Marketing Personas: What they are and Why You Need Them

When you’re creating content or marketing pieces for your business do you ever think about WHO it’s for and how that might change the way it looks, feels, sounds, or how you deliver it? 

Consider this, if I am trying to persuade a business professional to engage in a B2B relationship with me, I can capitalize on things like Networking events or create messages well suited for an audience on LinkedIn, as opposed to somewhere like Snapchat.

On the flip side, if my marketing goal is to reach new clients who are millennial females for my online clothing boutique, I’d probably want to engage with them on Instagram through things like flash sales in my stories, outfit of the day posts, and collaborations with influencers who already have the trust and attention of my desired audience.

Depending on your goals and your business model, your approach to doing business is going to be very different, but the primary driver of that approach should be one thing: your customer. 

That’s where defining your persona or personas (yes, you can have more than one, and most businesses do) is key to success.

What is a Marketing Persona?

Defining a “persona” isn’t just about coming up with cute names and filling in a mad lib about your ideal client. Well-defined personas truly understand who the ideal client is, how they engage with businesses like yours, and what they expect from you.  

Quoted text " A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience." - Ardath Albee

Once you’ve defined them, identify how you can deliver on those expectations. 

Your personas should be based on audience research and should define demographics, characteristics, needs, pain points, and other details that will help you truly speak to the heart of your potential customers.

Hootsuite sheds some light on why it’s SO important to have more than one singular persona as a part of your strategy.

“Since different groups of people may buy your products for different reasons, you will probably need to create more than one buyer persona. Each persona should include basic demographic details, behaviors, goals, pain points, and buying patterns.”

Why are marketing personas important?

Having clearly defined personas is almost like creating a road map for reaching your target audience. If you are doing your research, these personas will outline a variety of details outside of general demographics including

  • where they are gathering information to make buying decisions
  • how they like to consume information
  • where they like to consume information
  • how they engage with brands
  • what their expectations are when shopping for a product or service like yours (features, benefits, status, etc)
  • how they like to be communicated with

Who uses marketing personas?

Your marketing personas are not just for the marketing and sales teams! They should be communicated to, and used by, most of the people in your organization. 

If someone’s day-to-day tasks have any impact on the experience of the customer, they need to know who they are creating an experience for and what people expect to get when they engage with your business, in person, online, or anywhere else they may encounter you.

It’s not just on your sales and marketing team to deliver the perfectly crafted messages and brand promises, every person in your organization has to know how the role they play impacts the various needs and desires of your ideal client.

Consider the functions of these departments

  • Product Development
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Shipping and Receiving

They are all seemingly independent, BUT if each department is familiar with your marketing personas, they can find a way to customize the experience to those customers, throughout the entire process.  When every person on your team is operating with the same goal and experience in mind you will be able to deliver a customer-centric experience, again and again.

How do I define my marketing personas?

There are tons of great examples,  resources and exercises out there to help you define your marketing personas, like this one, this one, this one and this one. The key to developing useful and insightful personas is research.

Look at who is currently buying from you or engaging with you, learn more about them and use your research to develop ways to attract more of those people to your business. 

It’s important to identify a variety of demographics and details, and even better if you can hone in on how those specifics can help you reach and serve your target customers better.

When you’re writing out all the details, make it clear, concise and easy to digest so that anyone in your organization can understand who this person is and identify ways that they can serve them better.

Don’t go too big!

One final note on ironing out all the details of who your customer really is: It’s not everyone

Sure, you might get the occasional sale or purchase from someone who isn’t your ideal customer, and that’s ok, but it doesn’t mean you need to set out to define a persona based on every person who has used your product or service. At the end of the day, your personas are the people you seek to serve. They are the ones who are a perfect fit for the niche that you occupy and who will build a relationship with your business or brand because what you provide and how you provide it fills a specific need for them.