Persona-Based Marketing in 5 Quick Steps (+ Examples)
April 7, 2022
8 minute read
Have you ever seen those small airplanes that carry advertising banners in the sky? Thousands of people see them fly by, and the marketing message is spread far and wide. How effective do you suppose it is?
Unfortunately for the advertiser (and the company paying for the ads), it’s not very effective! The same goes for irrelevant ads and popups that litter websites and social media. For many of us, our mouse pointer is on the “X” before we even read the message, and some of us have developed ad “blindness” to the point where we just don’t see the ads anymore.
Persona-Based Marketing Puts the Odds Back In Your Favor
Given that traditional advertising is no longer effective, how do you attract traffic to your website?
The answer is persona-based marketing — a content-based strategy that leverages technology to attract the right customers to your website. With persona-based marketing, you create relevant SEO-optimized content that speaks to potential customers while they are actively looking for the solution to a problem they’re facing (or didn’t know they had).
Sounds too good to be true? Read on to learn how it works, and how it’s done in five easy steps. We encourage you to follow along with this guide by using our free personas spreadsheet.
What is Persona-Based Marketing?
Buyers in the digital age have all the tools they need to get whatever information they want at every stage of the decision-making process. Most don't want to be showered with generic flyers or mass messages — the pinnacle of outbound marketing. That’s why you need personalized, inbound marketing to increase the chances of converting them during their buying decision.
So how can you tailor your marketing strategy to your target market? By developing buyer personas.
What is a buyer persona?
A buyer persona is a representation of your potential customer that describes them in detail using characteristics such as professional and personal motivations, demographics, career status, goals, interests, and pain points. Once you have a clear idea of your ideal buyer, you can create a content strategy that appeals to that specific buyer persona at every point in the buying cycle.
You would not use the same inbound marketing approach for a single professional in their early 30s as you would for a stay-at-home parent with children of school age, right? In the current environment, the key to effective content creation is to accurately define your persona and magnetize target customers to your offerings with engaging content that speaks their language.
Alternatively, a negative buyer persona (also called an anti-persona) is an identical exercise you can perform to clarify who is not your ideal customer. These negative personas can be helpful to define any behaviors or demographics that disqualify specific users from your pool of delighted, paying customers.
When should you create your buyer personas?
A detailed persona should be created during service and product development, ideally, but they can be made at any time. Your product should be designed to meet the customer's needs, instead of the early days of marketing where sales teams were required to educate the customer about the product.
With your persona in mind, you can tailor your product, service, and user experience so it becomes an irresistible offer they can’t refuse! Your advertising dollars will also be put to better use by showing your messages to people currently in the buying process, and not thousands upon thousands of users that aren’t in your target audience.
How to NOT Make a Buyer Persona
Before we jump into our five steps on how to make the perfect buyer persona, let’s go over some of the common pitfalls we see when our clients develop buyer personas of their own.
- More personas is NOT better. You do not need 18 personas, one for each product line that you sell. We find the fewer personas you have, the better your advertising process will be.
- You must look beyond the product you sell. How can you identify the unique needs of each audience when they all want different products? Easy. They all have core motivations that drive the way they think. Most of the time, we recommend not segmenting your personas based on the product they’re buying. You’ll find that SaaS Sally and Cloud Connie have more in common than you anticipate, even if they’re buying different things.
- B2B marketing vs B2C marketing can make a difference. That would be one key difference between the products people are using. If you are a B2B organization that also serves B2C or vice versa, it’s important to break out that end use “why” into separate personas.
- Job titles can be fairly irrelevant. While it can be helpful to make a note of the job title of your purchasing party, it can muddy the waters unnecessarily. Sometimes a core motivation is tied to a job (an architect can have different purchasing motives than a general contractor, for example), job titles can lock you into excessively siloed thinking. So when you’re determining your alliterative names, steer clear of “Job Title Name” formulas.
With that disclaimer out of the way, are you ready to get started? There are numerous ways to create a buyer persona, from a simple one-page summary to an agency-grade analysis that takes hundreds of factors into consideration.
Fortunately, if you need a template to get you started, we can help! Follow along with our process and get our free personas spreadsheet to make your persona creation process a breeze.
For now, let’s get the process going with the following five easy steps:
Step 1: Identify Your Customer Segments and Core Buyer Motivations
A customer segment is a group of customers specific to a part of your business. Some businesses have multiple segments, while others may only have one. This is where addressing motivations can be extremely important in building out your buyer groups.
For example, a hardware store may have a section for professional contractors, a section for gardeners, an aisle for hobbyists, and another area with sewing equipment. These are all different customer segments with diverse types of personas that would benefit from varying marketing strategies. In contrast, a toy manufacturer that specifically makes building blocks for children may only have one or two segments.
Your task in this step is to determine what motivation segments form your customer base, and to choose one for this exercise.
Mary has an online coaching business that offers eBooks, webinars, and live coaching sessions to people that want to start a business. She recently launched a new course and wants to use persona-based marketing to attract the right type of customer that would succeed in her program.
Her main segments include:
- Recent university graduates
- Stay-at-home parents
- Retired people/senior citizens
She could also break out her personas to address the motivations of why individuals are seeking business coaching:
- Starting a business to become your own boss in a downturned economy (recent university graduates).
- Starting a business to allow for flexibility raising a family (stay-at-home parents).
- Starting a business to get income in retirement and to achieve shelved dreams (retired people/senior citizens).
For this exercise, we are going to go with (3) Retired people/senior citizens.
