Customer or employees care concept 4 of your top persona questions answered
When we kick off a new content strategy plan, one of the first projects we often do is to create audience personas. Here are the top questions we’ve heard from our client partners when discussing the benefits of audience personas:

Q: What is a persona?
A: Simply put, a persona is a snapshot of a person who you want to reach through your marketing efforts. Personas are typically a one- or two-page visual document that includes photos, customer quotes and stories, and information about how that person works, plays, communicates and purchases our product or service.

Audience personas were first used by Web developers to help guide their user-centered design efforts. Designers could better infer what a real person might need if they had a human face, name and real needs to think about. More recently, marketing teams have used personas to help them understand their different audiences and brainstorm content ideas for them. Personas are often created around a job title or position that has buying power or influence over the final decision. It’s amazing to see how different audiences require different information from your company.

Q: What’s covered in a persona?
A: There’s no right or wrong answer about what to include. Identify the information that’s most important to your team. We start with:
Name, photo and memorable description – For example, “Jeremy, the eco-friendly innovator”
Quote – Based on research and interviews, we find a quote that defines this person and what he/she wants from your company
Job title and purchase role – Understanding who is a key decision maker and who is an influencer will definitely change the content created
Day in their life – First-person story describing a typical day in their work and personal life
Challenges/pain points – What’s causing them stress or problems? What keeps them up at night?
Values/motivations – What are they trying to achieve? What are their goals?
Communication habits – Where do they go for information? How do they prefer to communicate with companies? Who are their influencers?
Demographics – Age, marital status, education, income, etc.

Depending on the client and project, we might also include:
Brand relationship – What are their most common objections to the company? What keeps them from buying? Why are they customers? Why are they fans?
Industry facts – Stats to help the marketing team better understand a new or emerging market
Customer spotlight – It can be helpful to add a real-life customer and brief bio
Current buying behavior – If research is available, include what products/services this customer is purchasing
Purchase seasonality – A simple calendar showing when this audience is most likely to be in the market for the company’s products

Q: Why are personas important?
A: Do you have a one- or two-page reader-friendly document that captures all of the information listed above for your target audiences? If your answer is no, then that’s why personas are important.
• Personas are hypothetical stand-ins for your actual audience so you’re not marketing blindly to a demographic.
• They allow you to capture institutional knowledge about customers from the people who work with them the most so you can share it with everybody else at your company.
• They give you a starting point for planning and brainstorming.
• They give you knowledge and power to push back on ideas that don’t meet the needs of the audience.
• They give you fresh topics and ideas to change the conversation with your audience (don’t just talk about product benefits!).

Q: How do personas differ from audience segmentation?
A: Audience segmentation typically requires a lot more research than a snapshot persona. Personas are based on existing research, interviews with company experts, and interviews with customers to bring them to life.

Audience segmentation is the process of dividing an audience into small groups with similar characteristics, wants and needs. They are typically focused on purchasing behavior while personas focus on more than just their interaction with your product. Segmentation projects require more precise research. The results of audience segmentation projects will help with advertising efforts, but they may not provide insights for fresh content ideas or themes.

Segmentation research is a great resource for audience personas, especially when paired with customer or audience interviews and your company’s knowledge.

Hopefully that gives you a better understanding of the purpose, value and benefits of creating audience personas. Use them often to spark ideas, make decisions and measure the potential value of your marketing tactics.

About Patrick McGill

As the managing director of strategy, Patrick is our very own Sherlock Holmes. When he’s not immersed in research, you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling — those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at patrickm@2rm.com.