Developing buyer personas for marketing is a crucial step toward ensuring your marketing messages will appeal to your ideal client. These personas (sometimes referred to as avatars) can help you target your audience for paid advertising, too.

If you have great data and detailed information about past clients, it can help tremendously as you’re developing your buyer personas — and yes, there will be more than one. Basically, a buyer persona is a written, detailed description of a target client — exactly the type of client you want to work with.

There are two schools of thought on developing personas. One says you should base your personas on all of the data you’ve gathered over the years to paint the ideal picture of who you are marketing to. This information can also come from client interviews, which you can conduct, an assistant or an agency.

I personally believe a hybrid approach to developing personas for marketing is better: one that incorporates data about your best (and favorite) clients, but that also looks at the clients you want to attract, which could possibly be different than many of your past clients. This is especially true if you are seeking a higher-end client to grow your project size and overall revenue.

Defining Your Market Segment

These groups are created based on their demographics and psychographics. A demographic is a sector of population divided by shared statistics like location, age, income, gender, race, religion, family size, marital status and profession, and a psychographic is a sector of the population divided by shared characteristics like social activities, leisure activities, publication preferences and travel preferences.

Your description of your target should include an evaluation of each market segment in which you plan to enter. Specify which demographics and psychographics you are marketing toward — how old are they? How much money do they make? Where do they live? How much education do they have? What is their lifestyle like? If you are targeting companies, as opposed to individuals, the demographics that you indicate may be different. If that is the case, ask yourself: How old is the company? How much money does the company make? Where is it located? How established is it in its field?

For a residential designer, your target market summary might sound like this:

“Home + Design Co.’s target market is high-income homeowners, ages 45–65, living in New York City, who are looking to modernize their New York apartment or walk-up, make their space presentable for hosting guests or prepare their home for a life change such as retirement. The target market is able to afford to spend $400,000 and up on Home + Design Co.’s services and interior décor. They are middle-aged individuals and couples with upscale, contemporary and minimalistic design aesthetic.”


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Developing Your Personas

Now that you’ve defined, in general, the market segment in which your target clients belong, you can begin to develop the individual personas. Let’s say you review your data (from your best clients who you would want to work with again), and you find a pattern that many women are self-employed, work-from-home moms with teenage children. You might also notice that the husband in many of these families works in the financial field. They are in their mid-50s and have brownstones worth more than $4 million.

This information is turned into a persona of the family and might look something like this:

The Jones family lives on the Upper East Side. Dan Jones works in the financial district, while his wife, Dana Jones, runs a non-profit for clean water out of her home office. They have two teenage children, John and Jane. They purchased their brownstone in their late 20s, and they are now in their mid-50s. The couple makes more than $275,00 annually.

So, that’s the demographic portion. The more detailed you can be, the better. Then you can move on to psychographics, and this is the part in which interviews can shed a lot of light. You might also have observed some of these indicators or learned about them just by working with clients. Your psychographic information might include:

Dan enjoys playing golf on the weekends and subscribes to Golf Digest magazine. Dana has an active social life participating in book and wine clubs. The couple enjoys entertaining and often hosts the clubs and Dan’s work colleagues. They have done minimal surface remodeling to their home over the past 25 years. They are ready to make a nicer place for entertaining now that the children are older and will be moving out soon. They plan to invest $400,000–650,000 in a remodel project.

Continue to build out your personas from here. You might have a persona that is a single mom who works outside of the home, and, instead of wine and book club, she might be involved in professional groups and the PTA. You can have a variety of personas, but try to limit them to no more than six.

Now, What Do You Do with the Information You Have?

Once you’ve culled the data and developed the personas, it’s important to use this to define your marketing messages and channels. For instance, if you want to reach more people like Dana, you might reach out to some local wine clubs and offer to sponsor a wine night at your showroom. Or if you want to reach more clients like Dan, you might join the local country club and sponsor an upcoming golf event. If you want to reach the single moms, get involved with professional clubs where they socialize and engage in business development.

The same information will drive the messaging you put out in those spaces. For Dan and Dana, the messaging might be about creating a lovely space for entertaining, while for the single mom, it might be more about functionality. As you develop the personas, dig into the information and think critically about what each persona wants from your services, these messages will become clear. Do keep in mind, you want to appeal to the emotional needs and wants that the prospects have. People make buying decisions based on emotion and back it up later with facts and data. So, Dana will spend $300,000 on her kitchen so that she has the most beautiful kitchen in which to host wine club, and she will justify it later with being an investment toward the resale value of the property.

What Happens if You Don’t Create Personas?

Many interior designers go through their entire careers without ever developing personas. I hear all of the time, “Oh, I have a pretty good idea of who my ideal client is.” And this may be true. But imagine that you think you know your past client, Dana, really well. But let’s suppose for a moment that wine club never came up during the time you were working with her. What would be the best avenue to reach new prospects like Dana?

If the time investment seems too great, consider an assistant or agency to help with interviewing past clients, reviewing the data you have available and developing the personas. It will be worth the investment when it helps you reach the next best client who will pad your portfolio and your bottom line.

Developing buyer personas is just one of the many concepts we explore in my Interior Design Biz CEO™ coaching program. Learn more about it today!

Develop and follow best practices for every area of your business. My Interior Design Biz CEO™ coaching program can help. Now is the time for you to make the transition from interior designer with a business to CEO of your design firm!