A beginner’s guide to persona marketing: how to create personas
As a business owner, you will know that catering to the specific needs of your target audience is essential, and that to do this effectively, you have to use a range of channels and conduct extensive audience research. Establishing one, or several, buyer personas through this research is a powerful way to ensure you are advertising your product or service to exactly the right people.
Persona marketing is a process whereby you identify the best strategic approach to your marketing efforts based on the characteristics of your target customers. These characteristics can be as specific as their age, location, job, interests and even their online shopping habits. Using this research based on your current client base, or your ideal customer, you then create a marketing persona to help determine your marketing strategy.
But how do you get started in establishing and analysing your buyer personas, and what difference can this really make to the sales process as a whole? In this guide, our Brains will cover the fundamental aspects and key benefits of establishing marketing personas, and provide all the information you need to implement a persona-focussed marketing strategy effectively.
Marketing personas: How do we define them?
What are marketing personas?
What is a marketing persona, or buyer persona? According to the Oxford Dictionary, a persona is “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others”. In the context of digital marketing, a marketing persona is essentially who you see your potential buyer to be. What do they look like, what do they enjoy, and what are their reasons to purchase from you? The process of creating a persona as part of your digital marketing strategy involves analysing the behaviour and attributes of your potential and existing customers, then segmenting them into target groups.
By identifying the various characteristics, interests, goals and habits of your target customers, you give yourself the best chance of marketing your business in a way that suits their needs, and enticing them to purchase your products or services.
Typically, companies design marketing personas by looking at the following attributes and activities:
- Demographic information (age, gender, ethnicity, education, career etc)
- Job title and industry
- Shopping habits
- Motivations/barriers to purchase
If you already have a customer base, it can be useful to analyse your existing customers as well as building out aspirational personas. Creating marketing personas in this way is useful for a number of reasons – not only can you identify trends, but with qualitative research you can begin to build out your ideal customers, which (if these buyer personas are different from your current customers) will therefore influence your overall marketing strategy.
By knowing more about your strongest buyer personas and your ideal customers, you can begin to market yourself in an appealing way that makes it easy for these buyer personas to convert with you. You can even try the exercise in the opposite way – creating negative personas. Having different personas showing your less ideal customer base will be helpful in clarifying your strategy, and make your target personas even easier to distinguish.
Marketing personas, both positive and negative, are a highly effective way of achieving short and long-term goals in terms of sales direction and overall marketing strategy. Read on to discover more about the benefits of establishing buyer personas and how to get started.
Why invest in persona marketing?
Buyer personas are crucial to the success of the service or product you are marketing online, because they heavily influence your sales decisions, the way you will choose to create messaging and the other channels you will prioritise – for example, social media. By focusing on customer needs and utilising what you know about each target group, you can craft an approach that massively increases your customer acquisition opportunities. Think about it this way – if you have no clue who your ideal customer is, how can you create marketing strategies and relevant content pieces that attract people like them?
Taking the time to develop personas is incredibly valuable and should be a cornerstone of your strategy. While it may seem time-consuming, in the long run it will help you make better decisions and you will be able to invest your time and money as efficiently as possible.
By creating a fictional representation of your business’s ideal customer, based on real market research and data, you can gain a deep understanding of how to meet your customers’ needs and ensure your marketing activity is appropriate for their demographic, goals and motivations. Without at least one buyer persona (ideally between 2 and 4) established and assigned to your separate marketing campaigns, you will never be able to offer anything other than generic “one size fits all” messaging that is likely to fall on deaf ears.
Do persona marketing techniques differ between businesses and sectors?
They do indeed – persona marketing can be, and is used, across a wide range of industries, for B2B and B2C marketing initiatives alike. It makes sense that your specific buyer persona structures should depend on your sector, target audience and marketing goals – how your business tracks and stores data will also influence the your specific persona template, as it’s this data that will act as a blueprint for the creation of each character profile.
Considering the journey of each buyer persona
When creating your buyer personas, it’s always crucial to consider their sales journey so that you can truly tap into the mindset and thought processes of your customers.
The buyer’s journey consists of three critical stages — awareness, consideration and decision. Creating marketing personas that accurately represent your current and potential customers will be extremely beneficial when guiding prospects through each stage of the journey, and it will also teach you a thing or two about your business processes for future campaigns.
We get into this and a lot of other vital lead generation guidance in our Leads on Tap Blueprint.
