What Are Personas?

By InterQ intern, Kiana Walden

Think about it… how many times have you heard the word “persona” used in the marketing world? Countless times, right? At this point, “persona” has been hashed out so often that it’s nearly been lost in the abyss of meaningless marketing jargon. 

What is a “Persona” anyway? It’s exactly what it sounds like- an image of your quintessential buyer. So what’s the problem?

From inbound marketing, to sales leads, to social media strategies, “personas” are buckets that people use to place buyers into, without doing the research to ensure their “persona” buckets are correct or if they even make sense. It’s as if people are mindlessly crossing it off their marketing to-do list without rhyme or reason. 

This is a dangerous spiral because creating accurate personas is important- it is one of the most powerful yet underrated sales strategies a company can take.

Here’s why…

Audience and buyers are not homogeneous!

Most likely, you are not in the homogeneous product category (unless, for example, you’re selling custom socks exclusively to the executive board of the San Francisco Sock Society). Similarly, almost no products fall into the homogenous-buyer category. Even within highly specialized industries, like cybersecurity endpoint detection software, there are still very specific customer segments whom you need to understand and speak to. A mid-level security analyst at a firm with 10,000 employees is a completely different customer than 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’ll miss some key pain points and omit opportunities that would better catch their attention.

Start there. Start by recognizing you have distinct buyer personas within your customer audience. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t completely understand who they are or how they’re different from each other. That brings us to our next point.

WHO are your buyers? Make educated assumptions!

Even in our data driven world, companies are often unsure about who exactly buys their products. Here’s how you can make educated guesses. Firstly, talk to your sales team: Who are they interacting with the most? Who are they having the most success with? Once you gather this information, talk to your social marketing team: Who are they building their campaigns around? Which of these campaigns are driving the most traffic? If you have a data team, ask them if they’re seeing patterns in clicks and conversions?

After these conversations, you should have some basic demographics: job titles, age, and industry types for your consumers- which you’ll want to segment as much as you can because this information will be useful for the next step.

Hire a firm that is able to do market research with personas! 

You’ve identified who your buyers most likely are- now it’s time to hand your data over to a market research firm. Let’s say that, for illustration purposes, that market research firm is us – InterQ Research. We would start by using your initial segments to build a survey. We’ll conduct this survey, depending on the project and product, solely to your customers or to a wider audience to observe how your product correlates with their overall purchasing pattern. From this, we can extract differences between buyer types and plug our findings into a secondary research database (MRI is one of our favorites) that will allow us to evaluate attitudes, household types, demographics, favorite brand, and more, by allowing us to look at broader patterns within persona populations.

After doing some digging, we’ll put together enough of a persona profile to begin drafting the qualitative portion of our research. During this portion, we use a methodology of focus groups, in-depth interviews, or even ethnographies to give us intimate and detailed feedback from people who fit within your personas. 

The qualitative aspect of persona research is essential because it gives us the ability to draw out behaviors, attitudes, and opinions from your buying audience. We filter all of this data into a final report that gives your team a go-to market strategy on how to develop products for, market to, and sell to your divergent population of potential buyers.

Don’t underestimate the power of persona marketing

All in all, capturing accurate personas requires qualitative research, quantitative research, and a lot of work. Making broad assumptions and placing personas into buckets you think make sense might result in missed opportunities to grab your audience’s attention. Assembling accurate personas and employing the strategy to reach them is one of the most powerful tools you can use to build your brand and increase sales.

Interested in doing persona research? Request a proposal today >