A Marketer’s Ultimate Guide To Customer Personas

January 15, 2016

You know the number one rule of marketing is understanding who you’re talking to.

So, who is it?

The majority of marketers will tell you they know exactly who their audience is and whether they’re right or wrong, the only way to validate the assumption is with actual data.

Enter Customer Personas. Customer personas are a fictional representation of who your ideal audience is, based on information and robust data on your current, lapsed and potential customers.

Whether you’re just getting your feet wet when it comes to customer personas, or you want to dive deeper into how they fit into your marketing strategy, we’ve compiled our best resources to help you become persona experts.

The Ultimate Guide To Customer Personas

Part 1: Getting Started

Part 2: Fitting Personas Into Your Marketing Strategy

1. How to Create A Customer Persona In 3 Easy Steps

1. On The Surface: Demographics

Think of demographics as the gateway to discovering who your customer is. After all, before you can really get to know them, you have to find them.

Where do they live? How old are they? Male or female? Where do they work, what is their role and income?

This information will be helpful not only in painting a picture of who your customer is, but in making sure your messaging reaches them.

2. Below The Surface: Behaviours

Now comes the fun part. In order to create the kind of content your customers needs and/or are looking for, you’ll need to gather significant data on their online and search behaviours, interests and preferences.

There are plenty of options when it comes to gathering data, but first and foremost you should collaborate with your sales team and also draw data from your CRM, CMS, consumer research and social channels. You might decide on conducting focus groups or interviews to gain further insight, in which case you should approach both existing and potential customers. However you go about your data, these are some of the key questions that need to be answered about your audience:

3. Respond

You should now understand who your customer is, where to find them, what their needs are and how you can help them. All that’s left for you to do is provide them with the answers they’re looking for, and a customer experience that exceeds their expectations. We’ll show you how in the next few steps.

Editor’s Note: Make sure to share the personas with your entire team so everyone is aware of who their audience is and how to speak to them.

2. Using Customer Personas To Create Targeted Ads

1. Speak Their Language

Let’s say you’ve established that your customer is a 27 year old male named Ryan, who is an intermediate guitar player but is very insecure. He is looking for some lessons to learn the electric guitar.

Before you can really get on his wavelength, you need to uncover the issues, challenges and frustrations that affect Ryan when it comes to learning guitar. Gather keyword research around “guitar lessons” to identify relevant topic themes and keywords that Ryan might be searching for, and incorporate them into your ad copy.

When crafting your message, keep Ryan’s insecurities and current skill level top of mind, and be sure to speak to him in a way that doesn’t come across as intimidating. The goal of your ad copy should be to help him feel comfortable and confident that he can learn electric guitar, and that you can help him.

2. Construct Copy

Now, here’s the fun part. Your ad copy has some guidelines, so whatever your message is to Ryan, you need to condense it to fit the following ad requirements:

As you write your ads, have these two goals in mind: The first is to answer your persona’s challenge, need or desire within the appropriate tone. The second is to keep your call to action short and sweet (remember, it’s about them).

Your tone is key here, as it will help you avoid any unnecessary characters. For example, you know that you need to speak to Ryan in an understanding and welcoming tone while answering his query for intermediate-expert guitar lessons. A Paid Ad might highlight words such as ‘confidence’, ‘private lessons’ and ‘electric’ to target Ryan. The ad might look like this:

Private Electric Guitar Lessons

Learn how to play the electric guitar with confidence. Book for an introductory guitar lesson today!

3. Target Specifically

Because you’ve done such a great job initially identifying your persona, you already know where Ryan lives, what his interests are and where to find him. He’s on Facebook, Google+ and Instagram, and he’s searching every night after he finishes work for guitar lessons.

Setting up specific criteria via AdWords and Facebook is the easy part…

Demographic targeting for a display campaign in adwords. Keep in mind you cannot use demographic targeting in search only campaigns, so make sure the keywords you pick match the intent and the persona you want to target

Ryan’s going to see your ad because you’ve targeted it correctly and included the right terminology and relevant keywords, but he’s also going to see your accounts on all of these platforms too, which means they’ve got to look pretty dapper. Ok, maybe dapper’s not the word for Ryan. They need to look pretty groovy.

Is your Instagram page filled with the type of content Ryan wants to see? Does your Facebook have the right mix of informational and viral content that he he will use and share? Is your Twitter filled with all the latest in guitar tech that he wants to know? Are you blogging about things that he wants to read?

