6 Keys To Create Perfect Marketing Personas

How can you make sure you're crafting effective marketing personas?

By Erin Everhart

Be Considered

Marketing personas are the best way to ensure you create content your users actually want to read, but just talking to your customers won’t get you what you need. Getting the perfect marketing persona is as much of an art as it is a science, and it’s all in how you frame your questions.

We know content is king. We’re also pretty tired of hearing that content is king, so much so that our eyes glaze over and we stop listening right when that “guru” says it.

Hopefully, you’re still with me because content isn’t king. Content strategy is king, and that strategy has to start with marketing personas.

There’s been plenty of talk about marketing personas, but just talking to some people about what they expect won’t give you what you need to best frame your content strategy. So, how can you make sure you get the perfect marketing personas?

1. Talk To More Than Just Your Current Customers

Your customers can give you some great information — so can these six types of people — but by limiting your persona research to just your current customers, you’re only getting one side of the story. These people are already biased to you.

Talk to people who could be your customers, both people who’ve heard of you and people who’ve never heard of you. They’ll give you the most unfiltered feedback, and you’ll find out more about shopping patterns. Plus, the way people shop and find businesses is constantly evolving.

2. Keep It Conversational

You probably only have 15 to 20 minutes with each person you’re interviewing. While it’s important to have a script of what you need answered to do your job, don’t just read off a piece of paper. They’ll be able to tell.

Keep the conversation going. React to their answers. If they say something funny, laugh. Making them more comfortable will also make them talk more, and sometimes, they end up saying something that wasn’t even a part of your question set in the first place.

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions

You get the best information just by letting people talk — that goes for everything, not just when you’re creating marketing personas — and there’s only so much you can get with yes or no questions. Always ask open-ended questions, but more importantly, let them really finish before you jump to your next question.

Good rule of thumb: After you think they’ve finished answering, wait 3 to 5 more seconds until you ask your next question. The silence can actually draw more out of your user group because they’re trying to fill that void.

4. Personalize Your Questions

The more you personalize your questions to your user, the better information you’ll get. Remember: They’re doing you a favor, even if you’re rewarding them with a $10 Starbucks gift card. By tailoring your questions, you’ll get more specific answers to what they would actually do and not just hypothetical answers to hypothetical situations.

5. Ask Questions They Can Actually Answer

No one can answer what they ate for lunch most often during the summer. They can probably answer what they typically had for lunch in the past week.

Be specific, but be realistic. Only ask questions that get you what you need to know, which is:

  • When did they realize they had a problem?
  • What did they do to figure out how to fix that problem?
  • How did they decide which solution they’d choose to fix the problem?
  • What did they do after they fixed the problem?

6. Eliminate the Bias

The problem is we can be so accustomed to the bias that we don’t even realize we’re being leading in the first place.

For example: Is this helpful?

Simple enough. It’s a yes or no question, so if the user doesn’t find it helpful, they’ll just answer no.

Except that isn’t the case. By asking that, you’re already framing the question and influencing the user to answer that whatever it is, is actually helpful.

Better: Is this helpful or not helpful? Why or why not?

Another example of bias: How engaged are you with the content?

Why is this bad? You’re already assuming the customer is engaged with the content. You’re putting the thought in their mind that they should be engaged with the content.

Better: What did you think about this content?

Summary

There’s a lot more to creating the perfect marketing personas than just talking to people. At the end of the day, you’re talking to real people, so being as relatable as possible will help you uncover what they really need from your content pieces. Keep that conversation going, and don’t limit your potential answers to just “yes” or “no” by asking closed-ended questions.

What are your other tips for creating the perfect marketing persona?

Erin Everhart

SEO Manager, The Home Depot

Erin Everhart
Erin Everhart is an experienced digital strategist, content developer and search marketer. She's currently an SEO Manager for The Home Depot and has previously worked agency-side for mid-sized business and Fortune 500 companies. She speaks regularly on digital strategy, content development and inbound marketing at conferences nationwide, including Pubcon, SMX and ClickZ Live.

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