Even in 2020, marketing personas are still an essential part of the B2B marketer’s toolkit. Here are 23 ways to craft high-performing personas from data.
If you’re looking for account based marketing training, learning how to create effective marketing personas is a good place to start.
Feel free to try these ideas out on your next campaign. This can help you turbocharge any new sales and marketing campaign by revising your own core understanding of your target markets.
Background Research for Your Persona Profiles
Marketing and sales are ultimately about people and individual companies, so don’t be afraid to be specific and targeted. Real people fit real demographics, as do real companies.
Demographics can include anything and everything from where an organization is based within a specific country, city or neighborhood to the company’s yearly revenue in dollars. There are stats and characteristics about individuals, too, like the typical reading comprehension level of a senior IT manager or strategic partnerships manager.
Use what you know to create your persona.
2. Conferences and Tradeshows
Going to a conference to find customers is one thing, but to do persona research it’s quite another. It’s a different mindset. Instead of hunting directly for people you can convert today, it’s time to bring along questions you can answer with your latest conference trip.
In fact, here are some questions worth asking:
- Is there any meaningful difference between the people attending this conference and the customers I want to attract?
- Why should these customers care about my offer?
- Are there any people or companies there that would make a great persona?
- What does their behavior, language, etc. tell me about how to effectively reach and convert them?
- What does this experience teach me about how I can learn more about these individual personas?
It’s entirely possible, for instance, that attending a conference or tradeshow full of your prospects tells you that a particular trend, idea or resource is more influential right now than you could’ve ever realized. Might be time to revamp your brand accordingly.
3. Tutorials and Courses
Tutorials aimed at your prospects are a great way to learn what your target audience:
- Doesn’t know
- Wants to know
- Already knows
From there, it’s easier to start seeing how you can craft content that they’d see as relevant and useful. I.e., perfect topics and ideas for:
- Blog posts
- Whitepaper topics
- Social media posts
- In-person, live events for your audience
If nothing else, it’s also decent competitor research to see what other brands going after the same people are doing.
4. Prospect Hot Spots
A traditional part of marketing and sales; networking, is about more than making personal contacts. Hunt around for where your prospects and customers like to talk online and offline to learn how they really think and what they’re looking for.
Once you’ve found these places, start building a list and keep it around for whenever you need it.
5. Blogs and Media
Similar to #2, find those blogs and online media that attract your customers and read them. This develops your understanding of what already appeals to your targets. It’s hard to know how to bait the hook if you have no clue what fish actually want–also remarkably true about people.
6. Talking to Sales
Assuming you have a counterpart in sales to talk to, this is a great way to get off-the-cuff feedback and ideas on what customers are actually thinking about and concerned about right now.
If you really want an education, ask Salesperson about problems and objections your customers have.
Help from Super Users
7. Listening to Super Users
Or, chat up existing customers. Super users and fans who show high brand engagement with your organization or with your products are the same people you can refer to as resources when you craft a marketing or sales persona.
Seriously, do more listening to these people and less talking. It’s practically a cliche by now, but it really helps.
8. Ideas, Trends and Language
Speaking of listening, if you do your due diligence with persona research, you’ll often find commonalities among your customers in terms of the trends they follow, ideas they have, and language they use.
For example, perhaps you find that:
- Marketing managers often follow martech trends closely
- Working moms like to talk about how much they love their kids
- Pet sitters seek out creative ideas for building their clientele using social media
- Digital marketers describe what they do in terms of creating and managing marketing content that intrigues their readers and builds SEO
You might want to use your marketing persona(s) as working drafts to record these observations as you make them.
How your B2B prospects describe themselves can be illuminating. Maybe the way you describe or think of them differs from how they self-describe–if so, that’s a potential disaster for your marketing. You could be turning off future customers and not even know it.
Wherever your descriptions differ from their self-descriptions, it could be your signal to redo something or make radical changes.
10. Customer Accomplishments
People are proud of things that are core to their own self-understanding and awareness. If your customer’s proud of something, it’s your clue to what matters most to them.
Catch my drift? Customer accomplishments reveal relevance.
