a 100% competitive field. Upon arrival, you will have no choice but to fight … over the price.

What to do ?

If you want to exercise buyer personas effectively, then you will be interested in the different phases of its purchasing process and especially at the first.
When Michel has not yet understood that his problem is his mattress.
What does he do then? He probably goes to Google and he will enter “back pain” there.

It’s obvious, right? However, it must not be forgotten. Write it down somewhere. On a row in the Excel table, for example, the one that lists all the searches he can perform at each stage of his purchasing journey.

Do like him. And then check it out. Write down how much they are to do like him. What is the volume of research on “back pain”. And who already answers these questions. Have your competitors ever thought of doing it?

Right answer

In this example, you will realize that no competitor in the mattress world has yet taken an interest in the “back pain” request. For 5 years that American marketers, followed by some French marketers of which I am a member, have taken the same situation, and, at the time of writing, no mattress marketer has still thought. What?
To offer content such as “Back pain? What if it was your mattress? Take our quiz to find out. ”

This will necessarily be the type of relevant response that you can give Michel at the very beginning.

And that, you can only get the idea if you have taken the time:
1. Analyze all possible “awareness” your different Buyer personas;
2. Consider the different ways of expressing their problem each time and the expressions they use;
3. From measure research volumes on Google matching these expressions to verify that you are not delusional to invent situations and characters that do not exist.

Let’s get on well. This is not about preparing an SEO strategy here. Not yet. It’s just about using Google for what it is: the world’s greatest database. And therefore the data source for market research… free!


By proceeding
like that for Michel, at the end of the exercise you will have identified one of the
paths that obviously lead to a profitable and interesting customer.

The one whose purchasing path will be:

1. To type on Google “I have back pain, I’m looking for an osteo” (false good solution)
2. Who then, on the corresponding results page (SERP Google), will come across “back pain? And if it was your mattress “and who will check that it is well in this case (awareness)
3. To whom the result of the quiz will provide a pdf entitled “The 5 criteria for choosing a mattress that relieves the back” (assessment aid)
4. That your marketing automation will have raised once or twice on technical aspects, for example an email: “shape memory or not?” “(Help with evaluation, again)
5. And that a final offer will have finally decided (the “fragile back” mattress with our gift: 25 relaxation movements for the back on video by our specialist coach. For 15 days only).

This is the kind of journey that can take shape quite naturally by working with precision your Buyer personas.

But that you will never identify if you are satisfied with a simple socio-demographic approach, morning with a few verbatim of qualitative studies. The latter is necessary but not sufficient.

We are far from the slogan “do the plank” which consists in quietly waiting for people to hear the argument that you will have shouted loudly in the desert, right?

Tools to anticipate return on investment

Of course, there is no point in being as precise as if you check quantitatively each time that these people exist. The exercise of Buyer Persona should not be wishfull thinking (or the art of taking desires for reality). It should be used as a hypothesis. And a hypothesis must be verified.

Google’s search volume analysis tools can of course help you know if Michael’s problem is raised by enough people. Then, you need to use other tools to estimate if it is profitable for you to go and fight to find Michel, and especially at what stage of their purchasing journey it is interesting and profitable to go look for them.

Profitability should be the only guide to prioritize your actions.

And the tools that we use and that we have developed with our partners, at the Content Institute, allow us to go as far as determining this ex-ante profitability, even before testing.
And therefore to decide a priori, for each of the possible scenarios such as the one I have just described above, whether it is worth it or not.

Power point ? Yes, but not only

The work of Buyer Personas must therefore be a big job for which we spend more time on Excel tables than on PowerPoint summaries. I told you.

That said, you also need PowerPoint.
The PowerPoint will in particular be essential for what I call “content briefs”, in other words when it comes to ordering an article or emailing content whose objective may be:

  • Either make sure that you have in front of you a reader corresponding to the buyer persona you are looking for (filter);
  • Either take the visitor to the next stage of their purchase journey (conversion);
  • Or both.

The big mistake with buyer personas is therefore a visualization error. Imagining your prospect as a frozen portrait waiting for you in a crowded square, obsessing over his identity and his emotions is not enough.

If you understand that he is someone who travels, step by step, in a desert where he listens to nothing other than what interests him, then welcome.
You are ready to start a good conversation with him. By knowing what interests him.