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YOU TALKIN’ TO ME? : The art of personas

Cher Fuller
Senior Digital Strategist

Standing on a busy street corner, yelling at passing pedestrians is just as effective as shouting your marketing message into the hollows of the internet.

If you don’t target the right people and seek to understand your audience, your message will miss the mark completely—and you’ll waste your marketing dollars. This is where persona-building saves the day.
This is my best friend, Tori. We grew up in the same state, in the same town, and on the same street since we were three years old. We were both born two weeks apart, cheered on our high school cheerleading teams, went to the same university, and as adults, now coach cheerleaders. We’ve both relocated to Portland from college, have the same median household income, are active on social media, and love to travel and enjoy food from around the world.
Based on our demographics, traditional marketing would lead us to believe that Tori and I are the same target audience.

THIS COULDN’T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH

Individuals are complex. We can’t fully define someone based on surface-level attributes or expressed interest in one thing. As marketers, when we do this, we take customers down a journey not meant for them, crafted around sweeping assumptions.
So where does traditional marketing fall flat with Tori and me? Tori is a small business owner and mother to three children, all under the age of five. Her husband is a full-time police officer who co-owns their small business. They spend their evenings at the gym they own together, running classes and talking about preschool lessons and what animal-themed math their son is doing this week on the drive home.
I am single, live downtown, work at an agency in a full-time salaried position, and enjoy spending my evenings at happy hour with friends or watching Netflix peacefully with my pug after a workout at Orange Theory.

My best friend and I have different reasons for emotionally responding or not responding to a brand, or a need in our life for their product.

How can you make sure your marketing speaks authentically to the right people?


CREATE USER PERSONAS

Personas are fictional individuals who represent your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers. They go beyond customer demographics by also considering behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detail you build to this “person,” the more real they’ll feel to you and your team—making your strategy, content, and design decisions feel more authentic and personalized.
Building personas is a fun, creative way to wrap your brain around your brand’s unique and diverse clientele. Your brand should have 3-5 personas that represent different personality types and different lifestyles.

Start with the basics


NAME

Yes, give them a name.


OCCUPATION

What is their day job?


LOCATION

Where do they live?


EDUCATION

Highest level of education completed?


AGE

How old are they?


SALARY

How much do they make a year?


INTERESTS

What do they enjoy doing for fun? With their family? What are they passionate about? What do they wish they had more time for?


Then dive in


PRIOR EXPERIENCE WITH YOUR PRODUCT OR SIMILAR PRODUCTS

Is your persona a repeat customer? Are they experienced with this product? Are they new to your brand? Their experience level dictates how you introduce them to your product and how you retain them.


MOTIVATIONS IN USING YOUR PRODUCT

Why does your persona use your product? Do they care how your product is made, what it’s made of, who manufactures it, or how it’s shipped or sourced? Understanding your users’ motivations can help you strategically create brand loyalists.


ROLE IN PURCHASING DECISIONS

Do partners agree that your product is worth what it costs? Or does your persona buy your item without another person’s input? Is your persona buying for someone else, or is it meant for them?


BUDGET RANGE

How much are they willing to spend on your product?


TOP THREE CONCERNS

In your persona’s day-to-day life, what are their top three concerns? Financial security? Independence? The wellbeing of children? Identifying those outlying factors, separate from your brand, can help you understand why your customers make the day-to-day decisions they make.


CURRENT MEDIA CONSUMPTION

Are they on social media? Which channels? How do they get their news? Do they research news stories on their desktop computer? What do they use their email for? These answers can pinpoint where to digitally talk to your persona. Not everyone is on Instagram, so why would you build an Instagram-only campaign?

 
At the end of this exercise, you should be able to identity 3-5 different personas who feel like real people: your living, breathing customers. Now when you go into team brainstorms or need to personalize your marketing towards a specific segment, ask yourself, “Does this content resonate better with Tori or Cher?”

Answering this question will help you craft meaningful, personalized campaigns for the right people.

Cher Fuller
Cher Fuller, Senior Digital Strategist at eROI.