How to Create Marketing Personas That Are Actually Useful

Some people call them buyer personas. Some people call them marketing personas. Some people don't call them anything {I think I was speaking to those people here}.

Whatever you call them, you need them. Your personas form the basis of your marketing and sales strategies and, increasingly, those two might be one big old strategic plan}.

what's the most common pitfall in crafting personas?

I see this all to often. The most common pitfall in crafting buyer personas is this: Focusing on what happens in the buying process without focusing on who these people are.

Sure, it'll help your sales team some {or you in your sales process if you're a team of one} if you can define what stops people from buying your product or service -- when they're in the moment of making that decision to buy or not. Hopefully, the sales team will be more prepared to help prospects overcome those obstacles by having thought them through in advance.

But...your marketing team can't build a content strategy simply around what happens once your prospects are deciding whether to buy. There's a lot of stuff that happens before that decision. That stuff is all driven by content. Strategic, purposeful, useful content. After all, 95% of buyers choose a vendor who provides them with ample content along their journey. 

great marketing is about who and what

To do that well, you have to know who you're speaking to and what's important to them. Here are some questions I like to ask when interviewing my clients (and even their clients) in order to design marketing personas that are actually useful:

  • Who are your clients or customers?

  • What’s most important to them?

  • How we can help them?

  • How do they want to engage with us?

  • What obstacles do they face along the journey from prospect to client?

These initial questions can lead us towards all sorts of interesting and useful tidbits. Part of the art and science of this process is in knowing how to separate what's useful from what's interesting but not actually useful.

useful marketing personas focus on the right stuff and no more

Collecting too much information about your personas will make them just as useless as collecting too little info (or just the wrong info).

Take the first question for example: Who are your clients? 

For some brands, demographics like age, geography, income, education, family structure, or gender, can be highly important. For others, it's their jobs, companies, company sizes, and industries that are most important -- and none of that other stuff matters much at all.

Now let's look at that second question: What's most important to them? 

It can be tempting to answer this question purely from your business' point of view. But that's not real. These people don't exist in the context of your business. They might not even know that you exist, or that they have the problem you're solving for them. So think in the context of what's authentically important to them. What are the top worries on the minds on a daily basis?

you know your people

If you think about who you're talking to and what matters to them most, allow yourself to explore those fully, and include everyone who has first-hand knowledge to contribute, you'll be in good shape to create marketing personas that actually are actionable and can serve as the foundation to marketing and sales plans that help to grow your business.