Marketing personas are fiction. But all good fiction is based on slices of reality, and when you pull relevant research to bring your personas to life, the potential results are significant.
Fifty-six percent of companies report higher-quality leads due to using personas, and 36% say they contributed to shorter sales cycles. And if that wasn’t enough to show the power of personas, consider that 96% of companies that exceed their lead-generation and revenue goals use … you guessed it, personas.
You might wonder where to start if you haven’t created personas yet or want to create better ones. Here’s a brief definition of a buyer’s persona, a step-by-step guide for creating personas, and tips for aligning them with the buyer’s journey to amplify your impact.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer’s persona is similar to your ideal customer profiles but zoomed in on a particular individual at the company. It helps you understand a person’s exact needs, preferences and behaviors. The purpose of a persona is to gather insights and motivations about the decision-making process of your different customer types so you can use them to create customized marketing strategies and get better results.
Developing good buyer personas makes creating content that resonates with your audience much easier and helps drive your customers to action. It also supports making that content consistent across various teams in the organization.
Creating a persona (step by step)
Creating buyer personas can seem overwhelming. After all, you likely have many target audiences, and the thought of creating personas for them all can feel overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to.
Persona customers typically fall into the following categories.
- Decision maker. This is the person who owns the budget approval.
- Influencer. This is the person who recommends the solution.
- User. This is the person who actually uses the product or service.
Select the most relevant three to five personas to target and then use the following steps to create a profile for each.
Conduct customer persona research
The research phase is about learning more about specific groups of buyers so you can do a better job of helping them. Details you’ll collect can include demographics, challenges, and more. A few places to gather this information are:
- Survey your existing customers and prospects (pro tip: Consider enticing them with something to improve response rates, such as a drawing or gift card).
- Interview your sales team. Learn more about the exact words your persona customers use to describe their problems, why they switched from a competitor solution and the most attractive benefits of your solution.
- Review internal databases. Gather data to confirm who is purchasing your solution and why.
- Tap into outside research, including audience analysis reports, industry surveys and more.
With this information in hand, you’re ready for the next step, which is drafting the persona profile.
Create a persona profile
Ready to create your first buyer persona profile? Great! Here are some sections to consider including:
- Background: Describe the person’s job title, career path and any relevant personal details.
- Demographics: Include factors such as age, income and location of the persona. Identifiers.
- Challenges and frustrations: What are the person’s largest challenges, and what roadblocks do they face when working to overcome them?
- Information consumption habits: What publications, blogs, and other resources does your persona consume? What is their “information diet”?
- How you can help: Include how your product or service can help them reach their goals.
Want an example? Here’s a sample persona for a B2B marketing automation solution.
Name: Marketer Molly
Location: San Francisco, California
Position: Marketing director at ABC company
Background: Molly has an MBA and reached the marketing director level after climbing the ranks from marketing specialist at her company.
Challenges: Molly’s team is overwhelmed. They seem never to have enough time to finish the work, and she worries about staff burnout. She wants to support her team in improving efficiency so they don’t feel stressed out.
Frustrations: Molly knows budget cuts are coming. She doesn’t want the existing problem to worsen, putting more pressure on staff to produce results with fewer resources.
How we can solve frustrations: A marketing automation platform can help support Molly’s team by scaling their resources to get more done in less time, reducing burnout and frustration while improving results.
Iterate and refine
Once you create your buyer’s personas, remember it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it task. You’ll want to revisit them periodically, validate the information and iterate as needed.
Creating a buyer persona matrix
You might wonder, “Who at your company will buyer personas most benefit?” Buyer personas support marketing, product, sales and support teams. That’s why once you create your buyer persona types, it helps to pull them into a matrix, which makes the data more readable, concise and easy to reference.
Here’s a sample persona matrix that describes buyer personas for a marketing automation solution:
|Title||Marketing Manager||Sales Director||Content Manager|
|Background||5 years of experience|
28 years old
|8 years of experience|
32 years old
|7 years of experience |
30 years old
|Challenges||Managing multiple marketing channels, manual processes and limited resources||Struggles with aligning marketing with sales and effectively managing and prioritizing leads||Efficiently managing content creation and distribution, and measuring content performance across multiple channels|
|Concerns||Demonstrating marketing ROI and generating qualified leads for the sales team||Needs seamless integration of marketing automation with CRM to optimize the sales process||Concerned about personalizing content, optimizing ROI and improving audience engagement|
|Needs||Streamlined campaign management, automated lead generation and robust performance tracking||Marketing automation software that offers lead scoring, tracking capabilities and visibility into marketing-driven revenue||Requires a solution that makes it easy to scale content personalization and in-depth analytics to track content|
|Goals||Improve marketing effectiveness, increase lead quality, and drive measurable business results||Improve conversion rates and drive revenue growth||Increase engagement and drive content-driven conversions|
Of course, you can go into more detail. Some persona matrixes take up multiple pages or slides. But often the simpler, the better. You want to present the information in a way that makes it easy to see the differences between the challenges and needs. And you want your personas to be memorable, not so detailed they’re impossible to recall.
Map the buyer’s journey
Creating buyer personas is the first step. The second step is mapping those personas to the buyer’s journey. This helps provide a framework for creating the right content at the right time.
The steps below illustrate the journey of a marketer with a problem: She needs to generate more leads. Once that problem is identified, she begins to consider changing her marketing automation platform. By stage 3, she’s got a short list of features she wants, and she’s considering which vendors she will talk to. So far, her journey has been entirely online. Her opinions have been formed by the content she found when she searched for a solution.
|Buyer needs to generate more sales-ready leads||Buyer starts researching options for a different marketing automation platform||Buyer narrows down list to identify potential vendors for a solution||Buyer identifies and prioritizes her criteria for choosing one platform and vendor over the rest||Buyer decides on a vendor and makes a purchase|
Build a content plan
Using the buyer’s map, you can assign relevant content for each stage of each persona customer’s journey. If we look at the example above, we see the following:
Objective: We’d work to attract those buyers with social media and advertising; we’d make sure our web copy answered the question “How do I generate more sales-ready leads?” so when the buyers searched, our page would be returned.
Research: We’d salt our landing pages with attractive early-stage content that the buyers would find so attractive that they would fill out a form with their contact information in order to get it, and (best-case scenario) they’d opt in to receive our emails. Now we nurture them with content that helps move them through the funnel.
Consideration: We begin to offer content that differentiates us from other vendors, such as online demos that show simple, common scenarios.
Evaluation: We make sure they get information about pricing, spec sheets, and other pieces that help them compare systems and make a final decision. This content may come from the salesperson or come during the course of a meeting or demo.
Decision: We move into training materials and usability support materials, then into loyalty and advocacy content.
There is a stage for every piece of content, and vice versa. With just a little planning, you can be ready to meet that persona customer or prospect wherever they are with something that speaks to them and their needs.
Do you need a little more help building your buyer personas? If so, check out our “Building Buyer Personas in 3 Steps” eBook, which we created to guide you from being confused to being done.