One Free Tool You Must Use When Creating Buyer Personas

If you’ve visited to book lodging or flights, it’s likely that you were served a custom set of lodging options – and not just with hotels in geographies you’ve looked at in the past. Remembering someones search history and targeting them with custom content is so three years ago.

tailored orbitz content based on personaOrbitz has evaluated their historical database for trends and discovered that Mac users generally spend 30% more than PC users. Thus, if you visit Orbitz from a Mac they’re more likely to suggest higher rated (and more expensive) lodging options than if you visit on a PC.

The ability to target site visitors with custom content is not rocket-science, and can be done with some affordable software that I highlight below.

Evaluating your data to determine what and how content should be served up is often seen as rocket-science and so most marketers don’t do it. This is hugely problematic.

Instead of using data to make informed and more accurate content serving decisions, marketers often use personas that they’ve built off of customer surveys, or worse, their own opinions of who their customers are.

Because this guide is lengthy, I’ve put together an index for you in case you’d like to skip around to the sections that interest you the most.


Myth: Building Data Driven Buyer Personas Requires a PHD

Data scientists often do have PHDs, and get paid an average of $118k annually. These data scientists are trained in running SQL database queries, plugging that data into advanced business intelligence tools like Tableau and running complex statistical modeling with tools like Stata. In case you’re interested, below is an introduction to data and business intelligence tools.

Sounds scary right? It doesn’t need to.

If your organization uses a third party marketing tool like Mailchimp, Hubspot or Oracle Marketing Cloud (Eloqua) you can simply export your data. If your organization is crazy enough to have a marketing tool created by in house developers then you’re going to need to take a big plate of cookies into the dev cave to get access to the data.

Once you have your data, analyzing it can be as simple as opening it in excel, running some pivot tables and drawing conclusions. If I lost you on “pivot tables” there is no need to worry. There are even easier options for the Excel analysis faint of heart. Check out the “ways to analyze the data” section below.

Assuming you’ve been thoroughly convinced that you have the capabilities requisite to build data driven buyer personas, you’re now ready for Quantcast – the number one tool you must use when creating buyer personas.

The Free Tool: Introducing Quantcast

Due to the nature of business and industry differentiation, I don’t often give blanket advice to clients. However, one thing I always encourage clients to do is install Quantcast on their website. Even if your website is only getting a few dozen visitors a month, Quantcast should still be installed.

What is Quantcast?

Quantcast is a tool that watches Internet users and puts together online fingerprints of web activity. With several million websites in it’s network, Quantcast installs a cookie in the browser and keeps track of what kind of websites an Internet user visits. They then use that data to help the websites in their network know who is coming to their site.

Depending on your traffic, a few days to weeks after having the Quantcast code up on your site you can log into their tool and see some of the demographic and behavioral profiles of your site visitors.

quantcast demographics available

Quantcast provides insightful visitor profiling

Some of the demographic measures you can get for your site visitors are:

  • age
  • gender
  • income
  • household income
  • education level
  • family makeup
  • ethinicity
  • political engagement

Some of the behavioral measures you can get for your site visitors are:

  • business interests
  • news preferences
  • computer and technology preference
  • food and drink favorites
  • website affinities

How can I best leverage Quantcast?

With Quantcast you can gain a lot of detail on your site visitors. You can also set up custom groups in Quantcast that represent your paying customers.

If you want to use Quantcast to it’s full potential, create custom groups that you’re assigning paying customers to, and analyze them aside from the rest of your site traffic. Use these learnings to better tailor your social media, email outreach and paid advertising to specifically reach this paying customer segment. Creating custom groups is as easy as putting some custom code on the thank you page your paying customers are taken to after submitting payment, filling out a lead form, etc.

Here is a video introduction into what Quancast is:

Here is a video showcasing some of the persona targeting power you’ll get with Quantcast:

Here is a video that shows you how to install Quantcast:

Why is Quantcast Free?

I’ve installed Quantcast for a dozen or so client’s and each time I show the findings to the executive leadership team their first question is “how much are we paying for this insight?”

