How to Create Personas

This is the 10th post of a 50 article series for beginners building marketing at B2B startups.

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For most B2B companies, there are several people involved in purchasing and using your product. There might be an end user, decision maker and influencer. When you are building your marketing story and demand generation strategy, consider how you can reach each of these people and what messages will persuade them to take a desired action (i.e. provide their contact details and become a lead). The key to doing this effectively is using personas.

A persona is simply a detailed description of your target customer, outlining their demographics, behavior and preferences. Consider the following steps to determine your personas:

1. Make a list of everyone your sales and customer success team interacts with

Start with the following questions:

  • Who does a sales rep speak with first when a demo request comes in?
  • Who often joins the meeting to see a demo of your product?
  • If someone wants to buy, do they need permission from someone else?
  • If you go to your customer’s office, who would be interacting with your product?

2. Group those people into categories

Once you have made a list of people who interact with your product or sales process in some way, think about how you can assign them to a category according to job title or role.

For my team, we sell to gym operators. Our personas include the gym’s general manager, front desk staff, personal trainers, class instructors, etc. There are many people that interact with our product in different ways.

3. Give each category a name, picture and outline details

Once you have determined some broader categories (e.g. general manager and personal trainer), brainstorm details about this category. Consider answering the following questions:

  • How old are they?
  • What is their salary?
  • What is their level of education?
  • Where do they live?
  • What are the most difficult parts of their job?
  • What are their outside interests?
  • Who do they interact with the most?
  • What characteristics are typical of their personality?
  • What metrics are used to measure their success?
  • What publications do they read and what events do they attend?

You should outline every nook and cranny of this persona. Doing so will help you craft marketing campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them.

Every company has a different number of personas, although it’s most common to have 3-10 of them.

Using Personas

Once you have these personas outlined, here are some key uses for them:

1. Segmenting marketing campaigns

When personas are defined, you can segment your marketing to appeal to different types of people. For example, if you are sending an email campaign, you might write 3 different versions of the email copy, each applying to a different persona. This increases the probability that each will open and click.

2. Sorting contact lists

When personas are defined, you can more easily understand your contact database and see if you are engaging with the most impactful people. For example, if you find that the majority of the leads in your database are not the decision maker persona, perhaps you need to tweak your marketing messages and channels to better appeal to more valuable leads.

3. Excluding irrelevant content

When personas are defined, you can ensure that contacts do not receive marketing messages that are irrelevant to them. For example, if my team creates a piece of content targeted at how personal trainers would use our product, but we send it to the front desk staff in a gym, those leads will probably will be much less likely to engage. Furthermore, sending contacts content that is not relevant to them degrades the trust that you build with inbound marketing. The goal is to only send the most relevant content so contacts are more likely to open your emails and convert on your landing pages.

4. Smart website content

Finally, when personas are defined, you can use your marketing automation system to display different website copy or graphics to different personas. Remember, this is done via closed loop marketing since we have stored a cookie on lead’s computers and thus can track their activity on our website and with our content.

How to get started:

Your marketing automation system will likely have a tool to define personas and then use them as a field to collect in forms and segment lists. For example, in my landing page forms we ask for “job title” which correlates to our personas:

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This post is part of a 50 article series on startup marketing

Greg Skloot is a technology entrepreneur and marketer. He is currently VP Growth at Netpulse, the #1 provider of mobile apps for health clubs and a $40M VC backed software company in San Francisco. At Netpulse, he leads marketing, operations and strategic growth. Previously, Greg was CEO and Co-Founder of Attend.com, where he built the initial product, raised $3M and hired a team of 30. Contact Greg at skloot.org/contact.



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