Target Marketing Misses, but Personas Hit the Mark

If  target marketing is your marketing strategy, it’s time to take off your blind fold.  You won’t hit the bulls eye and probably won’t even hit the target.  Buyer personas are the only way to shoot now. What the heck are those? Target marketing gives you information on demographics like: gender, location, income level and age range. But do all women in the mid-west, between 35 and 50 years old and who make $55,000 to $80,000 look the same?  Of course not.  Do they act the same and make the same buying choices? Of course not. Target marketing gives no information on the behavior of consumers, where they hang out, who they hang with and what influences them. Face it, writing effective ads and content based on demographics would mean you were shooting at a very large group. So, some companies began gathering additional information,beyond target marketing.

That was the start of personas. Target marketing shoots for a group (a very large, poorly defined group). Buyer personas shoots at an individual customer type. Target marketing gathers data on descriptive traits (demographics). Buyer personas build on that and gather data on a consumer’s behavior, needs, and wants. This blog will help you understand what a persona is, and how to develop accurate personas to shoot with accuracy. What’s a “persona”? A persona is a way to understand the person behind the visitor to your website (Moz Blog).  A persona is more detailed than  target marketing. A persona is an “archetype” or model of your typical buyer. You’ll need to develop a unique persona for each of your typical buyers.  Developing personas makes it easier to predict behavior and buying patterns. It also makes it easier to develop content that’s helpful to them.  But, first, you have to bring each customer type into focus. There are 3 key steps for that:

  1. Segment by demographics as to age, gender, job title, income level. Use your current client base (as well as analytics) to pinpoint the most common buyers.
  2. Identify their needs based on qualitative and quantitative data
  3. Develop personas – based on buying behavior, needs, and fears.

The one mistake that’s often made is guessing on your personas. According to B2C Marketing, it’s a big mistake to simply guess and conjure information because “you loose the chance for a competitive marketing edge,” as well as the chance to build relationships with your clients.  To take the guesswork out of developing personas, you’ll need data. And the data is more detailed than what’s gathered for target marketing. Data: There are two types of data for developing your personas: qualitative and quantitative

  • Qualitative research asks open ended questions to a small carefully selected sample size. It consists of buyer interviews, usability testing, focus groups and more.
  • Quantitative data is gathered from a larger sample size using website analytics, social listening, consumer reviews, surveys, focus groups. Surveys can be done using your emails, if you have a list, but keep surveys  short.  Consider offering an incentive  to any who are also willing to do a phone interview. Social listening allows you to identify social online communities by watching hashtags.  You can also use sites like Quora and Reddit to understand the preferences.

If you are making use of SEO analytics, you may want to read Jay Pandian’s detailed article in Content Marketing World. Another important source of information is your team. Pulling together insights from different departments gives you a broader idea of your personas than you might get by doing it alone. Work collaboratively with any people in your company who have contact with the consumers.  Nate Dame of Marketingland suggests making use of an online collaborative whiteboard, such as or Realtime Board to brainstorm, create and collect information about  personas. A combination of approaches leads to the most accurate persona development.  Layer your data, looking for commonality between them and (remember the Venn Diagrams in school?). Base your persona(s) on data overlap. Targeting Your Data Search.  You should frame the questions or research to discover:

  • What are their needs?  Put these in a hierarchy.
  • What are their fears and motivators?
  • Where do they go for information?
  • What questions do they ask?  What information do they need?
  • What are the most common objections to your products or services?
  • What is their role in the decision making process?
  • How much content and what type do they consume at the different stages of buying process?
  • Who or what influences their buying decisions?

It’s helpful to develop a persona data sheet to pull the information together. You can download free buyer persona  sheets from Hubspot or  Buyer Persona Institute. But, you may want to develop your own, suited to your company.  The important thing is to gather the data and develop it in to personas.  Some marketing specialists advise that you name your different personas. Once these personas are developed, you will need to target your content to them. Anne Ryan sums it up in her comment on Paladin’s article, “At the end of the day, the process should be to first develop personas by identifying responsibilities and pain points; outline their buying journey and the kinds of topics and channels they engage.” Contact us for assistance with taking off your blindfold. Stop aiming with target marketing. Start developing personas.