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What is a Marketing Persona?

A marketing persona is a detailed description of a potential type of customer for your brand’s products or services. You can use marketing personas to help you understand how to create an effective marketing strategy to meet your target audiences’ needs.

Typically, brands will create multiple, fictional marketing personas, each of which captures key characteristics of their various customer segments, and outlines their unique pain points. Each marketing persona might have an associated image (whether a stock photo or a graphic illustration) and a character name. Your marketing organization can then refer to each persona when developing marketing strategies and campaigns, working to ensure that strategies align with the needs of each persona they’re targeting.

Let’s take a closer look at how to build marketing personas, and how to put them into practice.

Creating a Marketing Persona

To develop a marketing persona, you need access to both customer data and independent feedback.

Let’s say you work for an outdoor apparel and sporting goods store and one of the personas you want to target is a wealthy empty-nester who’s interested in exploring the outdoors with all his newfound free time. Let’s call him Sportsman Scott.

In order to build Scott’s persona, you can first dive into all of your customer data to identify and segment similar profiles. You can look at characteristics like:

  • What is their average age?
  • Where do they live?
  • Are they married or single?
  • What is their average household income?
  • What types of careers do they work in?
  • What products are most popular with them?
  • What is their average order volume?
  • What marketing channels do they typically use to engage with your brand (i.e., email, social, SMS, in-app, direct mail, etc.)?

You can pull together all of this data to create a blend of characteristics that represent a segment or single persona—a.k.a. Sportsman Scott. For instance:

Sportsman Scott is 58 years old and lives with his wife in Worcester, MA. He works in financial management and has an annual household income of $240,000 per year. He likes to purchase skiing equipment and apparel, fishing gear, and kayaks. His average order volume is $300, and he typically uses email and direct mail to interact with your brand.

Once you’ve categorized users by persona, it’s important to generate unique insights that help you understand each persona's unique pain points and priorities. To do this, you can conduct online surveys, or even phone interviews, with buyers in this segment to get a better sense of their values and preferences.

Questions you might ask include:

  • What sources of information do you rely on when making a purchasing decision?
  • Why did you choose our company over another company?
  • What is most important to you when choosing which brand to buy from (i.e., price, quality, reputation, etc.)?
  • What types of products are you interested in exploring further?
  • What types of brand interactions do you prefer (i.e., in-store, email, web, catalogue, etc.)?

By collecting these types of insights to add to your personas, you can bring new depth that will help you understand what your customers in that segment are looking for when they’re considering making a purchase, and help you overcome challenges. You can even add color to your personas by including unique quotes from some of the audience members who you’ve interviewed. This will help your marketing team to think of each persona as a real person who they can connect with on an individual level.

How to Use Your Personas

The number of personas you create will vary based on your brand’s audience: you may have just a few, or as many as 20. Make sure that each persona has uniquely defined characteristics so that you can create a strategic marketing plan designed to appeal to each of their needs.

Once your personas are complete, you can build your customer engagement strategy around reaching each of them with custom campaigns and content.

For instance, because you know Sportsman Scott’s preference is for email marketing and direct mail, you can launch campaigns that might begin with an email that uses your catalog to showcase product recommendations based on their past purchases. Then, if they didn’t make a purchase you can send an email promotion with a discount. Your email marketing efforts towards this persona might incorporate their favorite products, such as ski gear and fishing gear, timed to the sporting season that’s about to start.

Another persona, for example, might be Outdoorsy Olivia, a mom who’s focused on getting durable, long-lasting outdoor apparel for her kids, and facilitating fun, family-friendly outdoor adventures. Your campaigns for her might prioritize channels that she’s more likely to respond to, such as push notifications and SMS messages, and they may be timed around events such as back-to-school shopping and winter break.

By developing planned campaigns customized to each of your marketing personas, you can find opportunities to engage with your customers at the point of need, with messaging and themes that are relevant to them. By prioritizing the channels they prefer, you’ll be able to develop consistent brand experiences that help them easily navigate through the sales process.

Moving Beyond Personas into Personalization

By using a sophisticated cross-channel solution like Iterable, you can go beyond segmenting by persona into another level of personalization, all the way to the individual user level.

For instance, you can target customers within your Sportsman Scott persona with customized offers that are based on each actual customer’s own purchase and browsing history, including real-time, triggered campaigns that are launched in response to user events.

Let’s say a customer, who is represented by Sportsman Scott, started browsing your website for road bikes, and looked at a handful of options, but didn’t make a purchase. You can follow up on this visit by emailing them your brand’s ebook, “A Guide to Road Bikes,” to help guide their purchase decision, along with a coupon.

By leveraging marketing personas in combination with personalized content based on each user’s own browsing and purchase history, you can create unique, relevant experiences that will help you build valuable relationships with every customer on an individual level.

Iterable is a cross-channel marketing platform that powers unified customer experiences and empowers marketers to create, optimize and measure relevant interactions and experiences customers love. Leading brands, like Zillow, DoorDash, Calm, Madison Reed, and Box, choose Iterable to power world-class customer experiences throughout the entire lifecycle. Discover our growth marketing solutions for personalization, increasing customer engagement, and more. Discover our platform and schedule a demo today.