That’s one of my favorite things about Quantcast – it is completely free to use for measuring your site visitors and providing you with invaluable insight into the demographic and behavioral traits or your site visitors.

What’s the catch? There is none. They provide this service free, and it makes sense why: Quantcast does have an advertising solution you can use if you’d like, and for their advertising targetability to be the most accurate they want the biggest footprint possible for their targeting algorithm. Every time a new site installs Qunatcast you’re giving Quantcast insight into your site visitors.

Can Quantcast see my site visitors personal information?

No, Quantcast can only see non-personally identifiable information. Also, there is a way you can opt-out of having your data made explicitly available to competitors.

Steps on how to opt-out of showing your Quantcast data to competitors:

  1. Log into your Quantcast account
  2. In the dropdown menu (top right) for the website select “edit settings”
  3. There is a “public access” section with all the granular information you can opt-in or out of sharing. Simply un-check any of the items you don’t want to share with the public.
  4. Click on “save settings” and you’re good!

blocking public from seeing quantcast data

Now that I’ve got the data, what can I do with it?

Assuming you’ve installed Quantcast or exported data from your database or marketing tools, you’re now ready to analyze it. As explained above, there are a variety of ways that you can analyze your data, from methods as complex as loading it into Tableau to methods as simple as uploading to Google Sheets and viewing the pre-generated reports.

Here are four methods you can use to analyze your data when creating buyer personas, listed from easiest to most complex:

  1. Upwork Data Contractors – If crunching data sounds like a horrible proposition for you, you can always hire someone else to do it! 🙂 Upwork is the leading platform for outsourced contractors, and you can find a lot of good contractors for great rates. I’ve hired hundreds of contractors through Upwork and have been happy with my hires 95% of the time. For easier jobs like data entry you’ll pay just a dollar or two an hour. For a project like this one, that will require the ability to think outside the box and have access to more advanced statistical analysis tools, you may need to pay more – around $20/hour. If you hire someone trained on STATA here in the USA you’d likely pay $100+/hour so this $20/hour is a great rate. Here is just one example of a contractor that can do statistical analysis and has a great work history.
  2. Google Sheets – If you don’t want to hire out the data analysis work, but aren’t proficient at Excel enough to create pivot tables, charts and data associations, you may want to try out Google Sheets. Google Sheets is the free, online spreadsheet tool that has some pros and cons over Excel. The reason I recommend it for analyzing your data is because it recently introduced a feature called “Explore.” When you load your data into Google Sheets it auto analyzes your content to see if it can generate any trends or correlations and if it does a green box will appear at the bottom right of your window with the words “Explore” on the tab. If you click it, it’ll show you some awesome charts that it created on your behalf. While not perfect by any means, it’ll give you a good start. Here’s a video highlighting Google Sheets’ auto chart generator.
  3. Excel and Pivot Tables – Excel is a powerful tool for ad hoc analysis. When building buyer personas it’s important to make sure you’re remaining flexible, because if you pretend to know who your buyer is before building out the persona you’re going to introduce bias and be way off. The nice thing about Excel is that you can select all your data and put it into a pivot table. Pivot tables allow you to select different variables and display them in correlation to each other. I’ve used this to help clients determine who is purchasing from them, what their average purchase values are, what the life time value of customers are, etc. Pivot tables are particularly useful for flexibility sake because you simply click and drop values between one of four different areas in the pivot builder and voila – there’s your data. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing you can still use the tool and be relatively dangerous. I’ve included an excellent video below that provides a primer for using Excel pivot tables.
  4. Third Party Data Tools – There are a slew of tools out there, and I’ve used a variety of them, from free solutions to those that cost $40k a year. I’m a firm believer that having good and accurate data is one of the most important steps to doing any marketing. I’m also a firm believer, however, that just because software costs a lot doesn’t mean it’s the best solution. Here are a couple tools that you’ll find valuable:
    1. Tableau – I discuss this below in the “best business intelligence tools” section, but here’s a little info on how it can be used for creating buyer personas. Tableau is a program (with a long free trial) that allows you to input data and then model it in some awesome charts and visual representations. The nice thing about it is that it’s point and click so anyone can use it, even if you’re not a professional statistician. It creates highly visual representations of your data that it’s very useful in understanding the data for creating buyer personas.
    2. OpenRefine – I’ve had numerous occasions for either spending dozens of hours myself cleaning up bad data or needing to hire an Upwork contractor to do it for me. Many of my clients have collected data allowing their prospects or customers to enter information in free format. For example, instead of showing a list of 15 industries for a customer to self-select into, they have provided them with a text box and allowed the customer to input anything they want. These scenarios provide you with data that is hard to use. In such cases, you need to clean the data. This is where OpenRefine comes in handy: it’s a free tool that you can download to your computer, input your data, and then it uses logic to try and group similar data points and from there help you to clean it up. While the software is free, they could easily be charging thousands of dollars and it would still be software I’d recommend.

