Customer personas are underrated tools in the realm of branding, content marketing, SEO, and practically every other marketing strategy there is. You might have considered who your target demographics are, or the general “type” of person that you want to write content for, but have you created a full-fledged persona?
Personas are useful because they help solidify preconceptions you might have about your audience, or challenge ones that aren’t relevant. They’re also useful in getting the rest of your team up to speed quickly—rather than going through an exercise of what does or doesn’t work for your audience, you can use personas as quick training tools to demonstrate your ideas.
All this sounds nice, but how can you create a persona? Or, if you have an idea for one already, how can you create a better one?
You don’t have to build a full-fledged persona for your brand all at once. Instead of overwhelming yourself with all the little details, start out with a basic framework—you can work on filling in the rest later. Some of the big topics to cover are the age range, gender, profession, education level, and geographic are of your target demographic. If you’re doing this for the first time, it’s wise to focus only on one of your business’s target demographics. You can always create more once you’ve fully fleshed out the first.
Don’t make your persona creation a list of objective traits like “35-45, female, college educated, suburban.” This makes it sound like a description in a police report. Instead, make your personas come to life by injecting them with personality and making them full-fledged characters. To get things started, give your personas fake names, and describe their physical features, even if they have no bearing on your demographic needs (as long as they don’t interfere with those demographic needs). Ron Buckingham, the young, suave blond-haired gentleman who always wears flannel shirts, gives you a much more vivid conception of the same man described by a list like 22/male/recent college grad. It leads to better-rounded personas, and better inspiration down the line.
To help you get an accurate picture of your target demographics, consider conducting interviews with real current or potential customers. For example, if one of your strongest demographics is older business owners, make a short list of all the older business owners currently doing business with you, and call them up for a few questions. Ask about their education level, job histories, values, and motivations. Ask what’s most important for them in procuring new deals, and ask what they value most in messaging and communication. Integrate this information into your existing frameworks.
Effective buyer personas are all about understanding motivations. Without those motivations, your persona is useless. For every quality you’ve described in your characters and personas, ask the question why. Ron Buckingham thinks companies should be more down-to-earth, but why? Lindsay Donovan likes the feeling of comfort more than the feeling of excitement, but why? These questions may not have concrete answers, but contemplating them will help you develop fuller, more relatable personas.
For each buyer persona you’ve created, make a list of “qualities” with a corresponding list of “appeals.” The qualities, as you might imagine, should reflect all the individual significant elements of that persona. The appeals should be tactics, messages, or other strategies that can help you relate to those qualities. For example, a quality like “craves social confirmation and acceptance” could be met with an appeal like “increased social media targeting” or “emphasize previous buyer reviews.”
Unless you’re a master at creating fictional characters, it’s a good idea to let other people in your business get in on the process. Great buyer personas are almost never created in a vacuum because each person in your business will have unique experiences and unique perspectives to help flesh out the details of those characters. For example, your account managers might have more in-depth relationship with real people in line with your personas, and your marketing team might have more creative ideas for persona appeals.
If you allow your buyer persona to remain unchanged, two things are going to happen. One, your marketing will never have room to grow, and two, your team’s going to get bored. Every several months, you should revisit your classic lineup of personas and make adjustments to reflect any changes your business has gone through and any new insights you’ve uncovered. Barring that, you can create new, fresh versions of your older personas to inject new life and fresh air to your approach.
Get to work creating your buyer persona now—the sooner you have one (or more) created, the sooner you’ll be able to use that framework and its resulting insights in real, practical purposes. Don’t be afraid to make multiple versions of your personas, either. If you’re detailed in your creation of personas as characters, you can easily produce multiple versions for each target demographic, or create personas for separate demographics you only peripherally target. The more often you work with personas, the more adept you’ll become in using them to their full potential.