The Persona Strikes Back; If Yoda Were an Inbound Marketer

It’s that time again. We’ve all got Star Wars fever and I’m no exception. As I sit down to convince you that Personas will not bring you to the dark side I can’t seem to help thinking that Yoda would have made an excellent Inbound Marketer. He probably would have said something like “You cannot have epic Inbound Marketing success without Personas – so Personas you must.”

Patience You Must Have, My Young Padawan

Let’s say Yoda was an Inbound Marketer – I get the feeling he wouldn’t be letting you play with any light sabers until you’d become an expert at Personas. A well-written Persona may not be the 70s Carrie Fisher of Inbound Marketing but it is a primary character that can change the end results.

Building a solid foundation for your Inbound Marketing program and taking the time to do your due diligence will ensure that your content can stand on its own. Everything you produce is connected to your Personas in some way and takes place throughout the entire customer journey.

A journey that turns strangers into leads, leads into customers and customers into promoters.

Death Is a Natural Part of Life. Rejoice for Those Around You Who Transform into the Force

Personas have been around for awhile and have evolved to be one of the most critical parts in your Marketing Toolkit. Notice I said Marketing –  not Inbound Marketing. While Personas are part of a documented process for Inbound Marketing – savvy marketers who specialize outside of the Inbound world also use Personas.

Finally, we’ve let go of our limited mindset of pushing our offers out to the masses. We’ve transformed as marketers over the past decade to become less self-centered and more customer-centric. Welcome to the Inbound Galaxy.

A Jedi Must Have the Deepest Commitment, the Most Serious Mind

The concept of Inbound followed out of necessity after the horrific bubble burst of 2000. Some of you may be too young to remember, but it’s still etched in my mind. I was working in the tech industry and had a ridiculous digital marketing budget (let’s just say it had at least 6 zeros). At the time, had we known about the power of Inbound we could have produced the same results with 1/10th of that budget.

As time went on people lost their jobs and their homes, new technologies emerged and the heyday of big budgets migrated to focusing on ROI. Digital marketing evolved and matured into Inbound Marketing.

I encourage you to take a minute and check out this eye-opening infographic on the HubSpot blog that covers the History or Marketing – it adds a lot of clarity to WHY Inbound.

You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

If you’ve been marketing for a long time and haven’t changed your approach, it may be time to consider shaking things up a bit. Even in industries like manufacturing which have always had success with traditional marketing methods are looking to Inbound to stay afloat in an increasingly competitive environment.

Looking? Found Someone You Have, Eh?

HubSpot defines a Persona as “Semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.”

If you have a solid understanding of all the things listed in this definition, then you will also know where to find Prospects online, what problems they are trying to solve and what appeals to them.

You’re looking for your Ideal Customer – with a Persona you’ll be more likely to find them.

In a Dark Place We Find Ourselves, and a Little More Knowledge Lights Our Way

You’re probably wondering what shape a Persona may take (please don’t think Jabba the Hutt) – below is an example for Sample Sally courtesy of HubSpot. While the name may not be glamorous this is a very accurate representation of what your Persona will look like.

Scroll through it and you will see that a lot of thought and research went into this and the information it provides is invaluable to your Inbound Marketing efforts. Essentially you’re building a knowledge base of your Ideal Customer.

The details you uncover will help you map your content by where your Personas are in the buying cycle and allow you to personalize and hyper-target your content and messaging. And as Yoda likes to point out “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.”

Often during the Persona development process, we are surprised that the traits and habits of our Ideal Customer aren’t what we thought at all. We tend to make assumptions – only research and going through the process will reveal the truth.

Feel the Force!

Ok – it’s time to feel the true power of the Persona and get started. In addition to coming up with a name for your Persona there are 10 other components that you want to address:

1. Background

Always thinking with your Ideal Customer in mind – who are they? What job title are they most likely to have? Where are they along their career path? Who depends on them? Do they have a spouse, children, single etc.?

I’m not going to lie – sometimes this part of building a persona can feel like complete guesswork. However, I encourage you to make the effort up front to research the background, setting and tone your Persona conducts themselves in. This can be the difference between lackluster, and exceptional content.

Hint: Think of this as a psychological analysis – ask, guess, test, measure, refine, improve.

2. Demographics

This one is quite straightforward – Do they tend to be male or female? How old are they? Where do they live? In the suburbs, rural, urban? What is their household income?

