Everything You Need to Know to Create Actionable App Buyer Personas

Manager_Mike_App_Buyer_PersonaWho’s your app’s most important decision-maker? Hint: It’s your boss. But chances are you don’t know him or her as well as you should. We’re not referring to your internal company manager; we’re talking about your app user, the one who dictates how successful your app will be by spending his or her time (and in many cases, money,) using it. For this reason, as app marketers, your primary job is to understand your users so well that your app fits seamlessly into their lives and seemingly sells itself. 

But how do you get closer to your mobile customer? How do you learn enough about your users to build long-lasting relationships? Start by creating powerful app buyer personas. 

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know (and walk you through everything you need to do) to gain more insight on the people that use your apps, what matters to them, and how you can use this knowledge to boost your app marketing. 


The Basics

An app buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal app user. It’s inspired by real data on how people behave inside your app and also includes profile information like demographics, gender, and preferences. App buyer personas help mobile marketers understand their users on a much deeper level, because they paint a vivid picture of who they are, what their goals are, what motivates them, and what challenges they face. 

In a nutshell, app buyer personas symbolize your perfect app user and they reveal actionable insights on how your app fits into their life. 


The Power of Personas

Personas are different from your target audience in that they contain more specifics and details than the latter. Having a well-developed app buyer persona at your disposal is like putting a magnifying glass on the behavior and characteristics of your ideal mobile customers. 

And this enhanced view on the activity of your users will better inform all parts of your mobile team – from development (you’ll know which features to add) to marketing (you’ll know what offers will convert the best) and customer success (you’ll know where users need help).

In short, the power of personas cannot be overstated. 


An Easy ABC Approach to Creating Your App Buyer Personas

Now that we’ve established the importance of having app buyer personas, let’s actually get down to the nitty-gritty of creating them. We’re going to take you step-by-step through the entire process and present an easy as ABC methodology. As an added bonus, we’ll also answer common questions at the end of this section.

A is for Accumulating and Analyzing Data
The Research Phase

Every great project begins with research. The first thing you should do when you start to draw up your app buyer personas is to collect data from a variety of relevant sources. Remember, app buyer personas are inspired by actual facts and real world behaviors. Once you have amassed a good sampling of data, look for the common denominators. 

Step 1: Gather qualitative and quantitative raw data about your current and prospective app users. Make sure you ask profile and activity-based questions.

  • Use in-app surveys and interview customers (app users) who are currently engaged with your app to learn about who they are, why they downloaded your app, when they use it, and what they like/dislike about it
  • Make sure you ask “Why?” a lot to uncover their motivations and reasons behind their answers
  • Consider using incentives to make it easy for people to say yes to being surveyed or interviewed
  • Extract app analytics data on how users are behaving (look at session lengths, screens viewed, conversions, push and in-app message opens, funnel drop offs, etc.)
  • If you do not have many app users, leverage your social networks and other referral channels to solicit feedback
  • Ask your sales team about the kinds of leads they are interacting with
  • When using forms on your app’s website, include specific fields to capture persona information (for example, if company size is a factor of your persona, ask people how large their organization is)

Step 2: Look for patterns and similarities in the characteristics your app users share outside the app and in the behaviors they display inside the app.

  • Who are your app users? What age groups do they fall into? What are their lifestyles like?
  • What features do people use most in your app? When do people convert? When do they fall out of a funnel?
  • What were common complaints? Are there any shared goals?

B is for Building Personas
The Whiteboard Phase

After you’ve spent time digging up and reviewing data on your app users, the next task is to start whiteboarding some sketches of your ideal mobile customer. In other words, it’s time to build app buyer personas that will become the focal point of your app marketing efforts. While most businesses have multiple buyer personas, you need to create at least two for your app: a “good” user one and a “bad” user one.

Step 3: Write up a detailed overview of your ideal app user based on the data you gathered in the first section. In this step, we are essentially creating user segments based on profile data and in-app activity. Include the following key pieces:

  • Background information and some speculative personal history
  • Think of a story for what their usual day looks like (and when they’re likely to use your app)
  • In-app behavior (what do they do inside your app, how much time do they spend on certain screens, what is their typical conversion path like)
  • Communication preferences (how do they find and digest information)
  • Goals (what is the primary/secondary thing users want to achieve with your app?)
  • Challenges (what stops people from returning to your app or completing a conversion?)
  • Common sound bites (what praise or objections do you regularly hear from your ideal user?)
  • As a bonus, try to also use a catchy name (use an alliteration) and a fictional image (use Creative Commons or stock photos) to make your persona more memorable  

Step 4: Write up a detailed overview of your negative or “exclusionary” app user. This is a persona of people who you do not want as your mobile customer.

  • If easily possible, include most of the information listed in step 3 above, but focus on identifying the actions you do not want people to take inside your app and what motivates these “bad” in-app behaviors
  • Think about people who are too advanced for your app, too expensive to acquire, or those that churn the most

C is for Crafting Your App Marketing Around Personas
The Action Plan Phase

Okay, now that we’ve drafted some key app buyer personas, what do we do with them? The final stage of the ABC approach is all about crafting targeted marketing messages that center around your ideal user segments. Essentially, use your personas to identify the types of offers that would be most worthwhile to invest in.

Step 5: Outline how your app marketing can help your ideal persona(s) achieve their goals and overcome their challenges.

  • What acquisition strategies can you use to gain more users? (Based on how your ideal users hear about your app and where they download it)
  • What kinds of push messages would they find most valuable? (Based on the motivations and interests of your target users)
  • What in-app promos would be most relevant? (Based on the in-app behaviors displayed)
  • How can you iterate on your app to make it more intrinsically useful? (Based on how people use your app and what they want to improve)

Frequently Asked Questions on Creating App Buyer Personas

Question: What’s the difference between app buyer personas and app user segments?

Answer: For most intents and purposes, app buyer personas are basically the same as app user segments. The small difference is that app buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer and they contain more detail on psychological factors that motivate behavior (in addition to profile and event based data). App buyer personas are used to inform/build actionable user segments within your app marketing and analytics platform (which then trigger your push and in-app marketing campaigns).

Question: How many interviews or surveys do I need to conduct in the research phase?

Answer: Start with at least 3-5 interviews. While there isn’t a definitive answer to exactly how many you need, you’ll know it’s the right time to stop your research when you’re not learning or hearing anything new from your users.

Question: Should I create my app buyer personas before or after I have launched my app?

Answer: You should take your first stab at writing app buyer personas before your app has launched because they will better inform your acquisition marketing strategies. However, keep in mind that these personas are not set in stone and you can always modify them after your app has launched (and you have more concrete data from real users). In other words, create profile-based user segments before your app has launched and then layer in some behavioral data after your app debuts. 


How Personas Can Make Your App More Profitable

The app landscape is competitive. The difference between apps that barely survive and apps that thrive lies in the richness of their app buyer personas. App buyer personas are powerful because they help you internalize your ideal mobile customer and refocus all your app marketing around them. 

Put another way, personas make your app more profitable because they allow you to build more targeted, more personalized marketing campaigns. In short, these powerful archetypes help you attract and engage the right people.

Download the Beginner's Guide to App Marketing by Localytics