Tips and Tools For Creating Marketing Personas

Tools & Trends Marketing Theory Digital Strategy Article
20 mins

Creating personas which represent parts of your audience could help you keep your marketing strategy focused on your target customers. This guide will take you through some tips and tools that will help you create effective personas, from persona templates to a facial image generator.

What is a marketing persona?

Let’s start by covering some key questions about what marketing personas are, and how they are used.

A marketing persona is a short biography or profile, describing a made-up person who typifies a segment of a brand’s audience.

Personas often include the following elements:

  • Personal details/demographics, e.g. age, family details, job title, etc..
  • Goals/challenges of this customer
  • Channels used/media preferences, e.g. Instagram, tabloid newspapers, radio, podcasts
  • Quotes from real customers
  • Tailored value proposition (how will the brand help this customer?)
  • Tailored messaging
  • Profile photograph representing the persona

How personas are used in marketing

Personas are used in marketing strategy formulation and marketing delivery as a resource for helping team members focus on serving the target customer.

Typically, a document containing marketing personas will be distributed to team members at the start of a project. The document may also be made available to project stakeholders – including managers or clients – via the team’s cloud storage. This way, anyone on the team can refer to the personas at any time.

Every team member can use marketing personas to make their work better-focused on the target segment, and therefore more customer-centric. E.g.:

  • Marketing strategy – use personas to select best-suited channels, messaging, value proposition
  • Media buying – use personas to select appropriate channels and advertising partners 
  • Content marketing – create content that solves the customer’s problems, and which suits their preferences/characteristics

In theory, any aspect of marketing can be enhanced through greater focus on the target audience. By targeting customers consistently and accurately, we increase the likelihood that goals such as sales and sign-ups will be accomplished. Customer personas are a key resource for keeping marketers customer-focused and primed for success.

How to develop a marketing persona

Phase #1: Gather information

The first step in developing a persona is to gather information about your target audience.

Ideally, you’ll get most of your information from primary market research – meaning that your brand does its own, fresh research. This will help ensure that the personas accurately reflect the brand’s customers or intended audience.

Primary market research methods for developing marketing personas include:

  • Interviews with people in the brand’s audience. This is a particularly effective method for identifying customer pain points and motivations.
  • Audience data analysis. Looking at website analytics and social media analytics can reveal useful audience trends.
  • Interviews with customer-facing team members. These team members may already have strong ideas about the defining characteristics of their customers.

Some marketers also look at secondary market research sources, such as industry reports, in order to identify and develop their customer personas.

Effective customer personas are usually based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative data, mixing measurable facts about customers with statements and details that will help your marketing team understand who these personas represent and what makes them tick.

Phase #2: Identify key audience segments

One of the great things about marketing personas, is that they can help us to talk about groups of customers within a brand’s audience who require a similar marketing approach. In order to attain this benefit, you’ll need to identify important audience segments who share multiple common attributes.

Your key audience segments – and therefore your personas – could be defined according to any of a myriad of factors. Some brands create personas based on revenue factors, e.g. ‘Big spenders’ who generate a high level of monthly revenue, or ‘Dabblers’ who occasionally buy the brand’s products at a relatively low-spending level. Alternatively, personas can be based on demographic variables or customer motivations. We spoke to one National Trust marketer who revealed that their organisation uses segments such as ‘explorer families’ and ‘curious minds’.

Phase #3: Create your personas

Now that you’ve identified the audience segments that your personas will represent, you can go ahead and create each persona.

A marketing persona will typically include components such as demographic details, motivations, media preferences, a profile photograph – and if you represent a B2B brand, job titles. You may find it helpful to use a template that provides guidelines on what to include in each persona. Here are some good examples:

Try to choose what to include in your personas based on what will be useful to your marketing team. This will vary from team to team, so be sure to get some feedback on your personas from teammates. Some teams will appreciate lots of detail about each persona, whereas others will benefit more from simpler personas that focus on the most significant factors for each persona.

Like any other marketing resource, marketing personas can, and should, be subject to continuous improvement. We suggest that you review your personas regularly, and edit them to reflect new learnings or changes in your audience.

