How Buyer Personas Can Transform Your Email Marketing (Plus a Free Checklist!)

When you hit ‘send’ on your email campaign, how much thought do you give to the people on the other end?

How much do you really know about them, and understand their fears, dreams and goals?

If the answer’s ‘not much’, then chances are your email may resonate with one prospect, while missing the mark completely with another.

Which could mean you’re missing out on sales and increasing your cost per lead with every email.

Ouch!

Imagine the difference it could make to your business if you really understood what made your customers tick.

That’s where buyer personas come in.

Buyer personas give you the knowledge and information you need to connect on a more authentic and personal level with different groups of potential customers.

In fact, buyer personas can transform your email campaigns more effectively than almost any other marketing strategy.

And that’s powerful stuff.

What are Buyer Personas?

Buyer personas are fictional characterizations of your ideal customers, created from everything you know about your existing customers.

Demographic information (such as age and gender) is a great starting point, but this will only give you a one-dimensional profile.  A good buyer persona should help you crawl inside your prospect’s head and figure out what they are thinking and doing as they make the decision to buy from you.

You need to know what problem or theirs you can solve, and what will motivate them to buy from you.

“What if I have more than one type of customer?” I can hear you ask.

Most businesses create multiple buyer personas. But don’t get carried away.  Buyer personas aren’t about the customers you could attract. They’re about the ones you really want to attract.  That might help you narrow down the number.

Why are Buyer Personas Important?

Buyer personas are created from the behaviors, needs, goals and challenges of your ideal customer. Armed with this information, you have the power to align your email campaigns to those touch points. For example:

  • Behaviors tell you about their buying process and how they spend time on the internet. This provides insight into when, where and how to communicate with them.
  • Identifying their needs and goals means you can create more valuable and relevant content. It might even help you identify new products or services to solve other problems they might have.
  • Knowing the challenges they face and what affects their purchasing decisions, allows you to tailor your language and messages to help overcome any objections and make it easy for them to take action.


When making the decision to purchase a product or service, people are naturally drawn to businesses they know and trust. Businesses that speak their language and understand their pain.  

But you can’t do that until you have a clear picture of who you’re talking to, and why. That’s why creating buyer personas is one of the more practical steps you can take to strengthen your overall sales strategy. 

How Do You Create Buyer Personas?

Creating your own buyer personas is no easy task. But we’re not about to let you go it alone!

We’ve not only broken things down into 4 basic steps to make the process as simple as possible, but we also created a full checklist for you to follow along with.

So grab your checklist and let’s get to it!

Step 1. Broadly Outline Your Ideal Customers

You’ll already have a broad idea of who your customers are. And this is where you need to start.  

Let’s say, for example, you have an online store called ‘Dream Home’, which sells homewares to people who want to surround themselves with beautiful things and wow their friends.  

You have three main groups of buyers that you want to attract:

  • Women buying for themselves
  • Women buying gifts for others
  • Men buying gifts for their wives/girlfriends

So, we’ve got 3 ideal customer groups, all with similar, but slightly different motivations and needs.

Great start.

Now it’s time to drill down into more detail.

Step 2. Define the Information You Need

Before you throw yourself headlong into the research, it’s a good idea to map out the information you’re going to need to create your personas. But remember, it’s going to be different for different businesses.

In our example of Dream Home, we’re selling products to people who want their house to reflect their style and make a statement about their values. So, we probably want to know more about their family structure, aspirations and lifestyle factors.

If you deliver online training to sales-hungry realtors, you’ll be more focused on their job-related goals, their career path, what terrifies them, and what success means to them.

But in both cases, you’re still aiming to gather a well-rounded picture of your ideal customer, based on a range of behaviors and features.

Let’s take the example of Dream Home again, and decide what those features might be and what we need to find out:

Demographics

  • Where do they live?
  • Gender and age
  • Family structure
  • Level of education

Home

  • Do they rent or own?
  • House, apartment?
  • How many people live in this home?
  • How would they describe their style? Hip, boho, classic?

