“TimeLine Polaroid” by Luigi Mengato is licensed under CC BY 2.0
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The use of customer personas in marketing is a critical and foundational step for businesses being able to map out their strategies. Personas help a business understand their customer’s behaviors and attitudes, as well as establish demographic segments to target sales at. Regardless of where your organizations may be in your digital transformation, the creation and adherence to customer personas is key to establishing and succeeding in a data-driven, customer-centric marketing strategy.

According to a consumer marketing study by the Edelman Group, 90 percent of respondents want brands to share and interact more with them, but only 10 percent of people felt that brands are currently doing that well. The use of a persona is critical to understanding what your prospects and customers want you to share with them.  

What Is a Customer Persona?

A customer persona is a representation of your ideal customer segments based on data and market research. The concept of using customer personas in marketing was developed by Angus Jenkinson, a professor of integrated marketing. His original concept was then adopted and implemented by ad agency OgilvyOne Worldwide.

According to Ardath Albee, author and B2B marketing strategist, “A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience.” 

Personas allow your business, especially your marketing, UX and content teams, to focus product development and align internal efforts on your target customer’s needs and behaviors.

A corporate marketing persona usually has a full semi-fictional profile with name, picture, education, family, job history and personal interests. Depending on your business and industry, you may have as few as one or two personas, or eventually as many as twenty, but it’s always a good idea to start small and focused.

Related Article: 5 Ways To Improve The Customer Journey Map for Better Customer Experience

Why Do Customer Personas Matter?

“Marketing personas are like the foundation for building your marketing house,” says Aaron Beashel, B2B SaaS marketing consultant.

Targeting personas allows you to focus your marketing efforts on qualified prospects. Using them, you can potentially attract high-value customers who are more likely to convert and be retained as long-term customers. With personas you can deliver personalized content and messaging, with the appropriate supporting technology, to target different audience segments more effectively. 

Personas not only offer a deeper and richer understanding of customers and prospects for higher-quality product development, but they can help create shorter design cycles since requirements are more clearly defined. Personas can be of further use in product development efforts to help define priorities based on user feedback. In terms of content marketing, when personas are combined with lifecycle stage marketing, they can be used to plan and create highly targeted content. 

How to Create a Persona

As mentioned earlier, customer (buyer) personas begin with the appropriate market research and customer research through surveys, interviews, contact databases, call center logs, web forms and sales; frankly wherever you can get good customer-centric data.

According to Aaron Beashei, there are four core steps to creating a buyer persona.

  1. Quantitative Analysis
  2. Qualitative Analysis
  3. Drafting the Persona
  4. Socializing the Persona Internally

For the quantitative analysis, he recommends starting with a customer list with basic demographic information like company name, industry, revenue, country, city, etc. You should also be collecting engagement information like how many times they log into a website or users of a product. Mr. Beashei recommends analyzing that list and looking for trends, using a tool such as Tableau.

Once you know who your target segments are, Aaron says the best way to expand your knowledge of those customers is through customer interviews. This can be done through phone or in-person and should be followed up with a written summary of the interviews in a spreadsheet.

After you have done all your research, it’s time to draft your personas. There are a lot of sample templates out there, just do a search for ones that match your industry or applications. Customer personas will include information such as personal details, use cases, buying triggers, and choice factors. Finally, after the persona has been put into draft, it’s time to socialize it around your company and get feedback from all the relevant stakeholders. This will help you refine them to fill in any gaps you may have missed, but also to get others in the company familiar and comfortable with the process.

Looking Forward

Customer personas, sometimes called buyer or marketing personas, are must-haves for marketing departments who want to move into more customer-centric and data-driven programs. No matter where your organization is on the digital maturity scale, customer personas are foundational to establishing consistent and replicable criteria regarding your customers and prospects that can help provide the basis for your business strategy. Customers increasingly want personalized interactions and value from the brands they converse with, and establishing personas allows marketers to fully understand and target those customer segments appropriately.