Step 2: Get Background Information on Your Segment
While all individuals are unique, everyone in your segment is going to have some common characteristics. For this step, you’re going to roughly outline and research some critical information that includes:
- Age range
- Marital status
- Education and employment
- Job title, roles and responsibilities
- Family type/size
- Household income
- Budget, buying habits
- Types of publications or news outlets they read
- Their motivations
- Their goals
- Pain points and challenges
- What keeps your personas up at night?
- What they value
- Marketing message (what can we say to alleviate their pain points and reach their goals)
- What we can do to help them
Mary’s target group of senior citizens/retirees is rather large, so for this exercise she is going to narrow down to a subset of that segment that has the following characteristics:
- Age range: 60-70
- Gender: Female
- Marital status: Married
- Family type/size: Traditional, with children and grandchildren
- Income: Pension that ranges from $20,000-$30,000/year
- Education: High School
- Budget: up to $150 per month flexible income
- Content and media use: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram
- Their motivations: Wants additional income without “going back to work” and wants to achieve a long-term dream
- Their goals: Support self through retirement
- Pain points and challenges: Fear of starting something new, limited budget, never started a business before, money is tight, what will people think if I fail?
- What keeps your personas up at night? Economic uncertainty, fear her grandchildren won’t be economically secure
- What they value: Family, tradition BUT economic independence that was unavailable to her as a young woman
- Marketing message: We understand the sacrifices you took to get here when you were younger, so let us help you the way you helped your family. You can do it!
- What we can do to help them: 1 on 1 coaching offers, constant reassurance that they are not selfish for doing this, digestible information on the economy to assuage fears (not too high level).
Step 3: Give Your Persona an Name and Identity
For this step, you’re going to bring your persona to life, give him or her a name, and make them real.
To help with this step, do an internet search on your persona and browse images of real people. Find a picture of someone that would look like your persona, give them a name, and create a story. That way, you will be able to create relevant content that speaks directly to them.
Mary’s persona is named Everyoung Evelyn. She’s 65 years old and in great health. All three of her children have left home and she has five grandchildren she adores. She is grateful for everything she has, but feels the pain of mounting bills and economic uncertainty.
She’s always wanted to start her own business, but due to being a young mom and participating in a traditional family structure didn’t allow it.
Now as a retired woman in her 60s, she doesn’t know where to begin. Her idea is to create stylish clothing for active people her age. She’s always worked out and has a great figure — for her age is just a number! At the same time, most clothes at the department store look drab and boring, while at the same time the stuff in the trendier departments is either too tight or revealing.
Evelyn is talented, hardworking, and has a lot of time on her hands — she just needs some guidance to get going!
Step 4: Create “Before” and “After” Scenarios
Your next step is to create the ideal future for your persona by clarifying her “before” and “after” scenarios. Think about how your persona feels, sitting in front of their computer, doing internet searches, and trying to find a solution to their problem. Once you have a clear picture, answer the following questions:
- How do they feel at this moment?
- What is their level of self-esteem?
- How do they spend their day?
- What do they believe their status is with family and friends?
Once you complete the above exercise, do it again - but this time answer the questions after they have purchased your product or service. Create a dream scenario for your persona — a true happy ending!
For this exercise, Mary is picturing Evelyn endlessly scrolling on Facebook, watching YouTube videos, and searching for advice on starting a business.
Here are the answers to the questions for both the “before” and “after” scenarios:
- How does she feel? Anxious, worried about the future, bored, confused, inundated with information
- What is her level of self-esteem? Not as high as it used to be. Low.
- How does she spend her day? Doing the “same old” things she always did: shopping for food, cooking, cleaning, watching TV shows that aren’t interesting anymore
- What does she think her status is with family and friends? Much loved grandma that doesn’t do much besides cooking and cleaning (her idea and not necessarily reality!)
- How does she feel? Excited about the future, proactive, resourceful, innovative, and successful!
- What is her level of self-esteem? Super-high! She got a new haircut, and is looking super stylish!
- How does she spend her day? Making clothes, meeting with customers, and taking her family out to dinners with her newly earned cash!
- What is her status with family and friends? Much loved grandma and entrepreneur businesswoman! Someone everyone admires and looks up to as a role model for independence in the digital age.
Include lots of details to make your “before” and “after” scenarios as real as possible. You can even find stock pictures like the ones below to create a dream scenario that your ideal customers will love!
Step 5: Create Content that is Tailored to Your Persona
Now that you have your personas outlined in clear detail (make sure to grab that free persona template if you haven’t yet!), you can create content that speaks to their pain points, desires, and goals. Some examples of content types include:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Social media and paid search ads
With Everyoung Evelyn in mind, Mary has created a persona marketing strategy to target her specific segment with the following types of marketing content:
- Coaching Webinars
- YouTube videos
- Facebook posts
- Instagram stories
- Blog posts
Many social media platforms make audience targeting easy. Mary’s job is to create content that speaks directly to that group of people so when they see that content they feel like it was written specifically for them.
Looking For More Ideas For Buyer Personas? We’ve Created Hundreds Of Them!
This quick guide is just the beginning of your persona-based marketing journey. At BridgeRev, we can help you create personas with laser-focused precision that magnetize the best customers to your products and services.
Book a complimentary assessment, and we’ll show you how!
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Ashley Quintana, M.S., B.A.
Ashley Quintana is a co-founder of Bridges. In her role, she develops, leads, and executes digital marketing strategies for the company’s growing client base, including a Fortune 500 subsidiary and an NBA basketball team. Ashley’s work can be found in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science, and she is an OKC.biz 40 Under 40 honoree for her leadership in business and community. She frequently speaks at universities, churches, and conferences on marketing, diversity, and business.