Work

  • Industry, job title/role
  • Income range
  • What knowledge, skills and tools do they use at work?
  • What are their career goals?

Personal

  • What does a typical day look like?
  • What’s their idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon?
  • Characteristics? Sense of humour, courteous, professional, informal, quirky, extrovert, introvert, hard worker?
  • Values? Honesty, loyalty, success, wealth, humility. . .?
  • What do they do in their spare time?

Challenges

  • What are the big issues they are grappling with now? What keeps them awake at night? Children, relationships, work, losing weight, money, mother-in-law?
  • What problem do they have that you can solve in relation to their home?

Buying Habits

  • How often do they make online purchases?
  • What type of products or services do they buy online?
  • What form of communication do they prefer (email, text, phone, in person)?
  • How do they search for the information they need on products or services?
  • What hesitations do they have about buying products or services online?
  • How good is their computer literacy?

Just remember, this list is a starting point. You don’t have to answer every question for each persona, and feel free to tailor the list to better suit your business.

The point of the exercise is to map out the type of information you’ll need from your existing customers to create a life-like characterization of your ideal customer. So, you don’t need to know every detail of their life.  But you will need to do some research.

Step 3. Dig Deep for the Right Information

There are several places to cast your research net, and you should aim for as many as your time and resources will allow without getting too overwhelmed with the process.

Existing customers and prospects

Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start your research because they’ve already engaged with your business. You should also have a database of prospects you’ve connected with on some level in the past.

In both cases, you should be analyzing whatever data you’ve collected to start building demographic profiles – age ranges, gender, locations and so on.

Now, select a handful of customers and prospects that most resemble your ideal customer and contact them directly. Ask if they would be willing to contribute to your market research, then run through your list of questions.

If there are any patterns or interesting trends emerging from your customer interviews, explore these in more depth via a survey of your entire customer and prospect base. Use a platform like Survey Monkey, but don’t bombard them with too many questions. Be respectful of their time and effort.

Finally, if you don’t already collate feedback and comments from your existing customers, start doing this now. Their questions, comments, testimonials and even complaints are a goldmine of information, giving you verbatim snippets of material to use in your buyer personas.

Google Surveys

If you don’t have a large enough customer base, try Google Surveys which is a great tool for reaching large audiences for their opinions and responses. You can select your audience based on demographic data relevant to your business, then send out your survey and watch the responses roll in.

Site analytics

Your site analytics will reveal where your visitors came from, the keywords they used to find you, when they visited your site, how long they spent on each page and what action they took. This invaluable data will help you define behavior patterns and the desires that drove them to your website in the first place.

Facebook Audience Insights

While Facebook Page Insights is a useful tool for assessing who is most engaged with the content on your page, Facebook Audience Insights takes a broader look at trends and behaviors of your ideal customers across the entire Facebook community.  And with around 1.5 billion daily active users, it’s a wealth of knowledge.

Your own team

Depending on the size of your business, you should be talking to anyone who interacts with your customers, from the receptionist to sales and customer service staff. They will all have different stories to share and generalized perspectives on who your ideal customer is and what makes them tick.

By now you should have a good pile of data, feedback, analysis and verbatim quotes from your potential and current customers.  

The trick is knowing what to do with it all, and how to transform the information into effective buyer personas.

Step 4.  Bring it All Together

It’s likely you started to recognize some patterns and commonalities in the feedback from your customers, particularly from the personal interviews and more widespread surveys.

For example, are your customers motivated more by quality than price, or is a fast turn around a priority?

Do most of your customers fall within a certain age range, or come from a distinct geographic location?

Are they using similar keywords to search you out, or perhaps looking for a solution to a common problem you can help with?

Let’s assume we’ve done the research for our previous example – the online store, Dream Home – and now we’re ready to start developing the store’s primary buyer persona.  

Firstly, we’re going to give her a name: Jennifer.  

