“Persona” is in “personalization.” That’s obvious (and cheesy) I know, but most of us know by now that personas are incredibly helpful in informing teams who their main customer types are, their pain points, and their goals and desires. Most marketers have a history of using and targeting personas in campaigns and strategies. 

The more recent shift to behavior and data tracking was only made possible by big data and recent strides in AI technology. With our ability to collect, track, and analyze consumer behavior, are personas still relevant? Absolutely.

For a quick example: personas have emerging new motivations when disaster strikes. We’re currently living through a huge part of history. Future generations will study this period of COVID-19, currently punching nations everywhere in the gut. 

Doing personas the right way

Doing personas the right way gives your teams — all teams, not just marketing and sales — the information that enables them to empathize with your target market, and thereafter create truly effective campaigns, offers, content, and experiences relevant to your target market’s needs and motivations. 

More than ever, right now with the way things are unfolding, your content and outreach needs empathy. 

AI can only do so much, you still need to feed your machine learning platform with correct information. Your entire organization also needs this information. This is what personas do. 

  • Product and design teams need the persona brief for everything from huge aspects like features and competitor research, to smaller details like fonts and colors.
  • Sales and marketing teams need the persona brief for their strategies. 
  • Finance needs the persona brief for guidance on feasibility, pricing, and marketing investments
  • Customer service needs the persona for their reply templates and style and tone. 

You get it. Every team needs customer personas. 

Creating personas is like a litmus test on how well you know your customers and how well your products match them. 

Get really specific 

For the uninitiated, or those who have already eschewed personas, here’s a recap of the attributes you usually determine. The common denominator of each and all attributes? They’re specific and granular. 

  • Demographic – The needs and preferences of each demographic differ, either vastly or subtly, so your marketing for 25-35 year old men is different from your materials for 25-35 year old women, and so are your campaigns for 45-60 year old men, even though it’s the same gender. Likewise, there can be minute differences in your language for 45-50 year old men, as opposed to men in the 51-60 age bracket. 
  • Job Position / Role – This is where personas become people: they’re stay-at-home mothers, busy employees, small business owners, GenX, and so on. This is the “description” of your personas, and what they get up for every morning. 
  • Interest in product – Connected or related to their roles and current events, what do they want for their personal or professional life? What role will your product fill there? 

For example, you sell trips on chartered boats along Cabo San Lucas and the Riviera Maya. People are staying home to be safe, and they have more time to look at your content. They can’t go, but their minds are there, flying off to sunny places. So even if they can’t leave just yet, you can still entertain and educate them about places they can go later, when things are back to normal. In the meantime, you give them something nice to look forward to or reminisce about, to take their minds away from the current situation. 

  • Need for product – Connected and related to their interests and current events, what do they need? How well does your product answer that need? 
  • Location – If you have physical stores or local services, location has a big role in your personas. Even if you offered digital services, your language should be determined by this attribute. Local slang and local beliefs can endear you to your target audiences. 
  • Shopping habits / Financial ability – Doesn’t need to be explained. With attractive discounts, you can attract income levels lower than your usual personas and expand your customer base that way. Targeting higher income levels also means your product, marketing, and entire customer-facing content and services have to achieve a certain high standard. 

But limit your personas

Businesses used to have pages of their personas in their brand and style Guides. Pages upon pages describing their five personas. 

To truly understand your personas, limit them to two or three. Five is okay, but that’s already hard to keep track of in your head, and would unnecessarily eat more resources for targeted campaigns and strategies. 

Do your research

Research helps you narrow down your personas, correctly identifying shared behavior and motivations among your target customers, and creating a more accurate, umbrella personas. 

Customers don’t even need to tell you directly. Your target customers are all over the internet, making reviews on Amazon, asking and answering questions on Quora or Reddit, participating in hashtags on Twitter or groups and communities on Facebook. 

A persona is a combination or aggregation of those behaviors and motivations, so one or two personas should represent the larger group.

Truly understand what makes them tick. What makes them buy? 

The point of personas is really empathy. And according to Dale Carnegie, empathy is influence. That’s right, you can influence your target customers to love you and choose you if they perceive you understand them. 

So you need to know your ideal customers, or it’s nigh impossible to create an effective production and marketing strategy, from branding to content, whether you use AI and e-commerce or traditional methods like sales people and billboards, newspapers and radio. 

Some consider personas to be outdated because personas are largely associated with segmentation, which is admittedly no longer the effective way to reach customers. 

Yes, personas segment your customers, but segmentation is not the point. It’s not about having segments and sending different messages/promos to each segment. 

It’s about understanding each persona to create effective strategies for each persona. 

What makes them tick? What makes them buy? Stay-at-home 30-40 year old moms might love bargains for this product, but would be suspicious of that product if it sells under a certain price. 

Personas also predict behavior. 

It’s this understanding, which AI data can augment, that helps you create effective strategies and deliver the right content in every part of the buyers’ journey.

Listen to what your customers and sales teams tell you

To start, the c-suite and the customer facing teams (sales, marketing, customer support/service) already have a strong sense of the personas, backed by data. 

But the real answers are in your customers. Try a moderated research session. Solicit feedback from your customers to confirm, update and continuously refine your personas. Even the smallest details can inspire your next campaign. 

Sales teams also know what sells at which periods, to whom. This is why it’s important that the sales and marketing teams are completely aligned instead of siloed. If you’re only starting out and can’t afford to do moderated research sessions yet, your sales teams can provide you the information to prime your persona pump. 

HubSpot has a simple tool that can help create a persona, but it only requires qualitative input. At Wrench, we can take customer data as the starting point for identifying personas. Either way, you can’t sharpen the identify of a persona without a starting point. 

Intelligent assumptions, competitor analysis and stakeholder interviews: these are low-cost ways to start off your personas, but it’s always best to speak to get the facts from your customer base. 

Steer clear of the mistakes of most companies who assume they know their customers and still keep using those assumptions to drive their marketing outreach. 

Don’t neglect user experience personas

Your target marketing personas out there, and your user experience personas are already on-site. They’ll either love you — or hate you if you don’t treat them right. 

Again, it’s all about empathy and predicting what each user experience persona would want and need from your site and channels. User experience personas help you deliver customer success. 

It’s one thing to sell/convert a lead, who becomes a customer, and it’s another to keep that customer for the long-term with a user experience they can rely on because you consistently deliver.