Buyer personas: everyone knows they need them, but not everyone knows how to use them. Many businesses have built personas in the past, only for them to collect digital dust in an unopened file.
While the process of persona development itself can be enlightening, we don’t just create them as an academic exercise. Personas should deliver ongoing value to your organization, assisting you with sales enablement, content creation, training, and more.
|What is a buyer persona?
HubSpot describes buyer personas as “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research.”
In other words, buyer personas are profiles — often containing details like demographics, job titles, pain points, and behaviors — that help you effectively market and sell to different types of customers based on their unique traits.
As a full-service digital agency, we’re experts at not just creating buyer personas, but also using them to drive strategy. Here are some lessons we’ve learned about maximizing the ROI of your buyer personas:
Make your personas easy to use
Developing accurate, actionable buyer personas requires gathering a lot of background information, much of which goes far beyond simple demographics. For example, for each persona, you might collect details about:
- The KPIs that matter most to them
- Specific sources (e.g. industry publications) where they look for information
- How likely they are to interact with marketing emails, digital ads, or social media posts
With all the work that goes into creating that bigger picture, it’s tempting to include every possible detail in your persona documentation so nothing gets “wasted.”
However, it’s important to remember that ideally, your personas will be used by almost everyone on your marketing and sales team, from marketing managers to copywriters, graphic designers, and ad buyers. Not everyone will be willing to dig through a 30-page persona deck to find a few bullet points, so it’s best to create a condensed, easy-to-use summary of each persona.
When we develop personas at Salted Stone, we try to limit the information about each persona to one to two slides. In cases where more information is required, we’ll create additional condensed “placemat” versions with the most important persona details.
Update your personas annually
We often ask clients to share their existing persona documentation with us. Occasionally, we’ll receive a document that was last updated five years ago and a statement along the lines of, “Here you go, but nobody really looks at these anymore.”
Whether you’re working with B2C or B2B buyer personas, as your industry and organization change over time, your personas should change, too — it’s not a one-and-done process.
We recommend yearly reviews to make updates based on changes like:
- New product and service offerings
- New jobs titles or jobs to be done
- New hubs of knowledge where your persona may be searching for answers to their questions (industry sites, conferences, courses, etc.)
- Shifts in the competitor landscape
- Shifts in habits and preferences
- Decision criteria updates
These updates can be made relatively easily with one collaborative meeting. Just remember, the longer you let your personas sit without updating them, the more effort it will take to get them back in working condition.
Extend personas to specific channels
When we create buyer personas, we’re laying the foundations for all the different parts of your marketing and sales universe, including your website, paid media, email, events, and more.
To get the most out of your personas, it’s important to do a little preliminary work extending each persona for the specific channel you’re working on. The best way to do this is through task analysis, the study of how users complete tasks to achieve their goals.
For example, these two personas have different tasks:
Sponsor persona tasks
Decision-maker persona tasks
Think about the subtasks associated with each task, how each persona would approach them, and the channels they’re most likely to use. That will help you apply your personas accurately across various channels.
Don’t let personas box you in
Buyer personas are a great starting point for developing strategic ideas, creating new content, and expanding your products and services. But they’re rarely comprehensive — just because someone isn’t detailed in your persona documentation doesn’t mean they’re not important to your business.
As a rule, we recommend never using personas to say no to an idea, at least not without first validating its other merits.
For example, if you’re a cyber risk consultancy servicing a C-Suite audience, it’s easy to conclude that your buyers are too educated to read awareness-level blog posts on cybersecurity, or that they don’t have time to read an in-depth ebook.
But even if your primary personas are less likely to engage with that particular content, it may offer other benefits. Will it be of interest to your secondary personas? Will it help you build thought leadership and authority in your field? Is it a good opportunity to improve your SEO strategy? Then it’s likely worth doing!
Build personas that deliver
Some people think buyer personas are obsolete, but that’s often because they’ve let theirs become obsolete. In our view, buyer personas are still a foundational part of any marketing or sales strategy — it just takes some active work to get the most value from them.