How To Build Customer Personas Using Online Reviews

January 24, 16727 min read

Cayla is spying on you. If you’re one of the parents who purchased the Cayla or i-Que toys for your kids, you’re in luck. Not only are these toys spying on your kids and your entire family, but they’re also recording everything your family says. It gets better.

These toys then send your illegally recorded, very private conversations to a defense contractor specializing in voice recognition. This data is then used for marketing. That’s right. As a marketer, you’ve probably heard this story before, haven’t you?

It’s no surprise customers refuse to share!

Why would customers want to share their information with a company like this? The obvious answer is, they don’t. The majority of people want to choose the kind of information they share with others.

As marketers, we need information. To sell more products and services to cater to customer wants and needs. To show customers we can solve their problems. Getting this information is the difference between creating a product customers fight to buy.

Versus a product no one wants.

When it’s collated and cataloged, this information becomes a persona you can use to attract the specific customer you want.

Personas have a specific role to play.

Personas should give you a deep, intimate understanding of your customers. Personas, when appropriately used, show you...

Who they are: Are they single or married? What’s their age range, education level, and profession? How much money do they make? Do they have disposable income?

What they want: As people, we’re drawn to the same things – physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, growth, etc. You’ll need to discover how your customers meet these wants and needs.

What their interests are: Interests, also known as psychographics, tell you: what they read or watch, how they spend their free time, who influences them, what offends them, and more.

Customer expectations: Expectations, both good and bad, drive customer behavior. If they’re skeptical, they’re more likely to expect the worst. Are they expecting expert level knowledge from your firm? How do their desires tie into their expectations from you?

These details are vital, yet most marketers ignore these details or they skimp on the information they need.


Because "It’s too hard," "Customers won’t talk to me," or "I can’t get the information I need." These objections are bad, but there’s one objection that’s even worse. It makes it impossible for marketers to learn new things about their customers.

I already know about my customers.

When we “already know,” we close our minds to something new. It implies that we already know everything there is to know about our customers. What does this mean? We’re not interested in what anyone has to say.

This is entirely untrue. Because customer behavior is dynamic.

An economic downturn, out of control fuel prices, job loss... These circumstances motivate customers to change their behavior. When customers feel pressure from a wide variety of factors, they change their behavior.

Your customers are always going through change.

Want to attract new customers and keep the ones you have? Use personas to track the changes they’re going through, then change with them. What if you can’t? What if you have no idea where to start, and even if you did, you felt there was no way to get the information you wanted? Does that mean you’re out of luck?

Nope. As it turns out, customers are volunteering. They’re willingly sharing the information you need – in their reviews.

It’s easy to find when you know where to look.

You read their reviews. You look at your products. Your competitors’ products. Loosely related products in the industry. You’re looking for trends, for data that fits one of the four categories I mentioned earlier. If you see the same object or comment from 5 to 20 customers, you’re onto something.

Here are a few things you can look for:

★ Desires and goals
★ Problems, fears, and frustrations
★ Objections, risks, and outcomes
★ Age, education, and occupation
★ Hobbies, interests, and activities
★ Beliefs, morals, and values

What’s the important aspect?

You’re looking for trends. Behavior that displays patterns. And the best part? It doesn’t have to come from your reviews. It can also come from competitors, closely related products, and even suppliers.

So what does that look like?

Cards Against Humanity is a party game where players complete fill-in-in-the-blank statements. Only players use politically incorrect and potentially offensive words or phrases.

customer personas

Looking at Chrysswen's review, we’ve learned:

★ She’s married.
★ She has more than one child with at least one teenager.
★ She’s an educated shopper with disposable income.
★ She values relationship building and connection over rules.

Read the comments below her reviews and you’ll find more parents with older children. So that’s our first persona. These reviews give us additional details like...

★ Desires and goals. Parents who want to connect with their older kids.
★ Problems, fears, and frustrations. Their teenage kids aren’t as interested in spending time with them.
★ Objections, risks, and outcomes. Afraid of being seen/viewed as a bad parent for playing this with their kids
★ Beliefs, morals, and values. A healthy relationship and open communication are more open to these parents.

Dig deeper, and you’ll find personas for grandparents, high school, and college students. You’ll find friends playing together at get-togethers and events. This gives you the details you need to dive as deep into your marketing personas as you like.

customer personas

These are just a few of the details you can glean from customer reviews. So how do you put these personas to work for you?

Use customer personas to improve your offering.

In 2008, EA published a revolutionary game called Spore. This came gave players the ability to create their own creatures and bring them to life. It included action, real-time strategy, and role-playing elements.

Spore received top marks from reviewers, including a 9.2 out of 10 from IGN. Customer demand for Spore was intense. It was a popular game right out of the gate. Critics and fans were pleased. So why were 76 percent of their reviews one star?

customer personas
  • The game was viewed as superficial and shallow.

  • EA used invasive DRM that kept customers from playing the game they purchased.

customer personas

Customers filed a class-action lawsuit against EA regarding SecuROM, their invasive DRM software. Sales plummeted as technical problems crippled the launch.

This is the part where personas shine.

Let’s say you’re a game developer. You’re creating a similar game or you’re making a game in the same genres. How do you create a winner?

  • You learn about your target audience; who they are, what they want, what their interests are, and what they expect.

  • You look for the mistakes made in each of the areas we discussed.

★ Desires and goals
★ Problems, fears, and frustrations
★ Objections, risks, and outcomes
★ Age, education, and occupation
★ Hobbies, interests, and activities
★ Beliefs, morals, and values

You fix or avoid these mistakes. You use the research you’ve gleaned from customer reviews. You use it to create something that exceeds their expectations.

It’s dangerous to base decisions on a review persona. Isn’t it?

What if your personas are wrong? It’s simple, you confirm them.


With surveys and pre-selling. Offer customers an incentive in exchange for their information. They answer a study that either validates or falsifies the personas you’ve developed. If it’s forged, you discount that persona. If it’s validated, you test it some more until you feel confident you have the right information. There’s no need for personas to be risky or dangerous.

Marketers used Cayla to do their dirty work.

Just like that, market research became a dirty word. If you’re a parent who purchased the Cayla or i-Que toy, you probably aren’t happy. There’s something invasive about saving illegally recorded conversations, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

There’s no need to steal customer data when they’re more than willing to give it. Online reviews give you the personas, the data you need to find and serve customers. It’s a simple way to build a closer relationship with your customers. No spying is required.

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