Psychologically profiling your buyer personas

Portrait of John Hughes
By John Hughes

02 September 2016

Learn how to apply the big 5 personality traits to the principle of buyer persona development, to give a richer picture of target customers.

How do personality traits help you develop buyer personas?

Buyer personas should be central to any marketing strategy. I’ve already written about how to construct a buyer persona and how they differ from pen portraits.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to hear @NathalieNahai talk at the Turing Festival about the big five personality traits, and that got me thinking. There is a hole in the buyer persona definition. What personality traits would we expect buyers to have?

You might think this is not so important; after all the buyer persona does cover a broad spectrum of people who might be your ideal buyer. However, if your buyer persona is more likely to display certain personality traits – for example, would a CEO of a start-up tech business not be more likely to display openness traits as they are likely to be inventive and curious – then this should dictate the kind of language that is more likely to capture their attention and help convert them.

This was the direction of Nathalie’s talk, albeit her examples were mostly about brand and retail. I think, though, it also applies to lead generation.

Tightening up the language you use to convert the most likely personality traits among your buyer persona bucket of people must have a positive impact surely? Currently, to build buyer personas, we look at a number of facets of ideal customers, such as their demographics, age, gender, income, watering holes, keyword searches, goals, challenges, objections and so on. I propose we extend that to also look at where we think they fall on each of the big 5 personality trait scales. If you’re not familiar with these, here they are.


Openness is the personality trait that reflects the capacity for a person to desire to experience new things. It is what makes people curious and creative. People with a high degree of openness are more likely to appreciate art, emotion and adventure. They often pursue self-actualisation and are more inclined to take risks.

On the other hand, people with a low degree of openness are risk averse. They seek fulfilment through perseverance, are pragmatic and data-driven. They can be seen as closed-minded or dogmatic.


Conscientiousness is the tendency to show self-discipline. People with a high degree of conscientiousness are well organised and feel a sense of duty to achieve things. They prefer things to be well planned and can be stubborn, inflexible and sometimes obsessive. Conscientious people work well within well-defined processes.

Those with a low degree of conscientiousness, however, are more flexible and spontaneous. They can be perceived as more sloppy or unreliable, but alternatively, they may get faster results through their flexibility. They may be prone to make more mistakes or to be distracted.


Extraversion is a personality trait that most people are familiar with. It is the capacity for somebody to be outgoing and energetic. People who rate highly for extraversion display positive emotions, energy, assertiveness and sociability. They tend to seek the company of others and may look to gain the attention of others. They can be perceived as domineering and talkative.

People who rate low for extraversion have a reserved and reflective personality. They can be viewed as aloof or self-absorbed. They are more deliberate and more independent. Such introversion is not the same as shyness; they are reserved more so than shy.


Agreeableness describes the character of concern for social harmony. Agreeable people are more likely to get along with others. They are generally more considerate and kind. They are more willing to compromise their interests and are more trusting. They also often have a more optimistic view of human nature.

Disagreeable individuals, though, place their own needs above those of others. They are generally less concerned with the well-being of others and are less likely to extend themselves for others. Sometimes, their scepticism translates to suspicion, unfriendliness or uncooperativeness.

Low emotional stability

Low emotional stability (or neuroticism) describes the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions such as anger or anxiety. A person who is high in neuroticism may have trouble controlling their impulses. They look for security and safety and this may manifest itself in an excitable or reactive personality.

A person who score low for neuroticism generally feels more safe and secure and comes across as calm and stable, but they may also be seen as uncaring or unconcerned.

How do the traits affect buyer persona development?

If you can recognise the kinds of personality trait that are likely to be present in your buyer person group this may influence the kinds of keywords they search for, and how the interact or express themselves on social media. More, though, it is likely to impact the language that the buyer persona is likely to respond well to.

For example, if your buyer persona scores highly for openness, the language you use about your product or service should highlight innovation, opportunity. However, if the buyer persona scores low for openness, highlight things like data, proven, and tradition.

Integrated processes and workflows

Is there a way you can begin to recognise personality traits in your CRM? Well, probably, yes. Perhaps you can run multiple campaigns subtly using different language to attract different personality types. You know which CTA someone has responded to and you can consequently segment your email marketing workflows accordingly. If someone responds well to language aimed at agreeableness, continue to send them emails focused on community and social proof.

The whole inbound process can be expanded to take advantage of such trait targeting. That is why I believe you have to start considering personality traits in the buyer persona definition.

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