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No matter the industry, profession or size of your business, there’s arguably never been more information available about your current customers and target audiences. At the same time, it’s never been easier to get overloaded with the amount of data at your fingertips. For all of the ways we can measure marketing campaign progress and performance — and therefore customer behavior — through trends and analytics, it’s just as important to keep the actual people making up the rows in your latest spreadsheet at the forefront of your digital marketing plans.


To keep important audiences top of mind in an efficient way, and to uncover new approaches for communicating or delivering value, developing marketing personas is a must.

Personas can take many forms. Often, they are assigned catchy names to help define who they’re meant to represent. The desired outcome is consistent: The creation of a distinct avatar that represents your customers by blending actual pain points and feedback with demographic data and digital behavior trends, such as keywords used in search or an analysis of the top performing pages on your website.

Persona parameters can be fine-tuned to fit specific market segments, current or prospective customers, and seniority levels, to name a few. Guardrails like these are helpful for setting a project scope at the start. It’s important to know how you will implement these personas, or why now is a good time to dig up insights through deep research.

Alternatively, it’s equally valuable to leave plenty of room in the process to allow your research and findings to shift the outcome as initially expected. Persona research yields important findings about your business that can only help to inform what comes next. The work of researching and building marketing personas is its own reward in and of itself. In short, the process needs room to breathe.


Built on research

Generally speaking, building personas should consist of some combination of primary and secondary research. Primary research includes surveys or discussions with integral members of your business, both internal stakeholders such as leadership and key sales team members, as well as external audiences including decision-makers in customer organizations, both new and longstanding, and those who influence those decision-makers.


Armed with actual insights from interviews and surveys, make personas three-dimensional by diving deep into all digital resources of data available to you. Website analytics and platforms such HubSpot or Salesforce are often deep wells of information. So are social media audience insights, competitor analysis, and industry or trade publications and online hubs.


Ultimately, personas should help answer directional marketing and communications questions specific to your business. They should be useful references to guide upcoming decisions and campaigns, not simply static presentations viewed once.


The buyer’s journey

Finally, to help give personas an added dimension beyond the research itself, take them on a customer journey. For example, simulate your personas — and all you now know about their behaviors and needs — going through the buyer’s journey stages of Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

How are they currently first learning about you? How do you want them to be finding you? What needs can you address, or questions you can answer, through targeted content when prospects are closing in on a decision? How can you keep current customers engaged and excited post-decision?

By using a buyer’s journey to organize the waves of information that come in from persona research, insights become actionable in a real way. You start to understand not only what information your audience is seeking, but what type of content it could potentially be, and when they want to see it during their decision-making process.

Through analyzing the digital data, and adding the valuable opinions of people who matter most to your organization, a vision of your target audience that is rooted in reality begins to take shape.

Name your personas if you want. Just remember where they came from.


The Digital Journey Starts with Customer Personas

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Griffin Gotta |
Director of Digital Strategy

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