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One of the fundamental principles of marketing and sales strategy is to tailor to a specific audience. While this is definitely an effective way to operate, sometimes it is easier said than done. Identifying your key demographics, learning more about them, and developing a persona is a nuanced process that needs to be undertaken with the greatest care. If developed well, customer personas can be an anchor that guide your marketing, whether it is email marketing campaigns, social media posts, or other forms of content marketing. All of these different iterations of sales and marketing become laser-focused and far more effective — which is a win-win.

Defining Personas

But where do you start with persona development, and what does the process really entail? Think of it as a puzzle, and once you find the pieces that fit together, it becomes the bedrock for your team’s future marketing actions. To begin with, let’s work through the basic definition. Hubspot defines it as a “generalized character” that encompasses “observed behavior patterns” among current and potential customers. Identifying and developing these different characters allows for better contact segmentation and workflow assignments

Where Do I Start?

Okay, so how do you come up with this character? It usually takes a blend of qualitative and quantitative research, along with your web analytics data as a start. Start thinking about and trying to answer the following questions as a start:

  • What motivates my customers?
  • What challenges do they face?
  • What are their goals?
  • What kind of lifestyle do they lead?

While broad, these are meant to provoke thought and flesh out the different kinds of customers you have. The Hubspot guide drills down into further details for each of these questions that can be used as a basis for user research, both qualitative and quantitative. User interviews and surveys are generally effective in capturing this data and will give you a good place to start. Another great guide that can help build the questions for research can be found here on Usability.gov.

Alright, I Have User Data…Now What?

Think of persona development as a narrative. What is the story that emerges about your customer from this data, and what does that mean for your brand? Using this guide, you can start to build a story around your customer, and begin to think of how to solve their pain points. From the user data you have gathered, you should be able to understand the typical roles your customers have, their major responsibilities, what their goals are from your product, and their pain points — just as a start. These are the building blocks of the persona, and you can attach a fictional name to them to give it more weight (i.e. “Salesperson Sally,” “Tech Support Tim”) as this builds more empathy.

Start creating templates for each persona you identify, so you can better keep track of the different pain points and findings that emerge, such as the one found on Buffer. You can amend based on your personal needs, but this is a way to keep organized and to start to see any patterns that emerge amongst these different personalities you have captured.

 

Where does your product or service constructively intersect with what Sally does or what Sally cares about? Once uncovered, these are very valuable insights.

At the heart of it, that is the question your persona development process needs to answer. With these different data points you have collected, you will begin to see a strategy emerge as you further analyze the data. Based on their jobs, work responsibilities, and goals from your product, what kind of content do you think they would want to see? Is this demographic more interested in informational content, or promotional? Are there certain locations that personas are clustered that would be useful for social media marketing?

After building profiles of the different personas, have your team start to incorporate these as they build their marketing campaigns, and test out whether these are hitting the mark with your actual customers.

Keep previous marketing data as the benchmark, and measure uplift after implementing different content to match the personas you have identified. This allows you to keep iterating without losing momentum. Review and revisit personas every so often (your team can decide on the frequency) to ensure you are still capturing the right demographics. Users evolve over time, so it is important not to let these findings go stale, but to keep refreshing to ensure you are hitting the mark.