Every time we talk about marketing we talk about how everything has to come back to an understanding of the customer. One of the most effective ways to do make your marketing efforts revolve around the customer is to build marketing personas. Some people talk about sales personas, they are the exact same thing as marketing personas. When creating personas there are a few absolute must-haves and there are other bits of information that can be very helpful. After reading this article you should be able to start building highly effective marketing personas to use in your business.
Getting Started with Marketing Personas
There are essentially two templates, B2B and B2C. The template for B2C businesses will need the following information:
- Education Attainment
- Career Classification
- Where they live and/or work
- Communication Preferences
- Family Situation
- Income Bracket
- Languages Spoken at home
The template for B2B businesses will need the following information:
- Kind of Business
- Number of Employees
- Business Location(s)
- Years in Business
- Decision Maker Title
- Gate keeper status/rating
- Communication Preferences
B2C Business Persona Explanation
As you get started building your personas you will find some information will be easy for you to get ahold of. Some of the information you need will be a little more difficult to get, but don’t worry, I’ll give you some tips on how to get that information. I’ll break down each item on the list to make this easier for you to proceed.
It’s important to remember throughout this process that we aren’t dividing people up for the sake of dividing people up. The whole point is to create personas for our marketing and each persona will need to be approached in a distinct manner. While it’s true that the more precise you are with your personas, the more effective you can be, it’s also a fact that each persona will add to your workload too. So try to balance the number of personas against the amount of time you have to dedicate to your marketing.
The name for the persona may come from an actual customer that you feel truly epitomizes the persona. The advantage to naming it after a current client is that it may make it easier to fill in the rest of the information. All you will have to do is picture that person in your mind and fill out the blanks. The drawback to naming after a real person is that your persona will end up looking too much like that person, in other words, the persona will be too specific. An effective marketing persona should accurately describe a whole group of your clients and prospects. I like to use very generic names for my personas, like Bob, Jon, Sarah or Lisa.
The age of your persona should be a range of ages, not a specific age. I usually group them by either 5 years or 10 years. The idea here is that people at different ages will have different needs and desires. People in their 30s are likely to have kids, and their needs will revolve around the kids schedule and care needs. Someone in their 50s will be becoming empty nesters, so their lives will have a new focus. Put an age range that makes sense for your business.
Generally speaking men and women approach problems and opportunities differently. Your marketing will have to address those differences or it will never be as effective as it could be.
The amount of education a person has will influence their vocabulary, reasons for following causes, kind of career they have, and their income. Of course, all of those factors will change how to communicate the value of your offering but they are also ways you can make fairly accurate guesses about your customers education. If they speak like a college graduate, they probably are. If they have a job that generally requires a degree, they probably have one.
There my be a few answers to put in this space, you could go with blue color or white color. Or you could enter another classification like retail, industrial, sales, or technology. The key here is to think about how you will use this information to craft your offering.
Where they live and/or work
Ideally you would know both where they live and where they work but if you choose to focus on only one then think about where they will be when they need or want your offering. For example, if you ran a diner you would probably choose their work location since you could then lure them in to buy lunch. If you sell kitchen items, then their home would be more important to you. Thinking about their commute to and from work will give you some ideas about where and how to advertise to catch them during their commute.
For family situation I usually divide my personas into the following groups: teen, single adults, married without kids, married with young children, married with teens, empty nesters, and retired. Each of those groups will have different desires, needs, budgets, time, and peer groups.
A person’s income bracket will influence whether or not they can afford your offering and the length of the buying process they go through. If someone can only just barely afford what you are selling they will take more time to make the decision. Their income will help determine what they see as their current needs and should therefore change the way you communicate the value of your offering.
B2B Business Personas Explained
I will focus on only a few of the spaces on your template here, the others are either common sense or were explained in the B2C section.
Years in Business
As a business grows and matures they will go through seasons where they need different things, just like a person does. In the first couple of years most small businesses are focused on survival and the kinds of products and services they buy will reflect that. Over the course of their business they will go through other phases. Knowing how long they’ve been in business will help you know when the best time is to contact them and promote your offering to them. For example, with small businesses I promote my marketing consulting to companies that have been in business for at least two years. The reason for that is that before the two year threshold most businesses are still scrambling and have a hard time actually doing the things that a solid marketing plan calls for.
Decision Maker Title
It’s important to know who makes the decisions in a company, in most medium sized to large companies there will be several decision makers, each one over a specific kind of decision. For example, one person would make the IT decisions and another would make the advertising decisions. In smaller companies the owner or general manager would be the decision make. You should choose the person that best fits your offering.
Gate Keeper Status/Ranking
I added this one to the list just a few years ago. For those who don’t know, a gate keeper is a person that stands between you and the decision maker, they may be a receptionist, a personal assistant, or an administrative assistant. That person’s job is to make sure that their boss’ time isn’t wasted, they keep salespeople out, they keep advertising mailings out, and they have huge influence on their boss. When gate keepers are involved your communication efforts have to start with them in mind. If they see your offering as valuable then, and only then, will it get passed on to the decision make. I always include a ranking from 1 to 5, where 1 is super easy to get through and 5 is most difficult, for the gate keeper.
Once You Have Created Your Personas
When I create marketing personas I like to print them out and laminate them. I keep them on my desk at all times so I can easily pull one out, prop it up and keep that persona in mind as I work. Doing that makes me much more effective at enhancing the value of the offering I am working on. If you do the same thing, I can guarantee that your marketing and sales efforts will become much more effective.