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Don't Market to the Masses: A Guide to Persona Development


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Written by Ashlie Jones
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I bet you're wondering what the big deal is. What's wrong with marketing your business to everybody? Well, when it comes to marketing, marketing to everybody is the same as marketing to nobody. If you want to market effectively, you should develop personas.

What is a persona? Personas as defined by HubSpot are "fictional, generalized characters that encompass the various needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns among our real and potential customers. They help you understand your customers better."

"Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed." Dan Zarrella

To have an effective marketing plan, you need to know who you are trying to reach. You need to be able to see that person as if they were sitting across from you. They should have a name and a face.

Imagine you were marketing to a family member, knowing their likes, dislikes, what they do, how they spend their time, etc. would allow for you to speak to them directly in a way they understand and in a way that motivates them.

"Marketing isn't magic. There is a science to it. " Dan Zarrella

So how do you start to develop your personas? The best way to get started is to analyze your existing customers. Looking at your best or ideal customers, answer the following questions. What are their demographics? Race, age, marital status, income, etc. How would you describe them? What are their likes, dislikes? What do they do in their spare time? What social platforms do they use? Where do they shop? Where do they go for information? What industry are they in? What did they buy from you? When? Why? What were the circumstances? How often do they buy? What would deter them from buying from you again? If you are lacking any of this information, do some research. Look at your analytics (Google, Facebook, etc) and interview or survey your customers and subscribers to capture their information and/or feedback.

Answer these questions for each of your ideal customers. You may find that you can group some customers together, but you will also find that different personas emerge. Once you've pulled out each persona, use their information to give them names and faces. TIP: For their names, use their name and title/hobby and alliteration (ex: Business Owner Ben, Sales Rep Sarah, Human Resources Harry) to help everyone remember who they are.

Once you have named your personas, give each of them a story. Use their demographics to tell the story of their education, where they live, where they are in life personally and professionally and what got them there, what they read, what they watch, where they get their information from. You should also include their needs, interests and hobbies, goals and challenges.

A persona story may look like this: Let's look at Human Resources Harry

NOTE: For the purpose of this persona, you are a software company

Harry is a 42 year old Human Resources manager making 100K/year. He is a local who has lived in Virginia all of his life. Harry graduated with his degree in Business Administration from Virginia Tech in 1998. He is active in the Tech alumni community. Harry attends fundraisers and serves as a board-chair. He is a die-hard Hokie fan, has season passes, and makes it to every game he can.

He works for a small business in Virginia Beach with 500 or so employees. Harry started as an administrative assistant and has been with the company for 20 years. He loves his job overall. He has always worked in Human Resources and enjoys meeting new people and helping them find and stay in positions they love. What he hates about his job is the lack of automation of employee management and engagement. Harry is looking for a better way to show employee appreciation.

Harry's professional goal is to be promoted to the Human Resources director by the time he's 45 and then retire at age 65. His personal goal is to be able to put his kids through college without it affecting him and his wife's lifestyle.

Harry is an early riser. He gets up at 5am every morning and uses this time before work to catch up on social media (mostly Twitter and LinkedIn), the news (CNN), and reads Forbes and Fortune as a source for what's happening in business.

Harry buys gadgets and electronics online, typically from Amazon. Customer service and ongoing support are huge for him. Harry bought payroll software from you 5 years ago but hasn't bought anything from you since then. He may not know what other products you offer.

When Harry isn't working, he enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with his wife and 2 children (one is in college and one is a senior in high school).

Do you see how knowing who you are trying to reach can help you better market to them specifically?

Gathering this information will answer some key things for you. Are you speaking to the right person? Are you using the right language? Do you have the right message? Are you marketing in the right places, at the right time?

Compiling this information also provides you with an invaluable marketing and sales resource. Spending time developing personas upfront will save you tons of time and money in the long run. Before any new service roll outs, marketing or ad campaigns or changes, ask yourself, how would this affect Ben/Sarah/Harry? Personas can serve as a means of which you can base decisions off of.

Once you have your personas, you can market to them individually and collectively. You can and should write content and marketing material that speaks to them, their needs, and their motivations.

Creating personas isn't a one time endeavor. As you get feedback and insight from your customers, adjust and add to your personas accordingly. Also, as your business grows and evolves you will need to revisit your personas.

Need more help creating personas? Click here to try out our partner HubSpot's free persona-making tool. Want to know how to run an Inbound Marketing Campaign? Click the button below to download our free Inbound campaign checklist.

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