Personas are People too

Buyer personas can be wonderful pieces to help inform marketing strategy, content and even product development. However, all too often they are stale documents full of cold, demographic information that are as life-like as…well, a piece of paper. When they’re viewed as just another “check the box” item, they become too general, too basic and not informative.

By turning a persona into a person, you gain better knowledge of how a person reacts to the world around them. This understanding can help drive better decisions on how to position and message your product or service. In the end, a person will buy your product, not a generalized group of personas.

The most elevated buyer personas contain a little nugget of information that isn’t commonly known about that particular title, user case or vertical.  It’s that little bit of information that we didn’t know before and now helps drive the business. It’s that new fact that brings the persona to life.

Become an investigative reporter

When writing a buyer persona profile, it’s important to not get too involved in the demographics of it all. Instead of thinking as a scientist getting all the facts on paper, think more as part psychologist, part investigative reporter, and really dig into the essence of the person. Because that’s just it – a persona is a person. Personas aren’t just job titles, they are people with motivations, goals, and dreams. They buy stuff – but do you really know how or why?

Get your creative juices flowing

If you’ve been at the marketing game for a while, like me, you may have moments where you can’t think of all the questions to ask to get to the core of a persona. Hopefully this persona framework helps get the creative juices flowing and provides some inspiration.

Let’s start with the framework of a good buyer persona. Then, we’ll get into a few details and questions to make sure it’s specific enough, includes interesting new pieces, and that you have an “aha moment.”

Buyer Persona Framework and Foundations

The persona framework sections gather foundational information to build your messaging framework, especially key pain points, problems, and how you can address them. It also helps inform the target audience as well as any gatekeepers or key influencers. Much of this information can be directly inputted into your positioning canvas, framework, content briefing, or marketing strategy documents.

  1. Demographics: The most basic, foundational piece to any good buyer persona.
  • Definitely include all you can about age, gender, education, and background. This information will help you decide who to target when you go to build an audience.
  • Title and career path are also important. Include where they have been and where they aspire to go. There may be many paths so highlight a couple top ones. 
  • You may also want to think about whether there are geographical, vertical or use case considerations. The more specific you can make it, the better. 
  • Do not include details about marriage and kids – the persona should feel like a person without stereotyping and be specific enough without getting dangerously specific. 
  1. Goals and Measurement: Aside from the obvious answers around revenue and cost, think about what their bonus may be tied to and whether there are metrics around employee satisfaction, recruiting, and retention. In addition, be sure to dig into any pandemic changes to measurement.
  2. Key pain points: List out what’s difficult about their role. Then, add in how much of their role is strategic vs. tactical and how they find new business opportunities. Bonus points for figuring out what they do to outpace the competition.

Bring the buyer persona to life and inform content strategy

Now, let’s dig into how you really turn your persona into a person. The typical buyer persona does a great job of informing key target information and pain points. But a real person has feelings, dreams, and even biases that influence their daily decisions and inform how they may address work solutions.

A good characteristic and motivation section brings the persona to life and pulls forth great information to inform content strategy. Taking the time to research these deeper topics creates insights into both where and how your product fits in their solution framework. You may learn things to inform not just positioning and messaging, but channel, customer segments, and even product features.

To help you dig into the essence of your persona, I’ve compiled a list of useful questions. Here are 10 key questions you can ask to create a robust characteristics and motivation section full of insights:

  1. What is their personality type? Are they a politician? A fixer?
  2. What are they motivated by? Promotion, industry awards, articles, employee development?
  3. Why do they have the role they have?
  4. What is their next role?
  5. Are they a change agent or satisfied with the status quo?
  6. Are they visible or private? Introvert or extrovert? Are they well liked?
  7. Do they like to go to conferences? 
  8. Where do they get their information to drive decisions?
  9. Do they come from a technical background? What do they like to learn about?
  10. Are they philanthropic? Active with their alma mater? What are their typical outside pursuits?

These aren’t easy questions to answer. This is where your part psychologist, part investigator mindframe needs to come into play. 

Think about: How someone looks at the world tells you how they may look at you.

Dig deeper

Start by making a list of influential people in the vertical/persona group you want to target. Then, look for key articles about them or written by them. Search through LinkedIn for clues on career paths, interests, and non-profit work. Consider setting up a handful of interviews.

Your “aha moment”

With the right questions you can get beyond the standard buyer persona build and into a world full of great information and “aha moments.” These key pieces to the puzzle bring to life the motivations of your target persona and add flavor to your content endeavors. Instead of a generic, non-specific, title-based persona you’ll move beyond demographics with new, interesting information. 

After all, personas are people too.

For further reading about buyer personas, check out our blog post “4 Tips to Building Powerful Buyer Personas” by Aventi COO and Co-founder Sridhar Ramanathan and B2P Chief Prospect Officer, Wayne Cerullo.