It’s one thing to create an ad, and it’s a whole other thing to get it clicked on. But one thing is for sure: Your chances greatly improve if Ryan is familiar with your brand and if he trusts it. So before you spend precious time and money creating ads, step back and make sure you’ve got the environment it’s hosted in right.

3. How To Create & Distribute Targeted Content

Previously we spoke about how to create targeted ads for your customers, but what about all of the other great content they’re looking for?

Whether it’s a blog, an infographic or even just a status update, these three tips are essential for creating highly targeted, customer-centric content.

1. Research Their Content Behaviours

When it comes to targeting your customer persona, whether it be for an ad, a blog or anything else, you need to know as much about them as possible. Finding this information won’t be easy. You can’t spy on them or try to read their minds. The only way around it is to do your research.

Before you waste time and energy creating content that may never get absorbed, spend some quality time researching your persona’s behaviours as to how they discover and engage with content. Key things that you will want to find out are:

Once you have all this information, map out your customer’s content journey so you can refer to it when it comes time to create content, or even a broader content strategy.

Persona's journey in discovering and absorbing content

Once you have a good idea of what kind of content your persona prefers, it’s time to do some more research into what has already been created. Chances are, whatever you want to create has been done before. The trick is to put a unique spin and perspective on the content that makes it so relatable to the reader, that it’s the only blog on that particular topic that they want to read.

2. Define Style And Tone

Ok, so you’ve figured out that your persona, we’ll call her Shelley, loves watching “How To” videos on YouTube and likes absorbing her content quickly, through lists, charts and short blogs with lots of images. You know exactly what kind of content to create for her, but there are two major things to consider before moving forward.

The first is you have to decide on the style of your writing. Does Shelley like short, simple sentences that get right to the point or is she more attracted to deep and meaningful content? As it turns out, Shelley is a bit of a nerd and prefers reading tech-savy information with lots of statistics.

The second is what kind of tone are you going to use? Are you going to speak to Shelley formally, informally, ironically, playfully, seriously, matter-of-factly? Deciding on your tone will rely on what you know about Shelley’s knowledge level of the topic. Let’s say she’s just started out in the digital marketing world as an assistant and is eager to learn as quickly as possible. Her knowledge about technology is low, however she knows a lot about marketing because she’s been in that industry for a few years now and studied it in University.

Based on this information, we want our tone to be a cross between playful and matter-of-factly. Being playful ensures that Shelley stays interested in the digital world and doesn’t get scared off by it’s ever-changing landscape, and matter-of-factly because her knowledge level is low so there’s no room to dance around the facts. She isn’t looking to form an opinion at this stage, she just wants to grow her base knowledge in the field.

Once you’re certain that you’ve chosen the right style and tone for your content, you’re on the home stretch.

3. Calls to Action

Chances are, you have more than one persona for your business and they don’t want the same things. This means that when deciding on a call to action, you have to be entirely aware of who you’re speaking to and what kind of engagement you can expect from them.

For Shelley, you’ve discovered that she often reads three or four different blogs once she stumbles upon a website that she cares about. A good call to action might be, “If you liked this blog, you’ll love (insert link).”

Using the research you’ve conducted in step one, you already know where to distribute your content because you know exactly where and how they’re looking for it.

And there you have it. With the right research and the right content, you’re well on your way to creating an authentic and engaging user experience for your target audience!

4. How Personas Influence Organic Search

We’ve discussed how important understanding your customer is when it comes to content marketing and paid advertising, but what about organic search? Having a clear picture of your customer can have a massive positive impact on your SEO results, but the opposite can really hurt you. Watch as we discuss how to use customer personas to improve your organic search performance.

5. Using Personas To Create An Integrated Content Strategy

It’s the golden rule: Deliver your message at the right time, to the right people and in the right context. So, how do you do it? Watch and learn!

6. How To Have The Right Conversations With Your Customers

Depending on where your customer is in their journey with your brand (just discovering you, getting interested, ready to purchase, etc.) they will have different needs and questions. Giving them the information or support they’re looking for at the right moment is crucial for helping them move forward in developing or strengthening their relationship with your brand.

In this video, we discuss the needs of your customers at each stage of their journey, and what kinds of conversations you should be having to nurture them through.

7. How Unclear Targeting Is Preventing You From Digital Success

We end this guide the way we began it: Many businesses don’t have a clear enough picture of who their customers are, or worse, they assume they know but fail to back that assumption up with data.

Not understanding who your customers are is one of the greatest reasons why many businesses fail at digital marketing. Watch as we discuss this barrier in more depth and suggest how to overcome it.