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The power of user personas

4 steps towards building a more effective marketing strategy

posted by Kerry Song

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If you’re a business owner, then you know there is a massive difference between starting a business and building a business. And the gap between a great idea and a great business is a tough one to close. Because it’s not enough to create a product or service. No matter how innovative, beautiful or extraordinary, if it’s not marketed in the right way to the right person, it’s never going to get off the ground.

This is why “user personas” are so valuable.

User personas are detailed composites of your customers that allow you to understand them on a deeper, more meaningful level, and, in turn, design a clearer, more productive and more successful marketing strategy. In short, they allow you to reach your target audience in the most impactful way possible. This is why you should focus on creating your user should before you focus on creating content, designing your website – or on anything, really. Because how much sense does it make to try to appeal to everybody when you should be trying to target a specific somebody? It’s like writing your speech before you know who you are addressing. Or packing a suitcase without knowing your destination.

User personas give you the confidence and the direction you need to make the best decisions for your business. You will be able to strategize competently and comprehensively. You will be able to create compelling content that pulls at the heart strings of your customer. You will be able to shape what you want your buyers to believe about your organization. You will be able to show your customers why they need your product or service. And you will be able to connect with your audience on a more fundamental, more powerful level than ever before.

So now that you understand the importance of user personas, it’s time to get down to brass tacks: How do you go about creating user personas? How do you really get to know your audience? To help you better understand how to build your user personas, we break the process down into four key steps:

Step 1: Start with the demographics

This is where you start. It’s a high-level look at your audience, where you are simply putting your audience into buckets based on quantitative factors like age, location and socioeconomic status. Are your customers millennials? What is their income range? Are they primarily situated on the coastal regions?

Why is this important? Because speaking to a millennial that lives in Los Angeles is night-and-day different than speaking to a baby boomer living in the Midwest. And speaking to someone with immense amounts of disposable income is vastly different than addressing someone whose primary intent is to be frugal and even thrifty with their money.

You need to adjust your tone, your language, and even your approach to connect with your audience on a fundamental level. And that will vary quite substantially based on the demographic you are trying to reach. Remember, the key is to let go of your own jargon and vernacular, and adopt that to which your audience speaks and relates. And the demographic data will be your first signal for which direction to take.

Step 2: Create a character 

Now it’s time to give each of your customers a face. You are going to create a character that has his or her own background. Ask yourself: Are they married? Single? Do they have children? What is their education? What is their job?

By painting a clear picture of who your customer is, you will be able to get down to what really fulfills them, what motivates them. Because what drives a customer is much more emotional than a price point. Take the guy who is in the market for a high-end luxury automobile. What do you think drives him? Is it the quality of the car? Perhaps. But odds are it is more likely he is after the way the car makes him feel. The significance. The validation. Or what about the woman who is buying a sportier, more outdoorsy car? Chances are she is more concerned about the environment and being eco-conscious than anything else.

By understanding what drives your customer, you will be better equipped to understand how your product fits into their goals and how to address their behavior patterns.

Step 3: Find their pain points

Now it’s time to learn what your customers’ problems are. What are their needs? Where are their pain points? By understanding what their issues are, you will have a better understanding of whether or not your product or service is a solution. And a better understanding of how your product fits into their lives.

People are driven by their needs and their desires. They don’t just buy things because they are nice to have, they are focused on filling the gaps in their lives. And if you can help fill that gap, then it’s a no-brainer.

So ask yourself: What is my customer’s pain point? What keeps them up at night? Because every problem your customer has is an opportunity for you to provide the solution. But if you don’t leverage this opportunity to show them that your product or service is not just something that would be nice-to-have, but rather, is something that they really need, then you won’t be able to make an impactful, effective sales pitch.

Step 4: Discover the spheres of influence

The last question to ask is what your customers’ “spheres of influence” are. That is, on any given week, what are the ways that they consume media? Do they watch television or scroll through a mobile newsfeed? Are they more apt to rely on Facebook and Twitter, or do they prefer CNN? Do they read The New York Times, The Huffington Post or The Wall Street Journal?

By understanding how your audience consumes their information, you can make a more informed decision about how to present your content. For example, if your audience prefers BuzzFeed and Facebook, then you will be more successful if you create photo stories, videos and lists. If your audience prefers The Atlantic and The New Yorker, then long-form, journalistic content pieces with a more formal tone will serve you best.

Completing a comprehensive media study of your audience will also help you determine your PR strategy. You will know what influencers to get in touch with, and what outlets to focus on advertising with in order to target and to connect with your customer.

Header Image © Shutterstock / Tsyhun

Kerry Song

Kerry Song is a writer and producer with a background in economics and finance. Her passion is to create meaningful content that engages and empowers the audience to become more mindful and more compassionate with themselves and with others.


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