Creating personas for marketing that have impact

  • What are marketing personas and why do we use them?
  • Steps and tips for creating marketing personas

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Fancy a free template to help you craft the perfect persona? Grab a copy of our fool-proof guide to content marketing.

Meet Robin. She’s the new head of marketing at Work Squirrel, a small but fast-growing managed-services provider based in Edinburgh. The company has been around for just under 10 years, selling intranet solutions to clients in Scotland and the north of England.

When Robin started at the company three months ago, she didn’t know huge amounts about building intranets, but she does have a post-graduate degree in marketing from the University of Leeds’ business school and a couple of years’ experience as a marketing exec at a sports company in Manchester. She moved to Edinburgh to live with her boyfriend.

During her first couple of months at Work Squirrel, Robin has been settling in, gaining an understanding of the company and reviewing their existing marketing material while trying to build up a strategy to make the business grow. Besides an outdated website and a blog with two posts published in 2014, Work Squirrel really doesn’t have a lot of marketing material to help her.

Getting started

Put yourself in Robin’s shoes for a minute: she’s in a new city at her first major job and is the only marketing person at the firm. That’s quite a lot of pressure. She doesn’t know the company inside out and she’s keen to make a good impression on the CEO. He’s not convinced that the company even needs to do any marketing, since they seem to be growing quite well without it.

What should Robin’s task list look like? What do you think she needs to be doing at this stage to start making an impact on the company and streamlining its marketing?

I believe creating personas for marketing should be the first thing that Robin does. Personas are a useful way of targeting your marketing material to a specific target audience who you think will be interested in buying your company’s wares. Work Squirrel doesn’t currently have any personas, but when Robin creates her own, she’ll be able to produce content which much more effectively reaches her target audience.

In this blog post, I’ll describe how to create personas for marketing – from Robin’s point of view She’s been given a pretty tight deadline to create a new marketing strategy, and wants to create and present her personas to the board in just a few days.

Want to start creating personas for marketing right away? Click here for your free customer persona template download.

How to create personas

What’s an audience persona again?

You might have guessed it already, but Robin is one of the personas we’ve developed for our own marketing at Fifty Five and Five. She works as a marketer at a Microsoft Partner and needs services like ours. If the concept of a created persona attempting to create a persona for her fictional company seems a bit meta, I understand. But, there is a point to this! When we develop our audience personas, we focus on creating characters with realistic back stories, personal lives, pressures, pain points and goals. Without these, our marketing would become too vague, unrelatable and, really, of no use to anyone.

Robin’s a great example of a persona, but to define one a bit more clearly, here’s a definition from HubSpot:

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

HubSpot go on to mention that personas should include demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, goals and more. So, let’s break that definition down a little to work out what exactly a persona really, is and explore how you can create them for marketing with long-term impact.

A “semi-fictional representation”

Robin isn’t a real person. But I’ve designed her based on an amalgamation of similar marketers I’ve met while working with B2B technology providers. Robin’s persona is therefore very detailed; the more detail, the better our content can be targeted to answer her questions, concerns and worries. The fact that her boss isn’t convinced he needs a marketing department at all, for instance, is a common problem with small B2B tech providers that marketers often need to overcome.

“Your ideal customer”

Robin is a figment of our collective imaginations, but we all want to work with people just like her. Of course, it’s best practice to have anywhere between three and five personas to make sure your marketing also answers the needs of different audiences. I currently use four ‘ideal customers’ – some of them are in far more established roles than Robin - while others don’t even work as marketers. You get the idea.

“Market research and real data”

While Robin may be a figment of my imagination, the creation of her personality and traits are taken from real-life people and experiences. Before designing Robin’s persona, I did a lot of research, speaking with existing customers at firms like Robin’s and using examples of similar individuals from LinkedIn.

So, we now know what an audience persona is more generally, how can Robin create one that’s actually useful in her specific company? When she first begins creating personas for marketing, where should she start?

how to create personas

Know your audience – doing the research

Robin needs to write between three and five personas for her upcoming presentation to the board. Less than that, and they won’t be specific enough, more than that and she won’t realistically be able to create enough marketing material to speak to all those people. To begin, let’s imagine the types of people that will be buying Work Squirrel’s intranets.

To get this information, Robin sets up meetings with her sales representatives, and the CEO, to find out more about Work Squirrel’s existing customers. She also reviews a customer list that Work Squirrel has in Excel and does her own research, from sources such as Marketing Land and CMS Wire to get a better idea of the lay of the land. She then creates a list of typical buyers:

Common job titles Common company types Common requests for an intranet Common pain points/issues
CIO: 50%

Head of IT: 40%

Head of communications: 5%

HR manager: 3%

Other: 2%

Media & advertising: 50%

Retail: 25%

Non-profit: 10%

Other: 15%

Better comms

Easier document management

Cloud access

Mobile access

Heard about SharePoint projects going wrong



Robin has already got a better idea of who she should now market to. So far, so obvious. Things need to get a lot more specific before she can really present a serious set of personas to the board.

Picturing your ideal customer

Robin’s next step is to create a detailed picture of Work Squirrel’s ideal customers. This is all about working out the buyer’s wants and needs. Let’s look at how she started developing her persona around the CIO – Work Squirrel’s most common customer profile.

