Nothing is more important for you as a digital marketer than understanding your customers. Without such understanding, you can’t develop content or make your product indispensable. Enter the use of buyer personas.

Marketers have a love-hate relationship with them. They know that they need to create and use them, but they find personas difficult to develop. Creating personas can be tricky. You can’t treat them like lifeless customer profiles that are created once and pulled out only for quarterly meetings.

Buyer personas represent who your customers are. You have to understand who they are and what they care about. When you create persona documents, you should realize that they change as your company changes.

The persona concept is not a new one. It was first mentioned by Alan Cooper in his 1999 book The Inmates Are Running the Asylum (SAMS). In the book, Cooper talks about how one needs to discover customer personas rather than create them from untested assumptions. When you create a persona, you mix your own customer data with your understanding of the marketplace to represent your ideal buyer.

This is key because if you make assumptions without having real data to back them up, you risk derailing your marketing efforts. If you’re like many marketers, the concept of personas makes you uneasy. Chief among the reasons for this uneasiness is that personas aren’t easy to create or maintain. Your customer constantly changes her opinions, likes, and behaviors. You, therefore, have to keep abreast of her needs and wishes.

According to a 2015 joint study done by Quantcast and Forbes, 54 percent of companies agree that for audience targeting, identifying the proper personas is their biggest challenge. So you’re not alone in your quest to get personas done right.

They are complex and can’t be tossed off quickly. You can’t sell to everyone, of course, so understanding your niche is crucial before you create your personas. You’ve probably heard the term niche used all the time, but what does it actually mean? Your niche is the special corner of the marketplace that is interested in your products and services. When you understand your niche, you help your company reach its most interested buyers.