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Mary is a 44 year-old marketing manager at a medium-sized, privately-owned plumbing supply store. She has held this job for five years but has maintained a role in various marketing departments and industries for the past 16 years. She manages a staff of two junior-level marketing support people who are responsible for maintaining the company website and social media presence. Mary reports directly to the company owner.

She works a typical 9-to-5 day but it is not uncommon for her to arrive early or stay late if necessary. She is responsible for creating the overall marketing strategy for the company and for contracting  outside vendors as needed for design, print, SEO, PPC and other marketing activities that can’t be supported in-house.

Mary is tech savvy and tries to stay abreast of current marketing trends. She subscribes to numerous blogs and maintains active social media profiles personally. However, she recognizes the futility of trying to learn everything. Unfortunately, she is often tasked with implementing the next big marketing idea the company owner happened to learn about as he read the latest edition of WSJ between appointments, which causes her great frustration.

At home, Mary attempts to detach and disconnect from work. But her phone is usually nearby, should her team need to reach her. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pre-teenage children exploring local sites, eateries and events but hopes to take a longer vacation with her family in the next 12 months to someplace more exotic.

The above description of Mary is an example of a persona or archetype. She represents other similar people in the world. Though a somewhat fictitious person, she is based on information gathered about actual people in the same jobs, functions or decision making roles.

Developing stories like the one above about your ideal customer’s decision makers and stakeholders allows marketers to craft more personalized messaging and strategize lead activities based on the persona’s motivations, interests or goals. Or, in the case of product development, to better understand the interaction between a user and a product.

This personal narrative establishes empathy and makes the “lead” or “prospect” more human. To further establish this, some marketers will even add a photo for each persona to give him or her a face and to manifest this character as a real person.

Based on her story, we can hypothesise about Mary’s — and similar prospects’ — needs, and what might resonate with her. We can make decisions about the best time to email or connect with Mary, respecting her down time or family time. We can develop messaging with the appropriate level of technical language while remaining comprehensible and engaging. We can also look at her age and know that while she wasn’t born with a smart phone in her diaper, she is a part of the generation that built the internet.

Benefits of Personas

  • Help you understand your audience and provide insights for connecting with them
  • Allow marketers to establish rules and common language for a particular audience
  • Improve communication and focus conversations
  • Offer a better understanding of customer or prospect behavior, needs, and wants
  • Bring together sales and marketing
  • Allow more effective and targeted efforts to be put into place
  • Clarify purchasing decision process and purchasing power
  • Reveal where your audience spends time and how to deliver timely, relevant messages to them where they are

What should you include in a persona

  • Demographic information (age, gender, location etc.)
  • General traits (occupation, education, interests, hobbies, family etc.)
  • Psychological traits (needs, motivations, aspirations, frustrations etc.)

Conducting research

Start by looking at your website analytics. Google can provide a great deal of information about your website visitors as a whole including age range, gender, interests in particular subject matter and even tech habits such as a preference for mobile over desktop browsing.

Also review any website form submissions. Depending on the information you request and any progressive structuring implemented for gathering more details with each conversion or submission, you can compile information about users, including age, company, company size, role, location, industry, etc. And, if your forms are tied to content offers, they  can give you insights into preferred content types and subjects.

What you can’t get from data, you can get from interviews. Ask your sales team to provide information about customers and leads. The sales team should have valuable information not typically requested on a form that they have gathered through regular interactions and conversations with their contacts. Spend some time interviewing your customers. Ask them what their typical day entails, how they learn new information to perform their job, what conferences they attend, what challenges they face and how they have overcome those challenges. The more information you can gather the more detailed you can make your persona.

Review your CRM and sales data. Your CRM and sales data can give you a lot of the details about your customers and leads. It won’t be as anecdotal as that gathered through interviews, but it can give you valuable information for creating market segments and personas based on demographic information and company information you may not get from your website analytics.

What other personas should you get to know?

Besides Marketing Mary (or Molly or Missy or Mark or Mike whatever catchy name you’d like to give her or him), there are other personas you should probably get to know as a B2B company.

Purchaser Pete. Purchaser Pete is in charge of purchasing decisions. He evaluates vendors and products, proposals and estimates and may likely be the primary decision maker for purchases. He is good with numbers and focused on the bottom line.

IT Ivan. If you are selling software, apps, technology or communication services, it’s likely Ivan will be your primary persona. He isn’t into flashy presentations and slick content. He wants to know how your product or service will solve his problem and prefers guides, datasheets and tech specs.

Owner Owen. This could also be Executive Erin. This person is at the top of the company’s food chain. He or she may make the final decision but often relies on input from others in their organization. This persona looks at the big picture and what the overall effect on the company as a whole would be if a particular purchase or decision were made.

Champion Cheryl. This persona may not be a primary decision maker in the company. But Cheryl could be the your biggest fan and advocate. She likes a range of information and resources that can make her job easier and which she can use to make recommendations to those in higher level positions.

Conclusion

These are far from all the personas that exist, and B2C companies may have an entirely different set of persona requirements (such as Single Dad Chad or Empty Nester Esther). Regardless of the type of business you’re in, personas can be a valuable tool to define market segments and target audiences, allowing marketers to focus their efforts through a common understanding of their prospects and customers and to prioritize their efforts toward key decision makers.

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