A marketing persona is a composite that gives you a richly-detailed picture of your target audiences by combining demographic and psychographic information and insights, and then presenting it in a way that's easy to comprehend.
MARKETING PERSONAS BENEFITS
From a practical perspective, marketing personas help you set priorities, allocate resources, uncover gaps and highlight new opportunities, but more important than that is the way they get everyone on the same page, moving in the same direction, trying to reach the same destination.
Buyer personas provide:
Even though different teams use different tools and tactics to do their jobs, marketing personas help to ensure that all those individual efforts are complimentary, not competing.
This is true regardless of company size or growth stage:
startups benefit because they know who to target and how to target them
scale-ups get more consistency and predictability from their established sales and marketing process
large, well-established organizations benefit because even the best companies get complacent and periodically need to re-think who they are targeting and how they target their buyers
The actual process of creating marketing personas is part art, part science — the art is how you define and differentiate your personas; the science is all the traits, tendencies and characteristics that are associated with those types of people.
To be effective, marketing personas should:
Represent key segments of your customer base
Be developed from a solid combination of research, direct observations and experiences, and individual expertise
Be organized around a framework that is directly related to your produce or service, like use cases, pain points, journey maps, buying triggers, life stages, etc.
Include needs, drives, motivations, likely behaviors and other characteristic that make them easy to understand
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE MARKETING PERSONAS?
It really depends on you.
If you’re committing to formal research that will include customer surveys, focus groups, one-on-ones, etc., then you’re likely to spend a few weeks collecting and analyzing data, segmenting your customer base, and mapping your findings to individual marketing personas.
On the other hand, when formal research isn’t an option, you can usually create good personas from personal observations and experiences in just a few hours. The key is to leverage whatever customer knowledge you can get, whether it’s coming from professional researcher or an afternoon white-boarding session with your team.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MARKETING PERSONA AND AN ICP?
Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs) are a subset of B2B Marketing Personas.
They are composites that capture the key qualities of your “most valuable” customers, who are usually characterized as being one or more of the following:
High Margin/High Profit
An internal or proprietary quality
The process of creating ICPs is similar to the process of creating marketing personas, though ICPs sometimes include less personal information and more industry-specific information, especially when they are used in conjunction with an Account-Based Marketing (ABM) approach.
HOW DO I CREATE A MARKETING PERSONA?
Marketing personas start with a solid understanding of the people buying your products and/or services.
For most companies, this means some combination of customer surveys, internal and external focus groups, round tables, one- on-ones, clickstream data, web tracking, industry observations, competitor analysis, personal experience/expertise, anecdotal information, best practices, and hunches/“gut” instincts.
Once you’ve finished gathering your data, the first step is to consolidate everything so you can get a good, overall picture of your customer base.
HOW DO I CONSOLIDATE MY RESEARCH?
It really depends on what data you have to work with.
If you did formal research, you’ll probably have charts, graphs, tables and a written summary from your research team, as well as a few spreadsheets full of means, medians, ranges, quartiles, k-means clusters, etc.
If you did your research on your own, it probably means you’ll have iPhone pics of your whiteboarding sessions.
In either case, the idea is to map out what you know about your customers, especially details about who they are, why, when and how they buy, and anything else that’s directly relevant to your product or service.
Like any map, your scale isn’t ever going to be 1:1, but it should include enough detail so you can see the big picture — i.e. continents, islands, oceans, bays, rivers, lakes, etc.
WHAT DO I DO AFTER I’VE CONSOLIDATED BY CUSTOMER RESEARCH?
Once you’ve mapped out your customers, creating marketing personas is really just a simple, three-step process:
Create an organizational framework for your personas
Use this framework to sort your customers into meaningful groups
Identify the underlying demographic and/or psychographic attributes each group you’ve identified has in common
STEP 1: creating an organizational framework for marketing personas
Customers can be segmented in a variety of different ways. The key is to use an organizational framework that is specific to your business. In most cases, this means building a framework around one of the following scenarios:
Journey Maps or Buying Triggers
Once you’ve chosen the scenario that’s best-suited to your business, identify three to five unique, underlying criteria.
This is what you’ll use to sort and filter your customers into meaningful groups.
STEP 2: using your framework to sort your customers into groups
Once you’ve picked a framework, use it to sort your customers into different groups based on which criteria they meet.
Keep in mind that even under the best of circumstances, this can be a challenge — sometimes you have to make basic assumptions, take educated guesses, or work through multiple iterations before you finalize who goes where and why.
If you just can’t sort all your customers into groups, you may have to rework your framework or underlying criteria.
STEP 3: identifying underlying demographic and/or psychographic attributes
Once you’ve sorted your customers into distinct groups, you need to come up with a unique set of characteristics that helps you differentiate one group from another.
To make this easier, “best practices” suggest focusing on identifying characteristics that fall into the following categories:
Needs and Wants
Drives and Motivations
Achievements and Milestones
Household Income Levels
Distinct Personality Traits — e.g. “innovative,” “frugal,” “social,” “mindful,” “conscientious,” etc.
Like sorting customers into distinct groups based on your framework criteria, identifying unique sets of characteristics can mean making assumptions, taking educated guesses and/or working and re-working your choices
One trick is to look for patterns.
What qualities do members of each group have in common? Do they the share key demographics? Key psychographics? Are any of these characteristics unique? Can they be used to differentiate members of this group from the others?
Another trick is to look for lowest common denominators: unique (but not too unique), high-level characteristics that are common to everyone within a given group. While this can also take a bit of effort before you arrive at a suitable list of commonalities, but tends to yield good results.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER.
Having identified key demographic and psychographic descriptors for each group, the last thing to do is condense and consolidate this information to create individual buyer personas.
This is usually a pretty straightforward process: keep what’s most unique, meaningful and/or representative, and get rid of what’s not.
If you have a few descriptors that are similar, you’ll want to combine them; if you end up with more than one unique set of descriptors for any given group, you’ll want to split them into two different personas.
When you’re done you should have individual sets of descriptors that reflect your framework and represent the composite characteristics of your key customer groups.
MAKING YOUR MARKETING PERSONAS MORE ACCESSIBLE AND IMPACTFUL
While you could just give your team a list of the descriptive characteristics associated with each of your marketing personas, a few simple additions can make this information much more accessible and help your team empathize.
Start by giving each marketing persona a unique name that relates back to your organizing framework — e.g. “4-Wheel Fred The Off- road Influencer,” “Tia The Teacher,” “The Independent Fashion Designer,” etc.
Then, include a brief bio or personality summary that aligns with your underlying descriptors and any demographics. And finally, add an image or illustration that “puts a face”on your persona.
If you use an online customer empathy platform (or are willing to do the work yourself), you can make your personas even more engaging and immersive by including additional details, like brands and lifestyle choices, hobbies & interests, specific personality traits and/or tendencies that would commonly be associated with the type of person you’re describing, social media habits, interaction styles, engagement needs, narrative preferences, etc.
You might also want to lay out an empathy map:
Once you’ve packaged up your buyer personas, the last thing to do is share them with sales, marketing, design & development, customer success, and anyone else on your team who needs to better understand who you’re trying to engage and how best to engage them.