4 Tactics to Improving Your Personas

Understanding your target market is essential to successful marketing. An effective tool to doing this is utilizing personas to represent your target market. This takes raw data and understanding of a group of people and condenses it into a single fictional person.

Then, you use that persona to guide and inform marketing decisions. A good persona leads to making the right decisions, but a poorly crafted one can cripple a campaign.

Personas can always be improved to better reflect your target market. It’s also important to recognize that people change over time, so updating your personas regularly needs to be a normal practice. Here are some useful ways to learn more about your target market and how to improve your personas.

Go Undercover With Your Market

One of the best ways to learn about your target market is to spend time with them. Go where they go, do what they do, and pretend to live their lives.

Going undercover and being where they buy stuff, enjoying what they do for fun, or simply understanding how they think can bring valuable insights to a persona.

It’s easy to craft a persona based solely on data and then fill in the gaps with assumptions, but this is not the most accurate approach. By spending time with your target customers, you can create a more rounded persona that feels more like a real person that has habits, personality, and a life.

Along with spending time with them in the real world, you should make efforts to inject yourself into their online lives too. What do they post about on social media versus what they will email to a friend? What sources of information do they trust and why? Explore the sites they visit, and locate them on social media so you can follow them.

Becoming a part of your target market, even if it’s briefly, can help improve your personas and help marketers come up with more creative and effective ideas.

Interviewing Your Customers

Gain information to build your personas straight from the source. Personas are meant to represent the market, so talking with current customers can help, since they are clearly within that target market.

Interviewing customers can be done both when creating a persona and when you are looking to improve on one later. The key to having successful interviews is to focus on their background and how it influenced them to buying your product.

This can include their standard demographics, their job title, how much money they make, and if other people influence their purchasing decisions. Find out key moments in the buyer’s journey for them, how they found your business, and how they felt about the business before purchasing compared to competitors.

Then, interview more customers. Try to gain data from as many customers as you can. The more hard data you can gather, the more accurate your persona can be. At first, try to conduct your interviews in person, over the phone, or over Skype.

Meet with a variety of customers, ranging from lifelong fans to past unsatisfied people. Once you start to identify trends, then switch to sending out surveys to build up your data.

Take that data and find trends. Maybe your customers, and in turn your ideal target market, all have similar jobs, or education, or maybe even share similar hobbies. Then, use that customer data to make decisions for your marketing.

A word of caution though: just because you find a trend doesn’t mean you need to include it heavily in your marketing. Take your data with a grain of salt and think if it can fit with your branding and marketing.

Maybe there is a trend that your target market has, like a majority of them enjoy football. That doesn’t mean you go and rebrand your entire business to be sports themed — but you are probably safe including some sports analogies in your content.

Data From A/B Testing Your Pages

In the never ending pursuit to better optimize your site, A/B testing is a familiar friend. It’s a way to test big and small elements to find what retains and converts on your pages and applying that information to the rest of the site.

Another way to utilize it, though, is with your persona. As you find different factors that improve or hurt your site’s performance, find how it might apply to your persona. Dig into why a specific change was effective while other ones weren’t. Do visitors respond better to a more conservative style or appreciate a daring new look?

As you see results for different A/B tests, ask why. Why did one change work? Why did a slightly tweaked page fail? As you figure out what happened, add key features to the persona. This can include design preferences, what kinds of content best attract them, and useful tips to help convert them.

Meet With Sales and Customer Support

One under-utilized tool for marketing is the departments who interact with your target market on a daily basis. For most, those are the sales and customer support departments.

Meeting with your sales team can help develop the needs of your persona. They interact with leads on a regular basis, typically at the bottom of the marketing funnel. Their responsibilities are to help potential customers overcome challenges that are stopping a purchase, and help them see that your company or product is the best choice. Common objections your sales team encounters need to be included in your persona.

That way, your marketing can address them earlier on, making the conversion process easier. Depending on how involved your sales process is, they can also bring data like common occupations or similar demographic information.

Customer support can help fill out a persona of what happens after a purchase. People come to customer support when something goes wrong, and they can inform what people use your product/service for.

If enough people request a specific feature, it shows a need your persona has that isn’t being fulfilled. Find a way, both through product development and marketing, to fill that need, and make a profit doing so.

When To Update Your Personas

Creating and updating personas takes a lot of time and resources. Knowing when and how often to update a persona can help you make sure your marketing stays on track. A good practice is to update your persona anytime you launch a new product or start a new campaign. It’s also good to refresh your persona anytime a big change in your industry happens.

If you are just continuing with your current campaigns and have nothing new planned, monitoring your analytics can be the warning system that revisiting a persona is needed. If analytics like bounce rate goes up, or your conversion rates go down, it might be time to check if your target market has changed.

Then, go and update your persona. Do research, meet with customers, and consult people who interact with your target market on a normal basis. Doing this will not only lead to creating better personas, but also help make your marketing more effective.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.