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It’s the question on many a marketer’s lips…
Just what is a persona exactly and how do you go about creating one?
And actually, let’s add to that list.
Once you’ve created one, how do you go about getting internal buy-in to actually use it?
Because every marketer knows that without proper customer research and planning – which a persona forms a BIG part of – any marketing activity you do will fall flat on its face.
Getting buy-in to creating and using a persona is key – key to your marketing success and key to your sanity too!
What is a persona?
Let’s start with a very simple definition – and feel free to steal this when you need to present your personas internally as it will avoid many a misunderstanding further on down the road.
A persona is a representational character based on your current or ideal customer.
Now some say they are ‘semi-fictional’ – I say, if you create them that way then maybe they are.
But a good persona is in no way fictional. In fact, it’s more likely to be a combination of truths and real-life examples, turned into something that is actionable and useful. So no fiction here thanks very much!
Why is a persona useful?
A persona is useful for a number of reasons.
✔️ It focuses you on the customer.
Yes, that most important of parties in this relationship! And great personas also help you understand more about that customer – what their pain points and challenges are for example, or what frustrations they have day-to-day.
✔️ It makes the link between Problem and Solution.
More specifically, your customer’s problem, and your solution. In other words, how your product or service addresses your customer’s problem and, in some cases, why your product or service is better than the alternatives out there.
✔️ It’s the secret to great segmentation.
Really good personas are actionable, i.e. they contain data points or references that you can link back to your business in order to inform segmentation or develop ideas. For example, an actionable persona may contain a list of potential job titles – this is a data point you can use to segment your database in order to send targeted communications. An actionable persona may equally contain some linguistic nuggets e.g. soundbites from your customers, that you can give to a copywriter in order to help develop some kick-ass copy for your next campaign.
✔️ It helps with internal alignment.
If you’ve got to get your sales team or CEO on board with a new campaign or ad headline, then a persona is your secret weapon! It’s your proof that customers are interested in this topic and will engage with the message. It can even give your sales team ideas for how they can approach potential customers in a more personal and relevant way!
How do you create a persona?
Creating the persona document or deliverable is actually the easy bit.
You can use customizable templates like those available in the Resource Hub of immerj, or you can take advantage of interactive tools like this one that we developed (that takes just a few minutes) or this one available from HubSpot (that takes a bit longer).
The slightly trickier bit – although definitely worth it in the end! – is getting the info you need to put in the document.
Here’s a few pointers on great sources of persona info:
📊 Your data!
Yes, no need to spend lots of money on new efforts here. Your existing customer data already holds a treasure trove of info. Some examples include – their activity on your product like last login date; their activity on your website like what they’re clicking on; even the simple things like where they are located can be useful. Start playing around with the data you have and see what wonderful insights appear!
💬 Google, Social media and online forums and communities.
If budget is tight and you’re short on your own data, then just get Googling! Start searching on the pain points you ‘think’ your customers have and look at related searches and the articles that come up. Allow yourself a bit of time to go down that rabbit hole in the name of research! Also explore online forums like Quora and Reddit, as well as social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – these are full of people asking questions and seeking advice so take note of it all and look out for the patterns. Also look out for competitor reviews – especially if customers are complaining about competitor products – gold mine!
🗣️ Talking to Sales colleagues.
Who would have thought it! But your Sales colleagues actually interact with customers – and they therefore have either copious notes or lots of interesting tidbits stuffed in their heads. So go talk to them, buy them a coffee or a beer and start extracting that gold! Oh, and don’t forget about recorded calls too just in case your company does that with the sales or customer support teams.
📞 Erm… speak to your customers. 😉
You knew it was coming – and yes, it should be top of the list! But 9 times out of 10, it’s usually the last thing that’s done. SHAME!!! It should be the first. Listen, the worst that can happen is that they ignore your requests, but what’s more likely is that they’ll be more than happy to have a brief chat as long as you’re friendly and personable with the request, and even offer them some value in return like a coffee voucher, an exclusive eBook or a discount code.
So the final piece of the puzzle – how do you establish buy-in for all of this?
You may have a great boss or CEO who fully understands the need to do this and will gladly give you weeks to immerse yourself in it!
Or you may be faced with a more realistic scenario where time is short, budget is tight and leads or sales need to be seen YESTERDAY!
If you’re in the 2nd camp, then here are a few very simple questions you can use to politely challenge the “big rush” and give yourself some quality persona time.
- How can we sell stuff to people if we don’t know what problem we’re solving?
- How many times have you yourself bought something off the back of a cold sales call vs an advert or website that has lots of amazing customer quotes?
- How important is it to the business that sales and marketing are communicating the same message to our customers?
You get the gist… focus on what’s important to your CEO or line manager and make the link between that and your need to do persona research.
If they are a ‘results’ person, focus heavily on the outcome of the work, i.e. the deliverable, what it will lead to, how it can support leads and sales.
And if they are more of a ‘process’ person, underline the research element, i.e. how you’ll go about it, who you’ll be speaking to, what steps you’ll be taking.
Fast forward a few days or at worst, a few weeks, and you’ve got your persona insights and possibly even that end deliverable!
So here’s a few final pointers on how to share or present it so it lands well and will be used for years to come!
1. Keep the most important stuff to 1 page.
- Feel free to back this up with copious pages of research, stats and notes, but for the stuff you want to present, keep it to 1 page, with clear headers, grouped sections and even visual cues to help with ‘scanability’.
2. Contextualise it.
- Just as with any great data point or insight, the value is mainly in how it’s used. So contextualise! If a soundbite would be great in some ad copy, show that. If a buggy product feature has been unearthed that could be used in your product roadmap, shout about it! Or if a customer has used a great analogy regarding a competitive solution, highlight that as a future campaign. Once you’ve made that link between the research you’ve done and the ‘next steps’ your company COULD take, you’ll see the light bulbs come on above people’s heads!
3. Pull out the things that your colleagues can also use.
- What you unearth in this process is AMAZE-BALLS! So don’t just keep it to yourself, share and share alike! Whether that’s soundbites for your product team, or hooks for your sales colleagues, highlight them, share them and then share them again. You might even call it treating your internal colleagues just like customers! 😉
And there you have it.
A pretty comprehensive overview of the what, why and how of Personas.
I have to admit – throughout my 15+ year career in marketing, it’s the one document I keep coming back to.
Not just because the insights help with new ideas, but also because it helps me reconnect with why I’m doing this job in the first place – and that’s as good a reason as any in my book!