“Personas, is that Spanish?”

The short answer – yes, “persona” is Spanish for “person.” In marketing terminology, personas mean people identification – to put it simply. You’ve probably heard the term by now, but what exactly is a persona and how does it fit into your marketing strategy?

Marketing definition: A persona is an aggregated collection of data, segmented into a target audience group – represented by a single individual profile.

Confused? That’s okay, keep reading…

Personas are all about client identification.

As marketers, we think we have a pretty good idea about who our target clients are, but where do we store all the information we’ve gathered about those clients? The cloud?

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If your marketing team is advanced enough, you likely have a CRM with in-depth records about your clients and prospects. If not, you probably have a huge stack of papers sitting… on your desk? In a filing cabinet? Possibly next to your Rolodex? (Young people – a Rolodex is an old-fashioned card index… never mind, just Google it.)

Keeping detailed lists of clients in your CRM is extremely valuable. However, gathering intelligence about your target audience is of no help if you can’t apply this intelligence to your marketing message. Personas help you visualize data, making it easy for you to make messaging decisions and communicate more effectively with your desired client(s).

What Does a Persona Look Like?

Below is a simple example of a persona that you can create with just a little effort from your marketing and sales teams. It includes a detailed profile of your target audience, as well as some marketing messages for reaching out to those individuals. A persona isn’t a real person (necessarily) but, rather, a representation of current segments that you have in your database. Start with existing customers – we’ll build out your ideal customers later.

persona

Name – John Smith
Title – Marketing manager
Age – 35-40
Gender – Male
Salary – $65-85K
Location – California
Education – Bachelors in marketing
Family – Wife, 2 kids
Goals and Challenges – Wants to improve brand visibility for his employer, which struggles with obtaining new customers, in part, due to limited financial resources and its small staff of 10.
Values and Fears – Company prides itself on quality work and exceptional customer service. Fears losing opportunities to larger, well-known brands.
Marketing Message – We can increase brand recognition and develop customer loyalty for your business while letting your team focus its limited resources and time on other pressing responsibilities.
Elevator Pitch – Our agency can create a prominent digital presence for your brand, establishing your business as the leader in your market area.

A persona is created by placing your existing clients or prospects into buckets based on any number of criteria you choose. For instance, if you notice a certain age group tends to lean towards a specific product or service, begin categorizing these individuals and do some research as to how you acquired them.

Consider any other relevant demographics, interests, hobbies, qualities, website behaviors or trends pertaining to this audience segment that can be added to enhance this data. How much information you want to collect regarding a specific segment is your business, it’s up to you – nobody is grading you on this.

Where else can I find data on my personas?

  • Social Media – this is a great place to stalk… I mean, research some individuals of interest. Jot down characteristics you find relevant to your business. Start building lists of people who are common stakeholders you want to reach out to and utilize social listening tools to screen for specific criteria. Analyze individuals with tools like Facebook Insights, create lists on twitter, and narrow down who follows and engages with you online.
  • Google Analytics – What better data to analyze than the data you pull from your website visitors? Most of these individuals are interested in something you have to offer. Utilize Google Analytics demographics and interest reports to derive common traits from your visiting audiences.
  • Your Sales and Account Teams – Practice some regular Q&A with these two teams. Sales will help to fill in the gaps on how your customers are acquired and account management will help you determine customer personalities, key contacts, ideologies, values, challenges, etc.
  • Your Clients – There’s no better place to do some persona research than asking the customer directly. Stage interviews with a few of your clients and ask questions that relate to their job role, their greatest challenges, what changes they were hoping to see when they hired you, their perception of their business and target demographic, etc.

Below are a few questions to guide you when building your personas:

Who is interested in the type of service my business provides? (Current Demographic)

This part should be easy. You know your business better than anyone. You understand why people need the product or services that you provide. Now, jot down some notes on the characteristics of your existing customer base, and be as detailed as possible.

What types of customers do I have that might be perfect as personas? (Desired Demographic)

You have a pretty clear picture of your current demographic. The people who literally come knocking on your door looking for your service. Since you already have a handle on acquiring those types of leads, now you need to focus on the ones you want knocking on your door looking for your services. A person out there looking for what you offer, who hasn’t found the right fit yet. The Ying to your Yang, the bread to your butter, the uh… peanut butter to your jelly. You get my drift.

These are the customers who are trickier to find or the ones you haven’t dedicated previous marketing efforts to reach. Either way, you’ve determined it would be worthwhile to actively pursue them.

The easiest way to find these types of customers is to take a look at your own list of clientele. I’m not asking you to pick favorites (wink, wink) but if I were, I would tell you to pick the ones that:

  • Seem to understand the value of the services you provide
  • Exhibit the purchasing behavior most valuable to your company: Comprehensive and profitable major purchases one-time; a repeat purchaser that visits on a regular basis, etc.
  • May choose to promote your business via word of mouth
  • Provides opportunities to upsell and/or cross-sell

You’ll want to take extra time researching these individuals, learning more about their business needs, their values & fears, their biggest challenges and more, in order to make informed messaging decisions and marketing choices.

You will also want to note the decision makers:

  • Who is responsible for researching your business?
  • Who makes the decision there is a need for your business?
  • Who is your main point of contact for this client?

Note their titles, their responsibilities, who reports to whom and the corporate structure.

Who would I not want to work with if I had the option to choose? (Explaining the anti-persona)

Most businesses want to generate as much profit as possible. Turning away business might not be the right move for some, but for others, it helps to prevent a lot of future headaches. The best place to start developing an anti-persona is to look at your past clients. What red flags stand out amongst client relationships gone sour? What problems repeated themselves? What have you learned to avoid? Follow the same steps you took when determining your desired demographics and try and cross-reference the two; this will help you determine where differences lie, allowing you to confirm what you want – and don’t want – to pursue.

Start Sketching

After enough preliminary research, your personas should be overflowing with data. Start sketching out profiles of target groups. You want roughly 5-6 personas that you can base your marketing efforts around. Treating these personas like people may seem strange, but if you think of them as a consumer, you will be able to market to them as a consumer. These can be the basis for your messaging, your sales offers, your content, and your entire marketing strategy.

And remember…

Segmentation Doesn’t Have To Be Rocket Science

Sure, segmentation is time-consuming and it involves experimentation. But besides those two things, there are no other correlations (no rockets involved, I promise).

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If you’re using marketing automation, you can apply a set of criteria to create a list using conditional logic. Simply put, that just means you can segment email lists using advanced filtering techniques as long as you have enough data to segment. Many marketing automation platforms allow you to get extremely granular with the amount of information you can obtain using your website. Some will gather this data on an ongoing basis (dynamically), and some will require you to build the list each time.

Once you’ve segmented some lists based on your desired customer characteristics, you can begin building your dream customer, which, in most cases, may already be someone you’ve acquired or are actively pursuing.