By Brent Wees, Founder,

Many of us understand our target market, and we actively communicate with them every day through a blend of online and offline strategies that we hope will make them customers. But are you looking beyond the target and dialing into your customer personas?

You may have heard the term and maybe even went as far as going through a customer persona identification exercise to strengthen your marketing. For the sake of this article, I want to explain the difference between a target audience and a customer persona, then walk you through how to build customer personas for a more insightful approach to your marketing efforts.

Let’s define both.

Target Audience – A target audience is the intended audience or readership of a publication, advertisement, or other messages. In marketing and advertising, it is a particular group of consumers within the predetermined target market, identified as the targets or recipients for a particular advertisement or message. (Source – Wikipedia)

Customer Persona – Buyer (customer) personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. They help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better and make it easier to tailor content to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different types of buyers. The strongest buyer (customer) personas are based on market research, as well as insights from surveys and interviews with your actual customer base (Source – Hubspot).

It’s easy to see the difference between the two.

A target audience strategy is broader and defined by higher-level details, such as age, location, and various other core pillars. Personally, I think we make a lot of assumptions about our target audience from blanket market research. However, we need to rely on that to build the audience in the first place. It’s big, and we want it that way so that we can connect with as many prospective customers as possible.

A customer persona strategy while leveraging market research says clearly, “Insights you gather from your actual customer base.” It’s a deeper dive into the actuality of your real customers, all the little things you’ve learned about them through weeks, months, and years of having them as customers. Simply put, personas allow you to personalize or target your marketing for different segments of your audience.

How often are we going to market with blanket statements based on the manufacturer’s program with core retail offers attached — not really moving past broad stroke target audience messaging? I’d guess it’s common. We live in 30-day increments, and breaking out our marketing by defining it into different personas seems more difficult. Here’s the rub, it’s not. If you do some simple persona development with all your departments, you may see that you start to convert more customers based on years of relationships you’ve built with your existing ones.

An Exercise in Building a Customer Persona

Here is a simple exercise to build a customer persona from Buffer. I think this layout works best to get you started. Get a working session with a specific department team, and have everyone work through compiling information based on customers they recently sold and have long-standing relationships with. Your CRM will come in very handy here if your staff is populating it properly, as it should be full of relevant data on everyone.

Name of the persona (use the customer’s first name only) 

  • Job title
  • Key information about their company (size, type, etc.)
  • Details about their role


  • Age
  • Gender
  • Salary/household income
  • Location: urban / suburban / rural
  • Education
  • Family

Goals and challenges

  • Primary goal
  • Secondary goal
  • How you help achieve these goals
  • Primary challenge
  • Secondary challenge
  • How you help solve these problems

Values / fears

  • Primary values
  • Common objections during the sales process 

It’s a thoughtful exercise that could show you that your dealership has a diverse set of personas. Find the commonality in the team’s work to your core base of personas, that base could be six to 10 or higher, and that’s great! You now have a deeper understanding of the people walking in and out of your dealership each day, as well as others viewing your content online, listening to your radio spots, and interacting with you on social media.

Take these findings, and share them with your internal or external marketing teams and partners. Push them to expand your core messages, and pay more attention to multiple and more finely-targeted opportunities that are in front of you with your newfound insights.

This is an excellent way to separate your dealership from everyone else in your market. The challenge is to commit to the exercise and make it a necessary part of every piece of content and advertising you create.

Let the other dealerships move through each sales program with cookie-cutter creative and half-baked messaging. Laser target your audiences with great content that speaks to them, and you will see a marked difference.

Learn More

Join Brent Wees and Bill Playford as they kick off a year-long learning session, “Digital Dealer CX Study Group,” during the Digital Dealer Virtual Experience (Oct. 6-7, 2020). This session will help you to build, implement, and measure new strategies to better connect your online and in-store experience. The Digital Dealer CX Study Group will take you from foundational strategic planning to robust data measurement and persona building. 

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This article was published in the August 2020 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the August 2020 Issue here.


About the Author

Brent Wees (founder of has been a thought-leader in the North American automotive digital marketing landscape for almost 20 years, developing agency strategies and software for all three tiers of the industry. Widely known for his energetic, comedic, and uniquely engaging presentation style, Brent is a much sought-after keynote speaker around the globe.

Author: Alissa Frey

Digital Dealer