Factors to consider:

  • Age can determine purchasing power but also influence the purchase itself such as children and what they may want even though they aren’t the direct buyer.
  • Location can determine the ability to access services. If something like delivery time may be prolonged, the value proposition will need to be presented in an elevated way to meet this objection.

3. Identifiers

If you’ve ever taken the Myers Briggs test you know that certain personality types gravitate towards certain roles in life. What are common traits and demeanors of your Persona? How do they like to be communicated with? Will they pay more attention to an email or a Facebook Post?

If you are approaching Background from a psychological perspective of who your Persona is then it makes sense that Identifiers would benefit from a psychographics approach – the why. Why would this person buy something – what are their opinions, attitudes and spending habits?

These can often be the early warning signs to identify the buyer before their other attributes surface so it’s imperative to spend some time to find out what you can – and don’t be shy about getting feedback.

4. Goals

It’s important to know what your Persona is trying to achieve so you can help them get there. What would be their primary/ultimate goals? Are there other secondary goals they may also need to meet?

This area is the key to unlocking the driving “force” behind the behavior of your target audience. Once you know what your Persona needs, you can address these needs through your content.

Hint: Your content is your trust builder. Help your future Customers achieve their goals by educating them on how to get there. If your product, solution or service can’t help them achieve their goals it’s time to rethink things.

5. Challenges

These are your Persona’s pain-points. What challenges or obstacles do they need to overcome to meet their goals?

Place emphasis on this area in the context of addressing pain points and educating audiences on your solution through content. The dark side of what makes them tick.

Hint: Challenges can be addressed in the content you develop to catch buyers in a state where they are researching challenges they wish to overcome.

6. What Can We Do?

This is where you need to dig deep – what challenges can you help this Persona overcome? What can your product or service do to help them achieve their goals?

As I stated earlier, you may find out at this point that you may be going after the wrong target audience, or reconsidering if your product offering. Leverage the information you’ve acquired during researching the goals and challenges section to deeply address your Ideal Customer’s needs in context of what you’re offering.

7. Real Quotes
While your Persona is a fictional character –  try to humanize him or her, and think about what they may say when lamenting over their goals and challenges.

What common challenges do your customers come to you with? Map out these challenges/problems and what the solutions are – this is the start of your Content Marketing Strategy.

Go a step further and find out what common successes your customers celebrate – those are equally important and sharing them with your target audience will further demonstrate your expertise.

8. Common Objections

This information is pure gold. If you know why someone would object to purchasing your product or service, you can make the changes needed and better handle the objections if or when they come up.

Consider leaning on sections 1-2-3 to identify inner quirks that would determine how these objections might be presented.

Hint: Common objections are price or service quality oriented, related to service (either time or outcome), lack of knowledge in a solution, or lack of a solution for the problem acknowledged.

9. Marketing Message

How should you describe your solution to your Persona? A very wise man once told me to think about speaking to a roomful of your ideal customer. How would you describe this to the group in one sentence? Note the use of the word solution instead of product or service.

Ultimately you’re there to service your customer with a solution to their problem, not sell them a product.

10. Elevator Pitch

We’ve all heard of the terrifying elevator pitch before, you only have about 10 floors to quickly sell your solution. Imagine you’re having a one-to-one conversation with someone you know for a fact is your ideal customer. What would you say to them?

Challenge yourself to see how clear and concise of a pitch you can craft.

I get it – this is a lot of work, and can seem overwhelming. Before you freak out and think about going to the dark side – there is a shortcut. HubSpot has created a free template and even a Buyer Persona Generator.

Do or Do Not. There Is No Try

Personas are a challenge but once you’ve completed your first everything becomes easier and so much more worthwhile.  You’ve created a solid foundation for your Inbound Marketing program – now you can map your content and start developing high-value content that will pull your ideal customer to your website.

You may find that your business has multiple Personas, or that a similar person in a different industry has a completely different set of pain-points. Just go with it – there is no limit to how many Persona’s you’re allowed to have. Having more helps you target and communicate that much better.

When creating your Personas, here are some tips & tricks to help along the way:

  • Have an idea of how you are going to conduct your research. While there is a lot of outstanding information online you should also consider interviewing people who fit your Persona profile as well. A great place to start is with your current Customers, Prospects, and Co-Workers.
  • Get Help. Throughout this post I’ve shared several free resources, they are awesome or I wouldn’t be recommending them. Our generous friends at HubSpot offer free training and certifications.

May the Force Be with You

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford