How to Build Effective Marketing Personas

If you’re a marketer, or if you’ve ever dipped your toe in the industry, you would have heard about ‘marketing personas’, ‘customer personas’ or ‘buyer personas’, and how they are vital to the marketing process. But what’s the real deal? What are marketing personas and why do they matter so much?

Creating marketing personas is the surest way to help you get to know your audience, and to more intimately understand the people you’re trying to reach: the problems they’re dealing with, the issues that affect them, their secret hopes and aspirations, the things that drive them (whether they know it or not…).

Personas are fundamental to marketing because without knowing your specific customer types, you will never be able to offer anything more than a generic, ‘catch all’ message, and just hope it resonates with some of your audience.

On the other hand, marketing personas can help you to:

  • Acknowledge your customers’ feelings (whether they’re positive or negative), and show that you identify with them
  • Target the most relevant audience, while having the ability to scale
  • Generate more qualified leads
  • Improve your content marketing by creating more tailored content pieces that will attract your audience

Marketing personas are a combination of character traits. These include everything from age, location, job, hobbies, family situation and much more. Together, this information represents a generalized portrait of a real person who is a typical customer of your business – or someone you might want to try to turn into a customer.

B2C Marketing Personas

When it comes to creating B2C buyer personas, you should include the person’s work details, but you can focus more on the person’s identity and character in their regular day-to-day life. After all, this is what influences their purchasing decisions.

Your B2C personas should include the following:

  • Personal background
    • Gender, age, location, marital status, occupation
  • Personality
  • Business background
  • Lifestyle
  • Hobbies
  • Purchasing behaviour
    • Online vs offline, shopping habits
  • Challenges/ pain points
  • Information sources
  • Keywords used to search for information
  • Content preferences
  • Motivations
  • Goals
  • Real quotes from interactions with customers

As you build out your persona, consider how you can develop stories and share information that relates specifically to the products, services or solutions you offer, and what messages will engage your ideal customer.

B2B Marketing Personas

B2B customer personas need to take work and career information into account. Where does the customer work? What is their job description? What is their position in the organization? In many cases, the B2B persona is not always the chief decision maker regarding the company’s purchases. This should also be included, as it has a very direct impact on the way you would be marketing to them.

Kick off your B2B customer persona with the following details:

  • Title
  • Decision maker? Yes/No
  • Internal influences
  • Reputation
  • Industry
  • Income
  • Education
  • Responsibilities
  • How this persona is evaluated
  • Trusted information resources

How to Create Marketing Personas

1. Gather data

Every marketing persona should be based on real customer data. Here are a few ways you can access the data you need:

Internal sales data

This data focuses on people who have already purchased your products or services, and understanding why they did so is key. You can focus on the following attributes and actions:

  • Define low/medium/high spend thresholds
  • Job role
  • Location
  • Gender and age
  • Days of purchases

Site analytics

Website analytics are an important part of the process of developing customer personas. You can learn a lot about your customers by analyzing what they do on your website. How did they get there? Which pages do they like to visit the most? How long do they spend on your website? What keywords brought them to you site? What device did they use to visit? And much more.

You can also explore your audience’s interests via Google Analytics. This will give you an even deeper understanding of their desires and motives.

Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis Tools

You can rely on data gathered from salespeople, customer service interactions and the buyers or customers themselves. Examples include sources such as interviews, feedback forms, live polls, chats, surveys, calls and emails.

Interviews with customers are an opportunity to really dig deep into their personal  motivations, so you can get truly valuable insights into your customers. This will enable you to follow up with the goals, values, and pain points that will resonate the most with them.

Although marketing personas are fictional characters based on aggregated information, you can flesh out your personas and make them more real by including actual quotes from your customers.

2. Organize the information

When you’ve gathered all the relevant data and information, the next stage is organizing it into segments that represent specific customers.

Once you’ve defined your customer segments, ask the following questions:

  • Who comprises this customer segment?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What do they want?
  • What can your product/service/business do for them?
  • What kind of content might convince them of that fact?

These questions will help you build appropriate marketing messages and campaigns that will resonate with each segment/persona.

3. Create the persona’s profile

Combine all essential persona details to create a fully-developed profile of your ideal customer – and don’t forget to give the persona a name! This will help you differentiate between each persona, and also acts as another marker that reflects the personality of the customer.

You can display the customer persona information in different ways, from short and sweet (business card style), to a long and elaborate story.

A long, story-style customer persona is fully fleshed out, with loads of detail and backstory. On the other hand, your team might prefer “short and sweet”. Here’s an example, courtesy of Smartbug, of a brief, card-style customer persona:

The template you choose will depend on your team and your customer base. If you have a small number of customer personas, with very different profiles, a short persona template may be all you need. If your customer base is complex, you may need to create longer, more detailed descriptions.

There are many tools you can use to help you build solid marketing personas. For example, Hubspot’s MakeMyPersona is an interactive web tool that generates buyer personas for marketers, brands, startups, and businesses big and small, via an interactive step-by-step process involving a series of questions about the customer. It’s a great way to start the journey of creating your marketing personas.

To conclude

When your marketing personas are fleshed out and ready, you can use them to brainstorm content ideas that will connect with your customers.

As your content marketing plan progresses, you should regularly review and update your personas based on the results you are seeing. Remember, marketing personas are not static – they are changing and adjusting all the time in accordance with your industry, market and offering.


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