The problem with most writers – myself included – is that they often write for themselves. Which makes sense, I guess. I mean, we are the experts in all things literary, right? But when you’re a marketer, writing takes on a different purpose. Because you’re not the intended audience, someone else is – your customers, your prospects, your employees. So your writing has to appeal to them.

And this is why people say writing is hard.

I mean, it’s easy to write for yourself. But to write compelling copy that appeals to other people, people you may not have even met before? That seems impossible. But, trust me, it’s not. All you have to do is figure out who these people are, what makes them tick, what they like, what they hate, what they’re scared of and what their needs are. I know, I know, it’s a long list. But that’s where the marketing persona comes in.

But, Amy, what is a marketing persona?

Great question! A marketing persona is a fictional profile that you use to represent your intended audience. Your company’s own Average Joe, shall we say, complete with lifelike traits and fun names.

Pete the plant manager - marketing personaSo instead of writing a brochure for unknown customers of your widget company, you write a brochure for Pete, a 42-year-old plant manager who worked his way up from the assembly line to middle management. Pete is responsible for deciding which parts to buy to ensure his company’s machinery runs at maximum efficiency. However, Pete’s contracts must be approved by the chief financial officer, which means Pete doesn’t have final say over the decision-making process.

Seems pretty specific, huh? But that’s how personas work. The more detailed they are, the better you’re able to target your messages to get the greatest return on your marketing dollars.

OK, personas sound great. But where do I get them?

Personas are a DIY project – you build them yourself by examining what you know about your current and potential customers. Depending on your business, you may have just one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. The key is to start small and be focused in defining each persona.

Depending on whether you’re a B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer) company, some traits to consider when developing your personas include:

  • Basic demographics – age, sex, family status, education, income level
  • Career – current position and responsibilities, work history, typical daily activities, skills required, tools used, size of company (revenue and employees), corporate hierarchy, leading competitors
  • Outside interests – any religious affiliations, special hobbies, favorite sports teams
  • Goals – responsibilities, how they determine success
  • Challenges – biggest challenges, how they overcome them
  • Buying preferences – how they prefer to interact with vendors, their most important consideration(s), lead time on orders, storage capabilities
  • Resources – associations, social networks, publications, blogs, credentialing agencies

But how do I get all this information?

That’s the fun of persona-building! Start with your own insights on what a “typical” customer looks like based on your interactions at client meetings, trade shows or in-store interactions. Talk to your sales team and ask them if there are any commonalities that exist among their best customers. Enlist market research – focus groups, surveys, and customer interviews. Scour the websites of your customers or companies you’d like to add to your client list to learn about their employees and see how they promote themselves. Remember, every nugget of information helps flesh out the picture.

Personas take some time and digging to develop, but once you’ve got them created, they are an invaluable tool. Not only will they help you better understand your customers’ needs and interests, allowing you to cater content to make it more valuable to them, but quality personas will also guide you as you develop new product offerings to meet the ever-changing market.

Does persona creation leave you feeling overwhelmed? Let us help! Contact us today to learn more!