Role title: CIO
Company type and size: Medium sized TV company with HQ in Edinburgh and offices in Salford and London, employing 150 people
Current situation with existing IT: Uses an outdated intranet based on SharePoint server 2007. Lots of employees using shadow IT
What this CIO needs from an intranet: Cloud based tools – either private or public for storing large video files. A modern, fresh looking intranet
What obstacles the CIO might raise: They’ve used SharePoint before. It wasn’t a huge success – aren’t all Microsoft products a bit useless?
What might convince them otherwise? Free trials, demos, facts and visualisations. Marketing targeted specifically at showing how on intranet based in SharePoint 2016 will allow them to use the cloud and that it has a better user interface than earlier versions

As Robin starts creating the persona, she’s already got a much clearer idea of what her marketing needs to look like. She’s starting to picture the kinds of messages that need to be on the website; the kinds of landing pages her company needs to build; the kinds of blog posts she needs published and the kinds of third party magazines she needs to place ads and articles in.

But this still isn’t enough. Robin is creating personas for marketing that will need to be a lot more specific if it’s to really have any impact.

how to create personas

What do your customers look like?

The more detailed your buyer persona, the better. They must be much more than a few words on a page; the audience persona needs to come to life. It should almost be as if you know them yourself.

Let’s see what Robin did with the CIO she began outlining earlier.

Name: Dave Andrews
Demographic details Male, 47 years old, he’s Scottish and lives on the outskirts of Edinburgh. He’s originally from Perth and is married with two teenage kids.
Professional background Dave has worked as a business consultant in IT for most of his career. He joined the media company he works at 2 years ago.
Education Dave began studying computer science at the University of Glasgow before transferring to a business degree, but that was in the 1980s. He’s topped up his education with refresher courses throughout his career.
At work, Dave’s pressures include: He’s expected to bring about business change and use IT to align different departments. At present the intranet is a bit useless and people are using a lot of different tools for sharing files, which means there’s no central repository of important company documents. Dave knows CIOs get fired easily if they fail to affect change or deliver projects.
Dave is looking for: He wants an intranet where all files are stored centrally, and it’s easy to use.
Points of resistance: He thinks SharePoint is no good. He’s worried about starting a new project and watching it fail/go way over budget.
Personal goals and ambitions: Dave wants security. He likes his job. He wants to have a real impact on the company and he wants people to notice that it was down to him that this change happened

By creating such a detailed persona, Robin is now able to create marketing material that’s a lot more focused. When she presents the personas she’s designed to the board, they are sure to be impressed.

Giving those audience personas impact

So, you’ve created a set of believable, accurate and realistic personas. So what? All too often, personas get written in a burst of marketing enthusiasm before being left on a shelf somewhere, never to be used again. But this is a real shame – when used well, personas can have a profound impact on your marketing. So, here’s a checklist to ensure your personas actually get used:

  • Print out your personas, tack them to the wall beside your desk.
  • Define campaigns by who they’re targeted at. Any landing pages, articles, blog posts, SEO research or whatever else will be separated by persona.
  • Orientate all campaigns to specifically target the needs and challenges of specific personas

Creating marketing personas is an essential stage in any marketing activity, and should form the basis of all your campaigns and long term strategy. To get started on creating your very own Robin, download our free customer persona template here. And, if you want any help with your personas, talk to us today.

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We just got back from Future Decoded 2015

Over ten thousand visitors, 15 keynotes, 280 sessions and more than 50 exhibitors in just 2 days. Future Decoded 2015, Microsoft’s major conference held this week (10-11 November) at the ExCel Centre in London was a unique opportunity to learn about the future of computing in the 21st Century. All too often, the pace of change in technology can be overwhelming; Future Decoded was about taking stock and helping business and tech professionals understand the bigger picture in a world of constant digital change.

And Fifty Five and Five were there! Exhibiting in the main hall, we launched our inaugural Inbound Marketing Excellence report, celebrating the marketing efforts of Office 365 and SharePoint product vendors. We ranked the blogs, websites and social marketing efforts of over 300 Microsoft Partners to highlight best practice and celebrate the hard work partners are doing. The report, which is now available to download for free, includes detailed commentary on the efforts of the top 50 partners (ranked by marketing excellence) as well as additional interviews, thought pieces and case studies from inbound marketing leaders.

After two energetic days on the exhibition floor, it’s good to be back at our desks!

What happened at Future Decoded?

Besides launching our report, we also took the time to visit keynotes by a whole range of speakers, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, IAAF president Lord Coe and phsicist Dr. Brian Cox. We also heard from other Microsoft and technology leaders on the future of technology and learnt about how the Cloud and the Internet of Things are changing businesses (including how technology is helping cows make calves).

We also had the opportunity to try out some pretty amazing technology in the exhibition hall - including robotic arms which make cocktails, virtual reality headsets and saw a lot cutting edge tools in action.

We also had the opportunity to try out some pretty amazing technology in the exhibition hall - including robotic arms which make cocktails, virtual reality headsets and saw a lot cutting edge tools in action.

Meet ‘n’ greet

Exhibiting also meant we got to meet Microsoft Partners from across the network and heard all about the great work they’re doing. From tiny startups to consultancies to global corporations, we got talking to a whole range of partners doing groundbreaking work in their fields. It was great to hear about the initiatives partners are taking and learn about how they approach inbound marketing. We also got to catch up with colleagues from Microsoft, Content and Code and Program Framework who were also attending.

We really enjoyed meeting all the partners, Microsoft colleagues and tech fanatics who came by our stand at Future Decoded and hope to catch up with you more soon.

Following the success of Future Decoded 2015 and the launch of our study, we’re already planning our next, expanded Inbound Marketing Excellence report. Interested in what the next report will include and how you might get involved? Get in touch today![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]