What are marketing personas and how will they help you?

Tablet UserYou’ve probably heard of marketing personas, sometimes known as ‘buying’ or ‘buyer’ personas. It’s a term used increasingly in marketing strategy.

But what are personas? What is the definition of a marketing persona and what is it used for? How detailed do these personas need to be? And how can you create the buyer personas you need to help your business?

What is a marketing persona?

Hubspot says that a buyer persona is ‘a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers’. Digitalmarketinginstitute defines it as ‘a personality that embodies a key segment of your audience’.

Essentially, a persona, whether you call it a buyer persona or marketing persona, is a proxy for your target audience – a valuable shorthand for someone who has the same interests, priorities and concerns as your buyers. The persona is based on extensive research.

Often, these audience examples have fictional names and illustrative pictures. Creating these helps to make the personas more tangible for Marketing teams and the people who support them, whether these are digital agencies, creative designers or other external suppliers.

What are marketing or buyer personas used for?

A Hubspot blog says that ‘personas help us all – in marketing, sales, product, and services – internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans’.

Once you have created your personas, they will help you to ensure that all your promotional activity is geared to your target audience.

Because while this may sound like the default approach, in fact the vast majority of firms fail to take this ‘inside out’ approach to customer acquisition.

Many businesses look outwards – deciding what they want to talk about and leading with a focus on what they do – rather than thinking about what their potential customers want, and tailoring communications around these.

This immediately puts them at odds with their buyers, who are driven by a need to find solutions to the issues they think are important.

Creating a sense of trust means genuinely caring about your customers’ and clients’ issues – and showing that you understand and can help with them. Simply reeling off a list of the solutions and products you can provide won’t deliver this – and you will fail to build the aura of trustworthiness and customer empathy that you need to succeed.

By building personas and using them to guide your approach, your solutions and your financial promotions, you can make sure you stay focused on your customers’ needs.

Whether you are planning your content marketing strategy, lead nurturing via email marketing, writing social media posts or drafting web copy, ensuring your approach is tailored to your audience is essential.

How should I create a buyer persona?

  1. Research 

Don’t underestimate the amount of research needed before you craft your buyer personas.

This research itself will pay dividends long before you get to the stage where you’re ready to finalise your personas. Understand what your audience is interested in; what worries them; what they will be spending their money on in the coming year.

Use your own analytics too. Which of your emails get opened? Which social media posts get the most engagement? Which topics resonate with your audience?

Can you identify any commonalities between your current best customers? What ties them together? Don’t shy away from speaking direct to your customers; most people would be only too pleased to help with research that will improve their buying experience. An online, email or phone survey might be a good place to start.

  1. Analyse your findings.

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time for the analysis. What patterns can you see in the responses? Are there themes among people’s preferences? How do your customers and clients like to be communicated with? How often do they want to hear from you? What business challenges do they face?

If a majority give the same answers, these are important details to include when you create your personas.

Don’t forget demographic information either. How old are your customers and prospects? What occupations do they have? What is their typical education level? Are they typically introverts or extraverts, big-picture thinkers or detail-oriented?

  1. Create your personas

Once you’ve pinned down the details, it’s time to start creating your personas. Group together the people who share common characteristics, whether this is by job titles, challenges, objectives or whatever other criteria you value.

For instance, you may find that you target both HR directors and finance directors. The drivers and priorities for each of these individuals are likely to differ, therefore each should have their own persona.

  1. Add the details

To make them really valuable, your personas need to be detailed and precise.

Give them names. A name will often help to conjure up an image of that person in your mind. A Sebastian, for instance, is likely to conjure up a different mental image than a Kevin. Make sure your persona has a name that suits their characteristics.

Giving your personas names also helps you to visualise them – which is valuable when you are writing content for them.

How old is your persona likely to be? Are they family-oriented or solely work-driven? What interests do they have outside the office? Thinking about all these details helps you to build a complete picture of the person you’re marketing to.

  1. Start creating your persona-led marketing activity

Once you’ve created your persona, or personas, you can start marketing to them!

Read our tips on writing the most effective marketing content and how to maximise engagement with your content marketing to help you.

If you’re regulated, make sure Twitter and other social media posts are compliant by reading more about the FCA’s policy on social media and following our tips on minimising compliance risk in your social media strategy.

Create more focused marketing by using buyer personas

Hopefully this has given you an insight into the way detailed buyer personas can be used to focus your marketing, deliver better results and improve your ROI.

Of course, if you work in a regulated industry, there’s also the matter of compliance to tackle, as we’ve touched on. Whatever marketing activity you undertake, and however targeted it is, you need to make sure you comply with the rules set by the FCA or whichever regulator you’re governed by.

If you want to remind yourself of the FCA’s rules around financial promotions, you can download a copy of our Financial Promotions Checklist for Marketing. The checklist is free to download from our resource library.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.

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