A guide to user personas for strategic digital marketing

To succeed with your digital marketing it’s essential to make use of user personas. But what are these and how can they boost your business growth?

Disney. Netflix. Apple. What do these three businesses have in common? Aside from being among the most successful companies in the world they’re all examples of businesses who understand their target audience.

You may be selling the most incredible product, have stellar branding and an amazing team of people behind you. However, if you don’t understand who you’re selling to, this doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things. The key to growing your business through digital marketing is having insight into the people who are buying from you, because it’s these people who will underpin your future success.

The first step to understanding your target audience is to create user personas, which is what we’re going to look at in this article. Specifically, we’ll delve into what they are, how to build them and how to use them as part of a wider inbound marketing strategy to successfully grow your business.

Targeting everyone is targeting no one

You may have heard the above expression used before. A mistake a lot of businesses make is that they try to target everybody. The idea is that by casting your net as wide as possible you’re more likely to bring in business.

This is a flawed strategy because it actually means you’re wasting valuable time and resources marketing to people who don’t really care about your product or service. It can be hard to admit it sometimes, but there are people out there who will never be interested in what you have to offer.

That’s okay. You don’t want to market to those people. Instead, you want to market to the people who are likely to buy from you – they just don’t know about you yet! And here is where user personas are so useful.

What is a user persona?

A user persona is a fictionalised representation of a customer. This imaginary person has a name, personal information and a whole host of information attached to them about their demographics, needs, wants, challenges, interests and hobbies.

You have a lot of customers, and at first glance they all seem to be quite different. However, the people who love your product or service have something in common. A user persona amalgamates these commonalities into a single, fictional person, so that you can visualise them.

You can represent your user personas however you like, but they’re usually presented on a template that’s in line with your branding. There’ll be an image of a person on there to give it that personal touch, a few personal details like age, occupation, marital status and location. Often there’s a little quote using the user’s own words (this might come from something a real customer has said) and a brief summary of who that person is. Other information included on a user persona template includes their “frustration” (or you could call this “problems” or “challenges”) and “motivations” (or you could call this “drivers” or “goals”). Some templates also include some logos of brands that the persona likes or uses regularly, their hobbies and interests, and their key skills/knowledge areas.

What benefits do user personas have for your business?

User personas do a number of important things. Firstly, having user personas creates empathy. Rather than thinking of your customers as a mass of people you don’t really know, you can put a face to them. You can pinpoint what gets them up in the morning, what grinds their gears, what they like to do in their spare time – among other things.

Secondly, user personas help you target your marketing efforts. Let’s say you have three personas that fit with the three main types of people who buy from you. You can segment your email marketing into three categories, creating different content for each segment to personalise the experience for the customer. You can also more easily target your social media advertising and Google Ads, and optimise your website to meet the needs of your personas.

Finally, user personas get everyone in your business on the same page. It means copywriters can craft content that really speaks to your audience, UX designers can ensure your website is optimised for the people who’ll be navigating it, and every interaction you have with your customers has their needs in mind.

How to create a user persona

There are three steps to creating user personas for your business.
1. Research your customers

The first step is to delve deep into who your customers are and what they’re after. Start by information you already have in the form of customer support phone calls or emails. Look at data collected from your website and social media channels. If you get stuck, simply reach out to your customers and have conversations with them.

2. Connect the dots

Once you have some information about who your existing users are it’s time to figure out what characteristics they share. Do they all fit within a particular age bracket? Do they share problems and concerns? Do they all live in a particular location? Do they have interests or hobbies in common? Your customers will all be unique individuals but there will be threads that connect them. Use these as a starting point to develop your user personas.

3. Create your personas

Using the information you’ve gathered, start working on your user persona templates. You might have one user persona or a few different personas depending on your offering and the information you managed to collect. Remember to include the following for each:

  • Name (this can be generic, i.e. “Samantha the Sales Rep”) and photo
  • Demographic information (age, location, occupation, marital status, gender)
  • Goals/motivations
  • Frustrations/pain points
  • Key skills and knowledge areas
  • Interests
  • Brands and companies they like

Feel free to add in any extra details you feel are relevant. However, make sure the above key elements are included.

The first step is to delve deep into who your customers are and what they’re after

Feel free to add in any extra details you feel are relevant. However, make sure the above key elements are included. What’s more, it’s not just a fad; inbound actually works. According to Marketo, those who choose to interact with your brand naturally convert 28 per cent higher than paid marketing.

A quick guide to using user personas for digital marketing

Once you’ve got your user persona templates set up, it’s time to make them start working for you. Here are our top tips to ensure you’re using them in the right way:

  • Consult them when making strategic business decisions: There’s no use having personas if you don’t actually use them. Ensure your digital content strategy accounts for your user personas and their key motivations and challenges. Use them when presenting new ideas to others in your team to justify your decision and ensure everyone has access to the templates
  • Update your user personas regularly: User personas will not remain the same forever; changes will need to be made as your customers’ needs do. You may find you need to make small tweaks to your user persona templates from time to time so that they’re up-to-date.
  • Don’t rush the process: It can be tempting to get your user persona templates done as quickly as possible so you can get stuck into the real work. But taking your time to conduct thorough research on who your customers are will pay off in the long run. It’ll mean your marketing strategy will be more targeted and effective.

The process of creating user personas takes time and effort. You really need to ensure you know your customers inside and out and set your persona templates up properly in order for them to have the best impact on your business growth. Luckily, we’ve got an experienced team who can do the hard yards for you.

Digital Insights

Explore marketing tips & advice

Website design best practice and how to get it right

Aug 9, 2021

Good website design is fundamental to converting visitors into customers. How can yours cut through the crowd and get the attention of your audience?

Learn more

Why you should use WordPress for your business website

May 17, 2021

Are you planning to build a business website? For a fully functional site with all the features you need, WordPress is your best bet. Here’s why.

Learn more

How to get started with digital marketing: 5 key steps

Apr 3, 2021

It’s tempting to dive right in and start creating content for your digital marketing activity, but make sure you follow these five steps before you do.

Learn more