Mary (Shirley) Sheehan
Group Manager, Engagement & Retention Campaigns at Adobe

Great question. When creating buyer personas, you’re ideally using data from current, prospective, and churned customers to create archetypes of your buyers. The goal is to understand more about your customers, design better products, create better marketing programs, and arm your sales team with the best talking points.


The problem is, most personas suck!  The ones I see most often have demographic info only (e.g. “Marketing Mary is 32, has a BA in Communication, and lives in a large city) or are really generic (e.g. “She’s hoping to increase her MQLs this year.”) Are these helpful? Not really.


Understanding customer motivations is the key to better personas. I recommend surveying or interviewing 25 or so people and really trying to understand their motivations for using your product, or a product like yours. This will help you create much better personas. 25 sounds like a lot, but if you can train other team members, you can accomplish this quickly. Some questions to ask to uncover motivations:

  • What were the real pain points they had that led them to buy your product? 
  • What were the alternatives to your product? 
  • How did they get budget to buy this? 


Talking to existing and - even better - churned customers will give you the best insights. I wrote a blog post that dives deeper into this, and talks about a helpful framework to follow - “Jobs to Be Done” if you’re interested in learning more:

Morgan Molnar
Director of Product Marketing at Momentive | Formerly SurveyMonkey, Nielsen
We just went through this exercise at Momentive, focusing specifically on building buyer persona "packs" – a collection of materials to help our broader organization understand our target personas. Depending on your project timeline, you'll likely want to conduct a blend of primary and secondary ...more
Daniel Palay
Head Of Product Marketing at 3Gtms
Mary's answer is very good, and comprehensive, and many would do well to simply follow it. For those who enjoy a slightly more spirited debate on the nuances of persona development, I'm going to disagree on a few finer points (in the spirit of sparking a robust discussion!). First, where I absolu...more