What Are Marketing Personas And How Do I Use Them?

In order for any business to truly be successful, it needs to reach the right audience. But how do you determine what audience is right for you? If your business targets too broadly, you’ll waste advertising dollars on the wrong customers. If you target too narrowly, you will miss out on reaching those interested in your company’s offerings. After years of continuous research by marketing scholars, many methods have emerged on how to target customer segments properly - and one really popular method is the concept of marketing personas. If you haven’t heard of this technique or just want to learn a little more about it and how it can help you, keep reading.

So, What Are Marketing Personas? 

Simply put, marketing personas are personified segments of the audience your business is trying to reach. Each persona represents a group of people in your target audience and qualifying characteristics about them. While you obviously can’t put all your customers into 3 or 4 boxes, they are meant to represent customers broadly. (Note: many companies use many more than 4 personas, but for simplicity purposes, I would stick with 3 or 4 if you are new to this technique or are a small business). 

When creating personas, consider things like age, gender, job, income level, hobbies, and other characteristics that may define someone’s purchase behavior. Obviously not every company would and should care about all demographic info, so make decisions on what is relevant to your business. 

Let’s Look At An Example Business 

To help illustrate my point, I’ve come up with a sample business Tuscano, an upscale New York-style deli that sells regular grocery items, as well as prepared foods.

Tuscano's 3 Sample PersonasThe Stay-at-home mother: Age: 45 Gender: Female  Family: Husband and 3 kids Family Income: 100K Job: Homemaker Daily Routine: Gets kids ready for school, takes care of the house, cooks meals Hobbies: Reading, watching movies, spending time with her familyAge: 30  Gender: Male and female  Family: Single or in a non-married relationship Family Income: 75K Job: Financial analyst  Daily Routine: Exercise, Work, Eat, relax or hang out with friends Hobbies: Traveling, going to bars and restaurants, spending time with friends

The Retired Couple:  Age: 70 Gender: Male and female Family: Husband and wife - 2 kids and 5 grandkids  Family Income: 60K from stocks and social security  Job: Retired Daily Routine: Walk around the neighborhood, watch TV, call friends and family  Hobbies: Playing bridge, walking around the neighborhood, visiting grandkids

These are just a few of the traits you can assign to your personas. Since this list is not exhaustive by any means, here are a few more ideas if you want to dive even deeper:

  • Are they impulsive shoppers?
  • What - if any - social media platforms do they use?
  • What keeps them up at night?
  • What are their goals? 
  • How do they wish to receive messages from you?
  •  What would entice them to buy your product? 
  • What would deter them from buying your product?

How Do I Find This Data?

When possible, data should be derived from your past customers through qualitative measures. If your business is just starting out or you have no research on hand, think about who your target audience is or who frequents similar businesses like yours. 

Obviously your 3 or 4 personas are not going to capture everyone that comes into your store - and that’s ok. These personas are meant to help you better understand how a good chunk of your audience behaves - or to help you discover the core of your customer base that is most vital to your overall success. Finally, don’t fret that these marketing personas don’t fit everyone perfectly, they’re not meant to. 

How Do I Use Personas To Improve My Bottom Line?

Now that you’ve created personas, what do you do with them? Well, much like most everything in marketing, there is no clear-cut answer. But here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Change your social media advertising. Facebook ads make targeting audiences by specific demographics incredibly easy, so start shifting your advertising budget to target these audiences rather than using your marketing dollars to target those that don’t match your personas. 
  • Have representative photography. Make sure the people in most of your photography (i.e digital ads, in-store signs, website images, etc.) represent the personas you’ve created.  
  • Refocus your traditional media. Find TV networks, magazines, and events that these personas would frequent and put your marketing dollars to work there.

Even with a bunch of tips and tricks, building your personas can prove challenging. Consider reaching out to marketing professionals for help. They can help with research, building your brand personas, targeting your messaging, or just provide a new perspective for your team. Learn More About Marketing Strategy

Steven Cortese
Written by Steven Cortese
Geography buff, Big Brother fanatic, unofficial world record holder for the fastest human crab walk.

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