By Mike Wolfe
Creating marketing personas is an important part of marketing strategy in any industry. Personas help you craft spot-on messages that resonate with your audience and elicit an action or response. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what marketing personas are, why they’re important, and how you can create them.
What Are Marketing Personas?
Marketing personas are semi-fictional representations of a company’s ideal customer. They are based on market research, customer demographics, and responses from surveys and interviews. Personas are used to identify and segment target audiences, which allows for more relevant messaging and a better understanding of customer behavior.
When put to use, personas help answer the following questions:
- What problems do your customers need to solve, and how does your business help them?
- What type of content is most likely to generate a response from a particular type of customer?
- How does your ideal customer prefer to engage in the sales process?
Why Are Marketing Personas Important?
Marketing personas are important because they help you better understand the audience you are trying to reach and how to reach them. With a better understanding of your target audience, you can create more relevant content and more effective campaigns that trigger action. Personas also help you identify potential customer pain points and problems, which can help you craft solutions that will better meet your customers’ needs.
Without this fundamental research, you will know less about what attracts new leads and drives them to make a purchase, potentially leaving profits on the table.
How to Create Marketing Personas
Creating marketing personas is not a one-size-fits-all process. Every company will approach it differently, but there are some key steps that should be followed.
Step 1: Gather Data Internally
Facilitate discussion within your company around customer pain points, goals, and common behaviors, and begin collecting feedback. Sales, marketing, and customer service teams will each offer a unique perspective, so get everyone involved.
For the best results, avoid spending too much time on one particular persona, and don’t go into team discussions with personas already defined. At this point, you want to draw ideas from the full spectrum of customer types and identify any aspects of your customers you haven’t considered before. This requires open ears and an open mind to hear ideas the team has to share. You can always pull a group back together for additional discussion in a later step if you feel the team has more to add.
In addition to internal interviews and brainstorming meetings, you should also be able to analyze existing customer data from your CRM—such as job titles and roles, common industries, and regional location—for insight.
Step 2: Gather Data from Customers
Information gathered from your internal team provides a good starting point for understanding your customers. But the only way to really get inside the heads of your audience is to speak with them directly.
After gathering information from your sales, marketing, and service teams, validate the assumptions you have made by interviewing actual customers.
During this step, it’s important to collect information from a variety of customer types, including:
- People who have chosen to buy your solution
- People who have chosen not to buy anything
- People who bought from competitors (if possible)
Info like this will help you understand what people didn’t like about your solution, in addition to what they did like.
Step 3: Analyze the Data
Once you have collected data, study it to identify key traits, trends, patterns, and characteristics that your audience has in common—or not in common. This will help you create a more detailed picture of what differentiates your personas in the next step.
There are two sets of data to consider:
- Qualitative data collected from internal and customer interviews
- Hard data collected from web tools like Google Analytics and HubSpot
With both sets of data, the heart of what you are looking for is intent data—what personas were looking for that led them to and through your funnels. Both qualitative data and hard data should be used to tell each persona’s buyer journey story.
Step 4: Segment Your Audience
Segmenting your audience is perhaps the most important step to defining your personas. You want to know the things that are going to resonate well with each persona and what’s going to trigger them to take action to learn more about the problems they need to solve—and, more specifically, how your product or service can solve them.
A simple way to get started is to consider the unique messaging categories or “buckets” you can place your audience in. These categories are like a rough draft of your personas.
You may find that the best way to segment your audience in terms of messaging aligns closely with job title or role because of their pain points. This kind of segmentation is common, but it may not always be right for you. Perhaps your messaging buckets are based more around corporate hierarchy or the different ways the audiences use or interact with your product or service.
For example: If your C-suite customers are facing challenges around tight budgets, they all might be interested in a solution that is affordable, and you can use that kind of messaging to get their attention. However, you might find that the person who typically makes the purchase is at the director level, and they’re typically more concerned about usability of the product. Targeting the director level with messages around affordability based on the assumption that if it’s important to the C-suite it’s important to all may cause your campaign to fall flat because you haven’t grabbed the right audience attention.
There will certainly be some overlap in messaging that resonates, but your job is to decide which pain points and messages are prominent enough to define a persona around them.
Step 5: Fill in the Gaps
Once you are confident about which messaging categories resonate the best and which job titles or roles typically resonate with each category, you can fine-tune your personas and fill in missing information with hypothetical names and descriptions.
Each persona should include key demographic information, such as age, gender, location, and income. They should also include information about their lifestyle, interests, pain points, and goals.
Common elements of a persona profile include:
- Name: Many marketers use fun and descriptive names such as Thrifty Tom, Elegant Annie, and Practical Pete. You can use these nicknames to help guide you as you develop new products, brands, and marketing campaigns.
- Description: Include a description of the persona’s daily life, common challenges, purchasing behavior, and other factors that influence how your sales and marketing teams will interact with this type of customer.
- Image: You will probably find it helpful to have an image that corresponds to each persona.
- Identifiers: Provide a list of traits that help identify each different persona so that your team members can quickly select the most appropriate marketing messages when they encounter a potential customer.
Using the Personas
Once your personas are created, use them to inform marketing, sales, and support efforts. Every piece of messaging or content should be written specifically for one or more personas, addressing concerns or interests they have. It’s important to remember that your personas should be evergreen but can also change over time as you learn more about them or as the industry evolves.
Want more tips for creating marketing personas? This guide walks you through buyer persona templates and shows you exactly how to create your own personas to use them to make the most of your inbound campaigns.