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“Personas” are a buzz word in the marketing world – in fact, the term has become so common that it’s in danger of falling into the annals of meaningless jargon that people throw around, but stop paying attention to.

From inbound marketing, to sales leads, to social media strategies, “personas” are buckets that teams classify their buyers into, without doing enough research into whether their persona categories make sense (anymore), or if they were even classified correctly to begin with. Having personas defined seems to check some sort of marketing box, and that’s often where the process ends.

Which is a dangerous trap to fall into.

Because creating accurate personas – and crafting your product, marketing, and sales strategy around these personas – is one of the most powerful sales strategies a company can take.

Let’s break down why.

First off, your audience and buyers are not one homogenous lump

Okay, so let’s start off with the basics. Unless you’re selling custom ballet point slippers exclusively to the principal female dancers of the San Francisco Ballet, you are not in the homogenous product category. It’s safe to say that almost no product falls into a homogenous-buyer category. Even within highly specialized industries, such as cybersecurity endpoint detection software, there are still very distinct categories of customers whom you need to understand and message to. A mid-level security analyst at a firm with 10,000 employees is an entirely different customer from a Chief Information Security Officer at a startup with 200 employees, yet they both may be looking at your endpoint solution. If you’re trying to speak to them the same way, it’s likely you’re going to be missing some key pain points and omitting opportunities to better catch their attention.

Therefore, start there: Recognizing that you have distinct buying personas within your customer-audience. And you know what? It’s totally okay if you don’t understand who they all may be, or how they’re different from each other. We’ll get to that point in a minute.

Take some educated guesses who your buyers are

It’s a fascinating phenomenon that even in our hyper-data world, companies are still frequently at a loss about who exactly buys their products. But you can probably make some assumptions. Talk to your sales team – who are they interacting with the most frequently? Who do they seem to have the most success with? Once you’ve chatted up your sales team, head over to your social marketing folks. Who do they build their campaigns around? What seems to drive the most traffic? If you have some data folks in house, pick their brains, too. What types of patterns are they seeing in clicks and conversions?

From these conversations, you should be able to put together a basic idea of various job titles, age splits (Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers), and industry types for your consumers. Segment them as much as you’re able to – this data will come in handy for the next step.

Hire a firm who knows how to do market research with personas

Once you’ve identified who your buyers most likely are, hand this data over to a market research firm. Okay, so for the sake of a good illustration, let’s say that you work with us – InterQ Research – on this project. Our process would be to take your preliminary categories and use this to build a survey. Depending on the project and product, we’d deploy it exclusively to your customers, or to a broader audience to see how your product fits into their overall purchasing patterns. This helps us to distill down distinctions between buyer types. We then plug in the findings from this survey into secondary research databases (MRI is one of our go-to’s). This allows us to look at broader patterns within persona populations, so we can measure attitudes, household makeup, demographics, favorite brands, etc.

After doing some distilling and hunting, we’ll form enough of a persona profile to start recruiting for the qualitative portion of our research. We may use a methodology of focus groups, in-depth interviews, or even ethnographies to give us up-close and elaborate feedback from people who fit within your personas.

The qualitative aspect of persona research is really key, because it allows us to tease out attitudes, behaviors, and opinions from your buying audiences. All of this data, collectively, is then filtered into a final report. The report gives your team a go-to-market strategy on how to develop products for, market to, and sell to the very diverse population who you want to buy your product.

Don’t take persona marketing lightly

Getting persona categories correct takes a lot of work, and it requires research – both quantitative and qualitative. If you make general assumptions and box people into personas you think make sense, you are missing out on some key opportunities to better capture your audiences’ attention. Setting up personas correctly and following the strategy to reach them is one of the most powerful drivers you can take to increase sales and build your brand.

Interested in persona research? Request a proposal today >