We’ll start with Jennifer’s demographics

  • Lives:  Austin, Texas
  • Age:  37
  • Marital Status:  Married, 2 children, (7 and 11)
  • Education:  University – accounting degree
  • Works:  Company Accountant for a commercial construction firm. 10 years
  • Household Income:  $150,000 plus a few perks
  • Home:  4-bedroom house – paying off the mortgage

Now let’s look at her lifestyle, values and other characteristics

  • A Typical Day/Week:  She’s an uber-planner (she likes to be organised). Rings her mother every Sunday evening.  Starts work at 8.30 without fail. Loves entertaining at home. Does lunch with her girlfriends when she can, but the boys’ sports and other activities always seem to get in the way.
  • Values:  To be a good mother.  She also believes in hard work, loyalty, honesty (except when it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings) and surrounding herself with people and things that make her happy.
  • Interests: Cooking, styling her home, her sons.
  • Personal Style:  Confident, classic, timeless, bold colors
  • Weaknesses:  She worries about money but finds it hard to resist buying things that reflect her style and will look beautiful in her home.

Next, her goals, challenges and fears

  • Goals:  To keep her family safe and happy. To stop feeling guilty about missing the life (and body!) she had before kids.  To build her dream home.
  • Challenges:  Lack of time. Juggling work commitments with home life.
  • Fears: That her kids will go off the rails as teenagers. That life is passing by too quickly. That she might lose her job if the economy doesn’t pick up.

Then, finally, buying behaviors

  • Prefers to shop online for homewares because it saves time and there’s more choice
  • Does most of her online research and shopping at night after the boys have gone to bed
  • Is motivated by the latest styles and trends, as long as the quality is there.
  • Price comes second but she hates feeling ripped off and loves to think she’s got a good deal
  • Impressing her friends is important but making her home more beautiful and livable is her priority.
  • Is influenced by images of beautiful styling and tries to replicate it

Present your persona in the most appropriate way for you and your team to use it effectively. It might be in bullet points, or longer more descriptive prose.

Use verbatim quotes wherever possible to help you reflect their language and tone in your emails.  And find a suitable image to put a face to the name. The more you can humanize your personas, the better.

Once you’ve completed your persona, stand back from it and ask yourself:  Where does my business fit in to Jennifer’s life? How can I make a difference to how she lives or what she cares about?  What might prevent her from buying from me?

Now try and summarize your core marketing message to Jennifer that sums up the best way you can meet her needs, overcome her objections and solve her problem.

Once you have your primary persona completed, repeat Step 4 to create personas for your other ideal customer groups.

How Do You Use Your Buyer Personas?

Now you have your buyer personas mapped out, you can create email engagement strategies for each one.

Let’s dive into what those look like!

List Segmentation

The first thing you’ll want to do is segment your list.

Buyer personas allow you interact with your prospects on a more personalized level, but list segmentation allows you to drill down to send more engaging and relevant content just when they need it, based on:

  1. Personas – which of your buyer personas do they align with?
  2. Status – are they an existing customer, a prospect, a past customer, or a curious passer-by?
  3. Level of engagement – which emails have they opened and clicked through, websites visited, products bought, resources downloaded?

Now you can start to match your segmentation data with your email messages to tailor them for each persona.

Let’s take our example of Dream Home. On their list is a customer who they have segmented to the ‘Jennifer’ buyer persona.

We know she’s an existing customer who mostly opens emails from Dream Home that promote new product ranges. As a ‘Jennifer’ she’s proud of her home, likes to be in vogue when it comes to interior design, and wants to surround herself with beautiful things. Which means she’s more likely to connect with the “love your home” email on the left than the “end of season sale” message on the right.

On the other hand, Dream Home may have a second persona who is a young apartment dweller with a good salary, but an expensive social life and has only purchased sales items. So, she is more likely to connect with the end of season email.

By segmenting its list by persona and other behavior data, Dream Home has the knowledge and ability to directly target the right message to the right buyers.

