By Lisa Chappell

Nowadays, 89 percent of customers begin their buying process with a search engine (hello, Google). With the majority of your potential customers relying on online resources, how do you drive traffic from the right crowd? This is where buyer personas come in. 

Buyer personas help you effectively connect your value propositions to customer pain points in a language they speak. Personas help you strategically shape your digital marketing campaigns, product/service offerings, and support efforts from the get-go, ultimately impacting your organization’s bottom line.

Personas can help with many facets of your business, but in this article, we concentrate on their application to digital marketing. To give you a deep understanding, we’ve broken it down into two parts: what a persona is in digital marketing and how you can go onto create one (or some) yourself.

1. What Is a Persona in Digital Marketing?

A persona is a holistic profile of your current customers that clearly defines who they are and what drives them to buy, including physical and emotional needs. It’s more than a job position and goes beyond standard demographic questions. Personas drill into your customers' psyche to understand what really makes them tick.

Personas are critical to digital marketing because they attract the right audience to your website by helping you develop effective messaging and provide information that aligns with how your customers think and feel. 

Not only do buyer personas provide a wealth of knowledge to your customers externally, but they also act as a beacon internally for your marketing, sales, and support teams to look to—in turn, aligning their efforts and connecting them back to your organization’s overarching goals.

Creating and utilizing personas in digital marketing benefits you by enabling you to:

  • Be more strategic and plan for marketing deliverables that will move the needle 
  • Drive relevant traffic to your website with visits from those that are truly looking for what you offer
  • Feed sales more qualified leads and help them have smarter conversations based on each persona type
  • Document marketing deliverables and connect them to company goals

Furthermore, personas can help you decide: 

  • What type of marketing content to produce
  • Which media outlets to target
  • What elements to include or exclude from your sales process
  • What products or services you should develop
     
Not sure where to start on developing your buyer personas? Check out our guide:  How to Create a Buyer Persona in 5 Steps (+ Free Templates)    

2. How to Create personas for Digital Marketing

In order to create impactful personas, you need to ask the right people the right questions. It takes time to create and refine personas, so a good rule is to start with three personas and develop more later on. Here’s a three-step process to follow, which lays out whom to speak to as well as what open-ended questions to ask: 

1. Begin with internal interviews. Talk with your teams that have the most face time with customers. Explain to them what personas are and why their input is critical to creating them. 

Here are the most common departments to interview, as well as questions to ask for each:

    1. Sales (interacts directly with your customers)
      • Why do different varieties of customers usually make a purchase?
      • What are some reasons customers choose us over our competitors?
      • What are the most frequent objections you hear?
    2. Marketing (knows how your customers behave)
      • What technical and demographic customer information do you have?
      • Which blog posts get the most traffic?
      • Which website pages have the most impressions?
    3. Customer service (knows how customers interact with your product)
      • What questions do prospects frequently ask you?
      • What are our current customers saying to you?
      • What skill sets do customers need to use our product(s)?
2. Have conversations with customers. This is a big one. You won’t really understand your customers if you don’t speak with them. 

Ask open-ended questions about topics such as:

    1. Demographics: Gender, age, location, income
    2. Careers: Job level, experience, education, aspirations
    3. Daily life: Day-to-day, hobbies, frustrations
    4. Consumer habits: Shopping behavior, technology habits
    5. Pain points: What makes your customers anxious and frustrated? What keeps them up at night? How does their problem make them feel? How would they feel if it was solved?
    6. Industry: Industry-specific values and challenges
3. Compile your information and create your persona(s). 

This is a two-step process:

    1. Compile your data into two sets:
      • Qualitative data: Collected from internal and customer interviews
      • Hard data: Collected from web tools to show what people have in common
    2. Create your persona profile(s) and be sure to include:
      • Descriptive names, like Practical Pete and Fast-Talking Tom (you’ll reference your persona by name when you develop products/services, brands, and marketing campaigns)
      • Demographic data and details of their daily life, common challenges, and purchasing behavior to help shape customer narratives
      • Image to help visualize the persona
      • Indicators that easily identify traits to help your teams select the most appropriate messages when they encounter a prospect

Personas not only better align you with your customers from the very beginning, but they also help unify your organization on precisely who you’re selling to, how those end users think before making a purchase decision, and how exactly you add value to their work or lives.

Personas are a powerful tool, and when they’re built and utilized correctly, they lead to a profitable return. Download this handy one-sheet persona template and start creating one for yourself. 

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Lisa Chappell

About the author

Lisa Chappell is a marketing consultant at SmartBug Media who enjoys combining strategy, technology, and creativity to help clients reach their goals. Her background includes over 10 years of marketing experience for global and national brands. Lisa has a BS in Marketing from Florida State University. Read more articles by Lisa Chappell.

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