11. Other Brands
Your customers’ other brand loyalties can say a lot, if you’re ready to listen. The brands and offers they use can show you:
- What they value
- What marketing and sales strategies work for them
- How they make purchasing decisions
In our personal and professional lives, brand loyalty can also take on an aspirational quality.
12. No Super Users?
Jot a quick list of your top 10 next ideal, perfect-world targets.
Do you know who I’m talking about? If you can’t immediately create a list of ten, go back and open a new browser tab. It’s time to make a list. This is a backwards way of creating a persona, although it can be helpful if you’re preparing a persona for a new product or offer.
Finishing Your Persona Research
When you’re this far along in the process, you’ve likely started collecting a decent amount of background information you can use in your sales and marketing. Now, it’s time to take these next few steps and pull together your new personas.
13. Use Linkedin
A great place to round out your research, LinkedIn can help you make sure your personas actually match up with reality. Try to find real, live people who match up with your descriptions and concepts.
14. Customer Problems
Here, take a list of customer problems (even better if the data is pulled from the customer service or sales department) and test them against your marketing persona.
Is there a match?
15. Check Competitor Content
Now, snoop around through competitor content online. Does this content appeal to your persona?
Although no two companies will end up targeting exactly the same personas, in all likelihood these other companies should have relatively similar profiles to yours. If they don’t, it could be sign that you’re missing something important.
16. Consider Psychographics
Next, ask yourself if your persona is consistent with what you know about the psychographics, or typical behaviors and thinking patterns of your customers. Does your research fit with what you already know? Is it reasonable?
Validating Your Marketing Personas
You desperately need to validate your work now. Let’s find out if you’re on the right track.
An important part of this is using data and information you locate in your research to prove or disprove your findings. If you’re markedly off, you can then begin to troubleshoot your process and discover where you might’ve gone wrong.
17. Content Beta Testing
From here, it’s time to do a quick content beta test. You can take what you have on persona research and begin verifying your personas’ value for content development.
To do this, try:
- A piece of new or regenerated content: Created specifically for your new persona
- Gathering two or three (or more) super users
- Putting together a focus group of sorts by emailing a link
- Asking for opinions and reactions
What did your micro-audience think of your new content? This might help you reshape your personas.
18. Persona Summary
For a summary, you’ll be distilling down your persona into a one or two-sentence description. If you can articulate your persona in a succinct summary like this, chances are decent that you understand your persona a bit better now and can do a good job of reaching that person.
19. Peer Validation
Taking your persona summary, research and content beta test, it’s time to talk with a few peers in your organization and get their opinions and reactions. Be ready to incorporate their feedback.
20. Past Customers
If you can, finding information from past customers during this process may be valuable, too. This includes customers who dumped your brand for a competitor, were priced out, or have any number of reasons for leaving.
Don’t have an open channel to speak with past customers anymore? See if there’s anything they have in common that distinguishes them from your personas and customers. It could be revealing.
21. Customer Beliefs
Through your persona, you may discover core customer beliefs that impact your brand or your customers’ decisions about your offer. Not only should you be keeping track of these, but you should also consider how they change your persona profiles.
22. Real People
And, nothing kills a bad persona like real people. Using real people as the basis of your personas is a good idea and can keep you from the temptation to create content in an echo chamber or for no one at all.
Plus, meeting real people to use for personas helps us leave the office now and then.
23. A Word About Stereotypes
Finally, be mindful of stereotypes as you do your research and write your persona profiles. No persona is the final word on who your customers are and can be.
There’s a tendency sometimes to resort to stereotypes because they’re easy–our brains crave mental shortcuts that help us be better at our jobs. Not only are they not useful, though, but stereotypes are also notoriously damaging and unethical. So don’t use them!
Craft B2B Marketing Personas and Increase ROI
Although you might now be done with creating your new content marketing personas, you should know that account based marketing is never really done. Do you like constant growth? Then you’re not done. Keep refining and revising your personas as you discover more.
Hopefully now you know a bit more about creating personas for the world of B2B marketing and sales. With thorough research, this upfront work can generate significant returns for your content creation and targeting. Account based marketing training is worth the effort–make this the year you learn to think like your prospects.