A what, you say? A marketing person?
No. A marketing persona. Also known as a customer persona, buyer persona, user persona, audience persona… you get the idea.
What is a persona?
A persona is a detailed description of a fictional person that represents your ideal customer. It isn’t based on a single customer or client that you know, but uses information about your real customers to make it a realistic portrayal.
Why is having a persona helpful?
Having a buyer persona is a great first step before starting any marketing effort.
A persona helps you keep your marketing messaging on track. It will help you use the right tone, as well as the right content, to keep your target audience engaged.
For small business owners doing their own marketing, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking your customers or clients are “just like you”. And what you find interesting, funny, or useful, they will too. Having a persona that is based on data, not just gut feel and “vibes” is super important.
- If you find you’re posting random stuff on social media like throwing spaghetti against the wall, hoping something sticks, and being frustrated when you get no engagement…
- If you want to start content marketing – writing a blog, sending a newsletter, making videos… but have no idea what you should be saying and who you should be saying it to…
- If you’re not quite sure what platforms you should be on (surely you don’t have to post daily to Facebook, Insta, LinkedIn AND TikTok!?)…
- If you are looking at working out your customer journey – and how you should be communicating with your ideal customer at each point…
- If you’re considering paid ads, but don’t want to waste money on targeting the wrong people…
…taking the time to build personas is definitely worth your while.
Buyer personas will help you create messaging and content that resonates with your audience, and will also help you better understand their goals, needs, thoughts and beliefs.
How to create a customer persona
The first stage of creating a persona is data gathering. Ideally you will have a CRM or customer database to help you with this stage. I find it easiest to export the information into a spreadsheet so you can manipulate the data more easily. If your company is large enough for a sales team, it’s important to get them involved in the project – they will already have a solid understanding of your existing customer base. If you’re a sole trader or a small business that hasn’t yet started to store customer information, don’t panic. I’d suggest making a simple tally sheet or spreadsheet that you can start to record info about the people who contact you. Look at your existing customer list, and try to fill out as much data as you can.
The sorts of data you want to look at depends a little on what business you run, but broadly speaking, you want to capture demographic information such as:
- Location – city, or country? Which suburb?
- Job title
Then look at their relationship to your company and make a note of information such as:
- Are they a repeat customer or client?
- How much do they spend on average with each purchase?
- What is their lifetime value?
Once you start to study this information, you may see some interesting facts that you have not noticed before. For example, you may discover that 80% of your customers are women, but they tend to buy cheaper items/services. And the men, although there are fewer of them, spend a lot more.
Many people suggest when you are putting together a persona, it helps to give them a fictional name, an avatar (just a stock photo is fine), and even imagine information such as what TV shows they like! Personally I don’t bother with the photo or the TV shows, but I do generally like to give them:
- A name
- An affluence level
- Family or marital status
- Personality traits
- Where they “hang out” online. Are they spending their lives on instagram, lurking on Reddit, or do they just read the newspaper and avoid social media completely?
These sorts of details flesh out the persona and make them feel more real, which can be helpful when you are thinking about your ideal customer and their motivations and needs. It will also help you work out where you should be trying to reach them. If you only post on Facebook because you are more comfortable there, but your potential customers spend their time scrolling LinkedIn, then you need to rethink your strategy!
This is slightly different from data gathering, as it’s less about the numbers and stats, and more about experience. For this to be effective, you need to do a little market research and contact your existing customers. To get a comprehensive, detailed understanding, you can interview people one on one. For a larger group, consider sending them a survey to understand what they think of your company and its services. You can ask how your company helps them, the good and the bad, and what they are looking for in a company like yours. Keep surveys relatively short (a reward for completing them never goes astray!).
The idea behind this stage is to gain a better understanding of your target customers, what their pain points are, and what motivates them. It can also be useful customer feedback for you to find out what people really think of your product or service!
Building your buyer persona
By now you should have a heap of information to work with.
It’s time to segment all of that data and create your personas. You may find you need multiple buyer personas which is totally fine. For a small company I would not go too crazy though – keep it to 1-3 examples of your ideal customer, or your messaging may become too diluted or difficult to implement.
If you are finding the exercise to be very helpful, keep in mind you can build different types of personas. You may decide it’s helpful to create a negative persona. This is someone you do NOT want to attract, and you want to make sure your content puts them off instead of attracting them. For instance, you may have “Tyrekicker Tim” who contacts you repeatedly but never actually signs up, wasting your time and energy.
Once you have done all of this hard work and put together your personas, the most important thing is to actually use them. Keep them in front of mind with all your marketing messages. In past workplaces, I have printed them out and put them next to my computer.
When you’re putting together a content calendar or working out your social media posts, think about your user personas and what they need from you in order to purchase or become (or stay) a client.
Of course, ideally you would not stop there – you would use your persona as the first stage in your overall marketing strategy.
You own a yoga studio that targets women during pregnancy. Based on data about your actual customers, you create a persona, Sally. Sally is 29 years old and pregnant with her first baby. She lives in the suburbs of a major city, and has had a corporate job until going recently on maternity leave. She is reasonably well off but slightly worried about going down to one income. She is in a long term relationship. She is worried that her usual yoga classes at the local gym could be harmful to her baby, but wants to stay fit during her pregnancy. She is on Instagram and TikTok. “I want to go to a specialist yoga studio that understands my needs”.
You can see how putting together a buyer persona helps guide you in understanding not just who your target market is, but how best to reach them, engage them, counter any potential objections/fears, and appeal to their goals and ambitions.
Useful tools and persona templates
Thankfully there are many great online resources that can help you with this process. Google “buyer persona templates” and you’ll find some tools that help you not only with the research side of things but also with generating a cool looking marketing persona template. My faves:
HubSpot have a great “Make My Persona Tool” that lets you input the data you have gathered and generates a persona for you.
Semrush also have a free buyer persona template that helps you create customised personas for your own business.