I’ve been working with a few different clients (agency and direct clients) recently on a mix of content marketing and also website design and build projects. All of these benefited or will benefit from a Personas creation exercise. Creating personas isn’t new but it still seems to be an overlooked part of a marketing strategy on occasion.
If the concept of Personas is new to you.. here’s my elevator explanation (there’s more to it than this but I hope this overview helps you get started).
And I’m referring to Personas in the broadest sense but you may also come across Buyer Personas as a term. To my mind buyer personas are a subset (and very important one of course) of personas.
Your potential buyers are really important but you may also want to create content or website experiences of ‘non-buyers’ such as potential employees, legislators, industry commentators etc. By analysing some additional attributes (see below) you can start to build up archetypes / personas that are focused on buyer-specific personas though.
Personas are a must-have (or a must-do) in the creation of either social media / content marketing plans or websites.
What exactly is a Persona?
Personas are modelled (from real data, not guesswork) ‘archetypes’ of your real customers / stakeholders. You can’t keep a dozen, 100, 1000 or 50,000 individual customers in mind when you’re creating content or web experiences that will resonate with them – but you can group these people into archetypes, give them a real name , add a real photo that broadly represents that type and then start to hold conversations with that person(a).
The photos above are illustrative of 4 different personas that one might create for a given brand. You can see that even starting with a photo you start to empathise with a persona more than you would with a set of stats and facts alone.
What are the benefits of using Personas?
Creating (buyer) personas allows you to empathise with prospects, existing buyers and other / key stakeholders. Getting inside their head to understand their
– objectives and goals
– problems and challenges
– online behaviour (where and how they interact with others and potentially with you)
So you can create resonating content that helps them and make you buyable.
Why spend time (and money – if using a 3rd party) going through the process of creating Personas?
1. A set of personas ensures that your content and / or website meet actual customer needs (not your guess at what those needs might be).
2. Using the personas approach increases conversion rates (Smart Insights 2012 – see link later).
3. Keeping Personas in mind encourages integration of content / messaging across your other channels. So they get a better brand experience and this should aid / increase conversions.
4. Personas are objective not subjective. Which helps you ‘argue the case’ when briefing in creative or content requirements. Or ask the board for a bigger budget for your next campaign!
How do you create a Persona?
You start with as much research data as possible : clients databases, previous prospect / buyer / non-buyer research, surveys, vox-pops, industry or market reports, focus groups etc to discern:
1. Demographic information
2. Job function and level of seniority
3. What is a day in their life like? (with an emphasis on media channels they interact with / tech used etc)
4. Their challenges and ‘pain points’
5. What do they value most? What are their goals? (in your market)
6. Where do they go for information? What is the decision journey / process like?
7. What experience are they looking for when seeking out our products or services?
8. What are their most common objections to our product or service?
9. Why did they choose (or not) our brand / service / product.
This is a mix of quant and qual information and the no-mean-feat aspect is to aggregate / group these into overlapping traits.
To ‘boil-down’ into 3, 4 or 6 workable Personas (spookily seems to be the number they reduce down to in my experience).
I’ve done that with post-it note sorting / aggregating exercises and you could where possible involve others from your team (or mix of client / agency if a workshop etc) to reach some consensus. This can be a really drawn-out process if there is a lot of data to collate, sift and aggregate of course.
You then bring these grouped traits and insights together into an ‘illustrated’ persona – typically a couple of slides or an A4 summary document that features a photo, a ‘real name’ (not “Marketing Mark’ or ‘Business Buyer Betty ‘etc).
I recommend that you then pin these Persona cards / overviews up near where you create content or write briefs – and always have them in mind!
More details on persona creation:
There are other far more in-depth and no doubt more useful resources for you to look at, for example:
The photos to illustrate this post were sourced via the Compfight tool and are licensed via Creative Commons : attribution (and the search term I used) from Left to Right are:
Shopkeeper = http://www.flickr.com/photos/98396806@N06/9216006476/ – JunoNamkoongLee
Lecturer = http://www.flickr.com/photos/62834984@N00/2528585807/ – unknowndomain
Student = http://www.flickr.com/photos/30330906@N04/6131223703/ – francisco_osorio