Marketing personas are the cornerstone of an effective content strategy. You need to create enough of them to reach your targets, but not so many that you fragment your message.
A persona is a way marketers used to think of as their target audience. It used to be quite broad. They might say, ‘I’m targeting females aged 35 to 45, tertiary educated, living in a particular capital city’. Then they would buy space on TV or radio, or in magazines or newspapers, that reached people like that.
It’s not just marketers. For years, publishers have used personas to understand their ideal readers. Many years ago, a publisher I worked at used to have a cardboard cutout of their persona in the corner of each magazine’s office. Magazines are often published by people who aren’t the intended audience. They need to keep looking at that person and testing their ideas.
For example, FHM magazine would have a 19-year-old boy. They made up a name for him (Bruce), photographed an ‘ideal’ version of him, and made a cardboard cutout, which stood in the office.
Then when we had an editorial meeting, we would be discussing an idea that excited us. But before we committed to doing it, we would look over at the cardboard cutout and ask, ‘Is Bruce excited by that?’
Marketing personas for non-publishers
The idea of a marketing persona for marketers generally is to define a target audience and express that as a real person. We give them a name. We’ll it’s Sally, not “woman aged 35-45”. She’s exactly 37 years old, not just part of an age group.
It’s less about creativity than it is about empathy. You create circumstances for your marketing personas. That way you can test your ideas against that. Finally, you ask yourself what Sally would be looking for from your business. What problems does Sally have that you can solve?
The number of marketing personas you develop really depends on the business, but we recommend you try to limit it to four. If you start getting more than four, it’s hard to focus on conversion and sales goals. Because your workflows and nurturing process would need so much content.
The buyer’s journey for different marketing personas
Each persona will have different questions they’re asking on their buyer’s journey. It depends on whether they’re learning what their problem is, or if they’re at the end and deciding which solution they want to go with.
Even if you have a wide range of different products, you can still draw that line. For example, a motor vehicle company might have lots of models of cars, but they would be able to break those down to key personas. A small commercial vehicle would have a tradie as the marketing persona. Small city cars are all targeting a maximum of two personas: young first or second car buyers, or families buying it as a second car.
B2B versus B2C marketing personas
The pain points tend to be different between B2B and B2C. In a B2B market pain point might be, if buying this software solution goes bad, ‘I’m going to look bad, so I need to know that this product is not going to fail’. For a business market, the implications of that happening are worse than it might be for a consumer. The consumer may think, “Yeah I bought something and it didn’t work, and I’m upset about that.”
One of the biggest differences would be the channels that they hang out on. If you’re focusing on a consumer market then social media is in Facebook. Interestingly a lot of B2B is moving towards Facebook. Facebook measures both our professional and our personal lives, but traditionally you’d look more to LinkedIn and some other networking sites for a B2B market.
Creating marketing personas is an exercise in empathy with your customers. Once you have an empathic understanding of what their problems are, you can match your products to the solutions to those problems.
It’s clear how that would fuel a content marketing strategy. The content you produce is helping people realise that solutions to their problems exist and that they can get those solutions from you.