How to create a persona in 4 steps

You wouldn’t send an email without knowing who it’s going to, so why would you create an entire email campaign without first establishing the personas that you want to connect with?

For those new to the game, a persona is a fictional character whose attributes represent those of your typical targeted prospects. They even include a made up name — Sam Sales Leader, Mary Marketing Director — and are accompanied by an avatar that would most closely depict the persona.

Building personas is the best way to define your audiences so that you can create more personalized messaging and generate more leads from your marketing automation campaigns. With personas, you won’t be scrambling to remember who your audiences should be, what drives them, what keeps them up at night and what they consider success to be. What’s more is that building personas is easy.

Here are four steps you can take to establish your marketing personas.

Step 1: Gather Information

There’s no two ways about it. The best way to gather information is to ask questions — usually from the most direct source. Get on the phone with two or three different customers and start the process of finding out who they actually are and why they’re your customers. Things you’ll want to find out include:

  • What industries do they consider themselves a part of?
  • What industries do they consider their customers to be a part of?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • What’s their annual revenue?
  • How is the company hierarchy shaped?
  • What roles (job titles) were involved when they made a purchase from your business?
  • Who do they consider their biggest competitors?
  • Why did they choose your product/service?
  • Why are they still using your product/service?

The data you receive from these and similar questions will help give you verified information. You can then begin to break down your target audiences to a more granular level – helping you understand what makes them tick.

Step 2: Segment your audiences

Once you’ve gathered the relevant anecdotal customer data, you can begin segmenting customers by more easily quantifiable information. Breaking down your customers by industry, role and demographic will help you clarify how your personas should be categorized. For instance, if you find that most of your prospects come from just one industry, you’ll want to be more focused on the roles within that industry that you deal with during the lifecycle of a sale. Similarly, if you deal with the same roles across multiple industries, breaking down your personas by industry may not be that important.

However, if your point of contact differs from industry to industry, you should consider creating a persona for each role in each industry.
Here we have two hypothetical examples: The second is a company that

Company A

Company A sells an ERP system that is used across many industries — meaning the company will have multiple points of contact across several industries. Here are the personas the company may want to define:

Food FranchiseHospitalityHealthcare
FranchiseeCEO/PresidentHopsital Operations Manager
General ManagerOperations ManagerHospital Executive Assistant
IT ManagerPrivate Practice CEO
Private Practice Office Manager

Company B

Company B provides a digital sales tool for a specific industry. For that reason, the prospect’s company size determines who their points of contact would be:

RoleBusiness Size
CEO/PresidentSmall to medium
VP of SalesMedium to large
Sales/Marketing DirectorAny size
Sales ManagerLarge
Business Development RepresentativeAny size

These can then be broken down even more specifically. By using the data collected during your research, with the addition of your experience, look at each role and determine some basic demographic statistics:

  • What are the age ranges for each position that you deal with?
  • Are there any roles that are more typically male or female?
  • What are the levels of education that often accompany each position?
  • How many years of experience does each role in each industry typically have?
  • Is there a region(s) that they are typically located in?

Step 3: Identify role characteristics

Beyond the data that is easy to collect with a form — position, years of experience, location, age, etc. — to truly create a persona, you’ll need to identify the mindsets of these individuals. Each role in each industry is hired with a different job description, which means each role is striving to accomplish something completely different each day. A CEO is going to be focused on big-picture, long-term benefits for the company; a director-level prospect may be looking for tools that provide day-to-day efficiency and ways to lower operating costs; while a more junior-level role may just be interested in a product that offers short term successes and makes day-to-day life easier.

For each role that you have identified as a contact point in your sales cycle, begin to map out the individual personality traits. A great way to get started is by answering these questions:

  • What goals are they most focused on?
  • What are the two to three biggest challenges they routinely encounter?
  • What are their fears and aspirations for both themselves and the company?
  • What need do they have for your product/service?
  • What type of support do they require from you as a business after they have made the initial purchase?

Having answers to these questions written out provides a useful point of reference when creating emails, blogs, social media content or landing pages. Your messaging will be more consistent and personalized, which will ultimately lead to more prospect engagement and more converted leads.

Step 4: Create your persona pitch

At the end of this process you’ll have a lot of information to work from. Maybe more than you need. The final step you should take is to boil down the persona into a two- or three-sentence summary that explains why your business is beneficial to that persona and what it helps them solve.

Example: VantagePoint 365 helps marketing managers of small- to medium-sized businesses expand their marketing team. With the addition of a marketing automation platform and a marketing agency, these managers can now accomplish more marketing tasks than ever, while also increasing inbound qualified leads.

Creating the persona pitch will help align the messaging for everyone, whether they are on the sales team or marketing team. With an established pitch for each persona, your business’s mission towards its prospects will become that much clearer. It will also take the guesswork out of strategy, helping your team save time.

So many businesses may feel they know who their market is, but until they take a step back to ask, “What are my customers’ goals? What are their greatest challenges? What are their biggest fears and what wakes them up in the morning?” — only then do they begin to clarify what their messaging to each of their prospects needs to look like. Personas are a permanent reminder of audience-focused messaging and a way to keep that messaging consistent. Whether for a marketing intern drafting an email or a seasoned salesperson trying to close a big sale, personas will make those messages truly personalized and engaging.

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