Guiding your buyer persona through the funnel
Awareness is the starting point, where a prospect “enters” the marketing funnel. A prospect has a problem that needs solving or is seeking an opportunity, and your product or service is the solution. Your job at this stage is to make the potential customer aware of your brand and the solutions you offer. Persona-targeted content is where the magic happens in this scenario, as it allows you to speak directly to your target audience, telling them everything they need to know (or want to hear) about your offering. Most prospects will linger at the top of the funnel, at the awareness stage, but by using content that has your buyer persona in mind, you can quickly drive them to the next stage and turn them into a warm lead.
Consideration is the middle-ground where a prospect will likely weigh up their options. At this stage, your buyer persona will require some convincing that what you are offering is right for them. This stage is vital, and will be where your persona research truly demonstrates its value. What are the needs of your buyer persona? What style of marketing do they react positively to? All of your research up to this point will define the type of approach you should take – and, if you create negative personas, the approach you shouldn’t take!
Decision time – at this point, your prospect is aware of your brand, what you offer and how your product/service can help to solve their problem. But they will have undoubtedly checked out a few of your competitors too. So what makes you different? Developing a persona template and conducting research around your customers will allow you to provide that personal touch that your rivals might not be able to match. By focusing your marketing strategy on addressing the specific pain points, needs and personality of your target prospects, you instantly attract and maintain their attention while instilling a sense of trust that can be hard to come by. You don’t want people to like your brand; you want them to love it.
How to create personas for your customers
Creating personas requires data analysis, interviews, surveys as well as internal breakdowns and insights from your sales team. While it may sound complex and time-consuming, it actually doesn’t have to be. Many digital marketing agencies offer persona workshopping sessions to help you put together an accurate persona template and populate each group with information you can use in your strategy.
From here, you can then begin to create content across in a range of different styles depending on what you think will be of most use to your target groups. This content can range from social posts and conversion-driving landing pages to e-books and whitepapers that are irresistible to your prospects. when creating your content, you need to think of yourself as a problem solver. If you can offer your target audience what feels like a bespoke solution, it’s safe to say you have a piping hot lead on your hands.
Practical advice to master persona marketing
The following practical methods will provide you with the vital information needed to develop customer personas you can integrate into your marketing funnel:
Delve into your customer database
Your customer database is a goldmine of information that’s vital to persona creation. Although some company databases are more detailed than others, at the very least, you will be able to narrow down the basics such as a customer’s location, purchasing history and hopefully some highly valuable additional targeting information such as their age, gender, interests and past interactions with your company.
Use website forms to gather additional persona data
A simple and effective way to gather additional customer information that can be used to inform your personas is to adjust your current website forms. If you want to know something specific — such as a person’s profession or industry — simply add the question to your contact form, and use the resulting information to add value to your personas. It’s important to balance information gathering with conversion optimisation – don’t add too much complexity to your forms if it’s likely to hamper sales; a couple of additional questions around a prospect’s intentions or targeting information will suffice.
Speak to your sales team
Your sales team deals with customers and potential customers more than anyone else at your company. They are the people that continue to pile coal into the fire and fuel your business, so it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about who your most common or likely customers are. What patterns have they noticed about people who are more likely to purchase? Is there a “type” of person who purchases your products/services most frequently? Have they got a sense of what the majority of your customers are trying to achieve? Any nuggets of information, no matter how small, can be the game-changer needed to take you to the next level.
You can only find out so much from data alone. Conversations with your customers will give you valuable insights into their goals and objectives, which specific aspects of your brand attracted their attention and what appeals to them about you – helping to hone your marketing messages moving forward. A brand that cares about what their customers think will always be more appealing than one that doesn’t.
Creating your marketing personas: Quick tips
Now that you have a better understanding of persona marketing and what’s required to create personas for your business, you’re ready to get started with creating your first persona groups. It’s crucial to collaborate with your sales and marketing teams as you begin establishing your templates, as they will have valuable input in terms of data insights and an understanding of key customer pain points. All of this, alongside extensive research, be instrumental in helping you to achieve your marketing goals.
- Don’t segment for the sake of it. You can use the same buyer personas for different markets or geographies if the target groups have enough similarities. This saves time and effort while also bolstering your marketing efforts.
- Keep the number of personas you’re using manageable – we usually recommend 2-4 per marketing campaign.
- Don’t segment by industry just because that feels like a “neat” way to do it. For example, while creating personas for a recent client, we discovered that HR directors had the same concerns in a wide range of sectors — meaning there was no need to segment further.
- Continually review your personas as your business grows, to ensure they’re still relevant.
If you have any questions about the information in this post or persona marketing in general, our team here at The Brains are always happy to help. All you need to do to get started is request a FREE initial consultation.