Colors, Images and Language

A good email strategy goes beyond just the message. When creating your email campaigns, you need to think about the colors and images you use.

A working mom who loves to entertain is more likely to be drawn to on-trend colors and home-style images that fit her image of herself, like these:

And the same applies to your tone of voice and language. In this email, it’s all about the warmth and coziness of family – everything that a Jennifer holds dear.

Irresistible Offer and Calls to Action

Your ultimate goal is to get them to take action.  

What does Jennifer care about most of all?

We know she puts family values above everything, and price is secondary to buying something that’s going to make her happy.  But she also loves to think she’s got a good deal.

So, what’s going to compel her to hit the ‘buy now’ button?  Perhaps it’s a special gift for her Mom for Mother’s Day that’s not going to break the bank.

Or will a free home styling session draw her in, leading to further sales based on the stylist’s recommendations?

When it comes time to craft your own offers and CTAs, think about what your personas value.  Do they want to save money or time? Do they love giveaways and competitions? Or do they want to feel exclusive and valued with a free upgrade, or exclusive sneak previews?

Landing Pages

What happens when your call to action works?  Readers click on the link in your email to your website, right?

This is one of the holy grails of email marketing, so don’t waste the opportunity by dumping them on your home page where they’ll look around, confused for a moment and then leave.

Continue to connect with your personas in a relevant and engaging way by linking them to a specially designed landing page, like this one from Z Gallerie:

Just like this example does, keep your landing page focused on the end goal. Include only one call-to-action – the final action you want them to take – and avoid other distractions.

Design different landing pages for each call to action which specifically touch on that persona’s needs, and objections. The aim is to hold their attention and interest as you nudge them through to the ultimate conversion or purchase.

Automated Workflows

Unfortunately, the sales process isn’t always as smooth as one email, one landing page and bingo… a sale!

Sometimes it takes a little further nudging and persuasion to convert your prospect into a customer. That’s where automated workflows come into play.

Automated workflows allow you to send out personalized and directly targeted emails following a trigger, such as when a person:

  • Engages with pages on your site, but takes no action
  • Downloads a resource or free product from your site
  • Signs up for your blog or newsletter
  • Makes their first purchase
  • Makes a repeat purchase
  • Abandons their shopping cart

We know Jennifer is time-poor, so maybe she abandoned her shopping cart because one of her children needed her attention. So why not remind her the next day with an abandoned cart email and give her a little incentive to pick up where she left off by offering her free shipping.

Or perhaps Jennifer bought a midnight blue rug. You could take the opportunity to recommend a new range of cushions that would coordinate perfectly with the rug, and a 10% discount if she purchases one of the cushions within the next 48 hours.

That’s the power of automated workflows in action.

So, There You Have It!

Good buyer personas let you crawl inside your customer’s head and deliver engaging messages that can transform your email marketing and drive sales for your business.

The important thing to remember is that your personas are likely to change as your business grows or expands into new products.  And as you learn more about your customers, you may identify new buyer groups, or refine the core messages in your campaigns.

But one thing will remain the same: without a buyer persona your email marketing will always be more miss than hit.

So, if you haven’t already, grab your checklist and get started creating personas for your business today.

You’ll be ready to attract more of your ideal customers right away!

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Caitlin Hutchinson

Caitlin Hutchinson

Brand Marketing ManagerSendlane
A native of San Diego, California, Caitlin has a passion for developing creative and engaging marketing content. Primarily responsible for overseeing the development, execution and delivery of digital content across all of Sendlane’s channels while maintaining an online presence of Sendlane's team culture. Host of The Marketing Automation Hustle Podcast and Sendlane Youtube Training Channel. Works closely with the marketing team to manage creative projects and develop creative assets/solutions to enhance the brand. Collaborates at the intersection of marketing, product, content, and sales to develop powerful and memorable stories and interactive experiences that bring the Sendlane vision to life.
Caitlin Hutchinson