What are personas (and do they really matter)?
I’ve been working in copywriting for several years now, but it wasn’t until three(ish) years ago that I stumbled across a new word, ‘personas’ which, as a writer, was a rare delight.
It was during the time I first started on my HubSpot journey, a world in which the word ‘persona’ is commonplace. However, just because I was familiar with this particular buzzword and its meaning, didn’t mean my clients were.
And the same can still be said even now, despite the fact that understanding and developing personas is now widely recognised as being integral to delivering successful inbound marketing strategies.
What are personas?
‘Personas’ or ‘buyer personas’ are (in the words of inbound marketing specialists, HubSpot):
‘Fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on real data about customer demographics and online behaviour, along with educated speculation about their personal histories, motivations and concerns.’
And (in my words) they are:
‘Your target audiences, whether that’s managing directors, procurement managers or sales team leaders, personas are the people you are targeting with your messaging.’
Do they really matter?
So, now that we have a top-level definition of what personas are, I bet you’re thinking, that’s great, but should I really care?
The answer is yes, and here’s why.
Identifying who your personas are (ideally you should have around three to four key personas) means you can better understand their buyer journey because you’ve identified key information about them, such as their pain points and challenges. Having this insight enables you to produce and segment content that relates to your personas depending on where they are in their buyer journey. Taking this approach will, in turn, ensure your content is:
- Relevant to your personas
- Useful (i.e. helps your personas find particular information or answer specific questions they might have at that moment in time)
- Appealing (because it’s focusing on a theme or pain point they need to address or overcome)
- Written using language and a tone of voice they can instantly relate to (for instance, the messaging and terminology I’d use for managing directors is different to the type of content I’d produce for procurement managers)
How do I create them?
If you Google persona mapping, you’ll find there are lots of ways (546,000 when I just Googled) in which you can go about creating personas, basically, there’s no set rule for how you go about it.
However, there are some best practice methods you can follow that I’ve picked up along the way. Here are some of them to help get you started:
- Split your information – there are two banks of information you need to gather about your personas. The first is demographic (which helps you learn about their personal background) and the second is psychographic (which will help you establish a picture of their habits and buying behaviour).
- Obtain first-hand information – the most effective persona profiles are based on industry insight and real information from your existing customers. There are various methods you can use to obtain this information, such as questionnaires or face-to-face interviews/persona sessions.
You can also identify key trends from your contacts database, analyse feedback from your sales team and interview prospects (not just your existing customers) to find out what they most like about your offering compared to the competition.
- Build your profiles – create, or use an existing template, that enables you to present your information in a consistent way. Give your personas a fictional name so that you can easily identify them (make sure it’s a real name so the persona feels like a real person, such as Production Manager Peter or Sales Director Simon).
Headings you might want to use include: background, demographics, goals, challenges and pain points, how you help, common objections and marketing messages (including your elevator pitch). Don’t forget, the more information you provide, the more informed your personas will be.
While identifying your personas may be an exercise that, if done correctly, can take some time to do, it’s an exercise that can deliver significant rewards, regardless of your business size or type.
Got any questions or want to find out more about the relationship between personas and content marketing? Complete the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, check out, ‘Tips for writing landing pages that people actually want to land on.’