What are the best business intelligence tools?

I am a marketer by trade, but a geeky one at that: I can write SQL queries, build database structures and model data with Excel pivot tables.I do love the subject of business intelligence: from taking raw data, to modeling it, to calculating statistical significance and then analyzing it for insights that can further improve marketing or business processes.

That said, I do not claim expertise in business intelligence. When it comes to business intelligence software I have not tried it all, so take the below advice with a grain of salt.

Here’s the software that I have used (or seen in use a lot).

Best business modeling software:

  1. Excel. I hate to put this at the top of my list, because it really chokes on larger data sets (500k rows or more generally), but it is my favorite all around business analysis software. Dump data into it, throw it into pivot charts, vlookup on different data sets, build dashboards, etc.
  2. Tableau. This is what I consider to be the most versatile of software that can chug through massive data sets and spit out useful analysis and pretty charts. It’s relatively affordable too – you buy a server license and then a few operator seats and you’re off. Last time I priced it out it was around $5k for the first year and just a few $hundred for subsequent years.
  3. Domo. I’ve put it at the bottom of this list because while it’s the best at presenting data in pretty charts, it’s weak when it comes to manipulating the data, exporting the data, setting up alerts or regularly emailed reports, etc. It has it’s place in larger enterprises that have money for different reporting tools and that’s why I’ve included it here instead of simply not including it.

Best statistical analysis software:

  1. Stata. While each of the above three solutions have great user interfaces and can be used to easily create attractive reports and charts, stata is ugly. The Stata website is dated, the software user interface feels old, and the reports it puts out are not attractive. That said, it is the grandaddy of business statistical analysis. It can take massive data sets and be used to model to find correlations, significance, etc. I haven’t used the software directly myself but I helped my wife learn it for her Epidemiology profession and saw her put it to use. It was very powerful and seemed to be the leader in the space.

creating buyer personas with predictive analysisBonus: Further insight and additional prospects with Radius

Radius is a company that has a huge database with a wide variety of variables for each contact. They use their wealth of information to build a fingerprint around your current buyers and build a predictive analysis model that you can use for finding other prospects, or for knowing who in your current prospecting list you should focus on.

For example, after uploading a list of your buyers Radius’ system will evaluate your closed won deals for similarities. Maybe they are more likely to have an active Facebook profile. If so, that would be one variable you could use to target future prospects.

They recently sponsored a report with Forrester that shows that 83% of organizations with predictive analytics have seen considerable business impact. To download the report you must provide Radius with a real email address, but it’s a good read and I recommend it: Predictive Analysis Report.

Author: Ben

Ben loves working at the intersection of technology and marketing. From his early youth selling discount candy from his locker to building his own SMS marketing tool that he sold to the State of Utah he has learned the value of entrepreneurial thinking and smarter marketing. Despite his near addiction to tech and marketing, he also loves to get away from it all and spend time in the mountains hiking, rock-climbing and off-roading. Ben and his wife live in Lehi, Utah with their two boys.

Share This Post On

1 Comment

  1. Hi Ben,

    I saw you tweeting about seo and I thought I’d check out your website. I really like it. Looks like Ben has come a long way!
    Good job with the Yoast plugin SEO is so important these days.

    Keep making great stuff!

    Post a Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *