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What You Need to Know When Creating a Target Persona

Recently, we talked about why buyer personas are so important to your marketing efforts. You can sum the majority of it up into one basic fact: A good target persona improves the customer buying experience.

And that’s super-important, especially in today’s market. According to a study by Salesforce, around 67% of customers say that their standards for good experiences are higher than ever.

Before we dive into how exactly to create a target persona (the next article in this series), let’s talk about what you need to know when creating a persona for your target audience.

The rules here aren’t hard and fast, but they should serve as a primer to help you understand how your personas should work in the grander scheme of your business operation.

Let’s get started.

1. Your target personas should be a good mix of broad and specific.

It’s easy to go overboard when creating a buyer persona. Especially if you’ve got a creative mind and a little spare time, building an ultra-specific customer profile might come naturally to you.

On the other hand, it’s also easy to be too general about the buyer profile that you’re trying to create. You might try to summarize your entire customer base or generalize an entire target market.

So how do you stop yourself from being too broad or too narrow when creating a fictional persona? By applying strategic decision-making during the persona creation process.

Strong buyer personas are able to mix both broad and specific details, but those profile decisions should be based on the buyer’s relationship to your product, the pain points you’re trying to solve, and the common objections that your marketing and sales teams need to overcome.

For example, if you were selling a pair of hiking poles and needed to create a customer profile, getting ultra-specific about every aspect of your customer’s outdoor experience would make sense. You might want to know what activities that your potential customers enjoy, how long they’re typically out on a trip, where they go, whether they stay at campsites overnight or head out into the bush, and more.

You probably don’t need to go super in-depth regarding the type of computer they own or the accounting software they use during tax season. Based on the specific needs that your product is trying to solve for, those data points would be of no use to you.

A good target persona should always be created in relation to the problem that you’re trying to solve and how your customer will interact with it. If it’s not immediately relevant to your sales and marketing agenda, the information can remain fuzzy.

2. Buyer personas are living documents.

We live in a rapidly-evolving world where new technologies, new information, and new circumstances can drastically change the way we think and act.

That’s why, no matter whether you’re building a content marketing campaign for social media or trying to better understand the customer buying process, you should consider your target persona documentation as a living document.

Having a persona profile that is constantly visited, revised, and updated makes it easier to change your marketing message when the market shifts rapidly. It also demonstrates that you’re keeping a steady pulse on your market and are evolving as they evolve.

When you build a marketing persona, especially for your core customer base, make sure you’re keeping an eye on that market so that you can forecast shifts in the market and how your customers are likely to respond to them.

This is also important because knowing and understanding the changes in your target audience gives you the opportunity to adjust your brand story to win new and repeat business with your customers.

If you force your marketing team to work from old information, your marketing messages are far less likely to resonate with your modern customers.

3. Make assumptions and test them to find your ideal customer.

At the end of the day, no matter how much market research you do, you’ll still have to make educated guesses about your target audience. This is true regardless of your market or how complex your target persona might be.

The reason is pretty simple: Your actual customers will vary slightly from the buyer persona that you use no matter how many data points you collect or how many checkboxes you fill in.

That’s why testing your assumptions is so important. Send out customer surveys. Interview current customers. Focus test your marketing techniques.

The hand-to-pulse, direct market information is more valuable than any demographic or psychographic information that you can dig up. Without it, you’re ultimately making an educated guess that may lack the personal feel of a field-tested and marketable persona.

That can cost you, in terms of marketing messages. One survey even pointed out that 90% of consumers say that messages from companies that are not personally relevant are just annoying.

Don’t annoy your customers.

Take the time to test your persona, and take all the steps to get your model as close to perfect as possible.

4. Multiple target personas are okay.

This has been a big realization point for many clients that I’ve worked with on branding and content marketing: No matter your company size, it’s completely okay to have more than one target persona.

This is something that a lot of companies overlook because marketing tends to be easier without this kind of multifaceted segmentation. If you take a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, you’re potentially limiting your specificity when you approach your target market.

The reason multiple target personas make sense for many businesses comes down to either a diversity of products or a diversity of use cases.

With a diversity of products, different personas make sense for different products. If your company makes toothpaste and cat litter, you won’t be able to market those two products to the same audience unless you get creative.

Sound like a stretch? Keep in mind megabrand ARM & HAMMER manufactures both of these things — and they market each of them in a different way. Take a look at this advert for the litter and this one for the toothpaste.

Even in these relatively short ads, they’re clearly addressing different pain points and working to overcome the common objections that are specific to each audience.

And that’s just one example of hundreds out there. Multiple personas make a ton of sense when you’re selling more than one product to a varied audience.

More interestingly, you can also use multiple buyer personas to expand your target audience. This is done by creating a persona that you can use to talk about your new product in an entirely new way to a different audience.

Think about a common product like strike-on-box matches and how many personas you could branch out of that.

You could talk to the outdoorsman who wants to light a fire the old fashioned way when he’s out in the bush. You could talk to the mom who needs the matches in order to light specific products like kerosene lamps and oil stoves. You could even talk to the parent who wants to have everything ready in the event of a disaster.

Each persona here has a different set of needs, concerns, and objections, but one product can satisfy every one of them if it is portrayed in the right way.

Ferreting out those differences and speaking to them in a way that expands your customer base is the true power of persona-based marketing.

5. Getting multiple teams involved in persona creation is a good thing.

In the same way that you should be looking at multiple sources of information while building your target personas, you should also get multiple teams involved in persona creation.

A strong persona is effective through every stage of the sales cycle. Marketing teams use it to anticipate what product features they should highlight and how they benefit the customers. Sales teams use it to understand the customer’s perspective and how to overcome the common objections associated with a specific product. Customer service teams can use it to better understand the product use case and where the customer experience went off the rails.

Every single member of your team will have a different experience with your customer as he or she passes through your sales and marketing funnels. They’ll interact with the customer through different stages of the customer journey — and that’s something you can use to improve your customer experience, buyer’s lifecycle, and audience personas.

Consider this: Most marketing teams never talk directly to the customer. Only the sales guys get to do that. And most sales guys don’t know what adverts are being used to draw people in. Meanwhile, most customer service specialists don’t know what a sales team is saying to your customer in order to get them to buy a product.

Wouldn’t it make sense to have everyone on the same page? Developing a buyer persona is one way to solve much of this dysfunction because it creates a unifying document that everyone understands.

Don’t cheapen the development of your new persona by excluding some of your best resources from participating.

Remember: Your target persona should inform your marketing strategy — not the other way around.

While your overall business strategy will dictate the products or services you create and the direction that you take your company, your marketing strategy is something a little different.

Marketing is the process of speaking to your target audience in a way that compels them to explore purchasing options with your brand. There are a ton of different marketing strategies to make this happen, but the end goal never changes.

By getting the persona right, you’ll be able to talk to your target customer in a way that makes sense to them. While one survey reported that consumers found content that “informs” (40%) and “educates” (28%) to be the most valuable, but that may not be the right approach for your customer or your brand.

By nailing down the specifics involved in creating a strong buyer persona, you can find out how to talk to the decision-makers who matter to your business.

This wraps up the basic things you need to know when creating a target persona, but there’s still more to learn. Stay tuned for the next article in the series, where we cover how to create a persona template.

Need help with your own buyer persona creation? Feel free to get in touch! I’m happy to help.