Phase #4: Use your marketing personas

Implementing your marketing personas should be the simplest step in this process. All you’ll need to do is distribute a document containing the personas to all relevant team members – probably via email or shared cloud storage.

Although it’s easy to share marketing personas with stakeholders, it can be much trickier to ensure every team member will actually refer to the document. Ultimately, this comes down to communication: telling team members to refer to the personas at the start of a project, and providing feedback on how successfully personas have been used.

Marketing persona tools

Creating, optimising and using marketing personas can all be done more effectively and more easily, with a little help from some carefully chosen tools. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

Best tool for generating personas: Make My Persona

We’ve already touched on this tool briefly, but it’s worth repeating: HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool is a fantastic option for creating persona profiles.

The tool is browser based, so you can simply prepare your persona profile content, head over to the tool on HubSpot’s site, and then insert the details of the persona into the relevant fields. You will then be able to edit the content and add new sections if necessary. The persona can then be downloaded to your computer (although you’ll have to submit some of your personal info to HubSpot first).

Best tool for making in-depth personas: Xtensio User Persona Template

This excellent user persona template tool comes as part of a paid subscription to Xtensio’s suite of document management and collaboration tools.

What we really like about this template is that its format allows you to paint a really in-depth picture of a persona, with sections relating to the persona’s personality, motivations and character traits. If you’re interested in using psychology as a feature of your marketing strategy, this would be a great persona generator to use.

The one big drawback here is that subscriptions to Xtensio start at $8 per month – so before you sign up, consider whether the suite’s other tools would be useful to you.

Best tool for gathering data on audience segments: Google Analytics

We won’t waste anyone’s time by describing Google’s ubiquitous web analytics tool here.

What we do want to get across, is that Google Analytics – or an alternative analytics tool – will likely be crucial to your ability to gather segmented audience data that you can use to create and continually monitor your customer personas.

Best tool for generating persona profile photos: This Person Does Not Exist

This Person Does Not Exist is an A.I.-powered tool that creates life-like images of people who do not actually exist. For the user, the tool is incredibly simple to use: just load the website, and a new image will be created.

The images created by This Person Does Not Exist stitch together facial features using an algorithm known as a generative adversarial network (GAN). Seen as the images do not depict real people, this tool avoids the need to get someone to agree to having their likeness used as a persona profile picture. Simply save a suitable A.I.-generated headshot, and use it for a persona.

It’s worth noting that images from This Person Does Not Exist sometimes feature strange distortions – A.I. is an emerging field of technology, after all. Just keep refreshing the page until you find a blemish-free image that matches one of your personas.

Best free tool for finding consumer reports: DataReportal

We would always advise doing your own market research to form the basis of your marketing personas. With that said, it’s sometimes helpful to add some industry-wide, or market-wide, research into the mix.

DataReportal is a handy tool that will help you do this. Free-to-use via your web browser, the tool lets you search and access thousands of reports on consumers’ online behaviour. These encompass global overviews, local insights, and special reports into specific industries or niches.

Better customer personas for better targeted marketing

We hope that some of the tips and tools we’ve discussed here will help you to create better customer personas for your brand. Because ultimately, better personas will lead to better targeted marketing, and better campaign outcomes.

This brings us to our final point: the importance of measuring persona performance.

Customer personas are a bit like portrait paintings, in that they can only imperfectly depict the people they represent. With this in mind, the goal here is not necessarily to create the most exhaustive possible personas of your customers; rather, you should be aiming to create the most useful possible personas for your team.

The effectiveness of marketing personas can be measured using relatively simple analytical processes. For example, you could set up audience segments representing each of your personas within Google Analytics, and then measure KPIs such as conversions and revenue for each persona.

By comparing KPI performance before and after a persona was actively targeted by your team, you should be able to get some measure of the effectiveness of your targeting, and of the persona itself. If there’s a boost in performance against your KPIs, this could indicate that targeting the persona has worked well, and that the persona profile was useful to team members; whereas a drop or stagnation in performance could indicate that the persona might not be sufficiently well constructed, or that the audience group they represent is not a fruitful group to target.

Creating and maintaining effective customer personas is a lot of work – but we suggest you make the effort. On many levels, a good persona will bring your marketing closer to your customer.

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