Improve your Targeting and Tell a Story By Creating Buyer Personas

Targeting and Personalization


A persona is a research-based profile of an archetypal customer that represents needs of many. Personas work for B2B because they bring focus, empathy, and consensus to your campaigns. When designing a campaign, for example, the tendency is to be broad about what you are going after, but a bigger audience + more targets = less focus. By creating a persona based marketing strategy, you can be more targeted and truly understand who your buyer is. Create a story about who that person is, what his or her lifestyle is like, what are the pain points?

At Marketo, one of our personas is “Molly the Marketer”. By understanding who she is and what makes her tick, we can ask questions–what do I say to her? What messages will resonate? What channels should I use? Because you are creating a more personal profile, you can write content and create marketing programs that comes from an emotional place. You know what they like, as if they are your best friend. Personas bring more of a human touch to your marketing.

How do you start?

To develop your personas you need to determine what their goals and attitudes are. You have to ask yourself, what do you they know? What do they respond to? What are their behaviors? Do qualitative research to gather this knowledge.

How do you get this information?

Interviews! Once you determine your personas, you can schedule user interviews that last about 20 minutes. Make sure whoever is conducting the interview knows what to focus on and what to look for. Your research can be as thorough as you want. Some companies even hire trained anthropologists to watch what people do. The more detailed your personas are, the better your marketing can be. They should feel real, like you have talked to that person.

Make sure to leverage your sales team as well. They are on the front lines talking to customers everyday. Go on an in person sales call or sit in on the phone. And make sure you collaborate with sales throughout your persona development process.

How do I create the personas?

Once you have gathered all of your data and research, start developing unique segments that group goals (what do they want to accomplish), behaviors (what they do), and attitudes (knowledge, perception) into unique segments. The ideal number of personas for a company would be four. A complicated company may have up to six personas, but more may lead to a lack of focus. You know you’ve succeeded if the personas are:

  • Distinct from each other
  • Cover the market
  • Feel real (I’ve talked to that person!)
  • Easy to explain

From there, work to make each persona feel like a real person. Create dossiers on each one, hang posters or cutouts around the office. You can even write a blog for each persona and make it come to life even more. Additionally, make sure you socialize your personas throughout your organization to drive consensus. Your end goal should be to culturally have the company adopt the concept of talking about these personas as real people.

Common mistakes B2B marketers make when creating personas

It is very easy to make something up and skip real research. A good executive could probably get it right about 60% of the time, but the effort to push it through the organization might be more difficult if there isn’t solid and real research behind your efforts.  By skipping the research phase, you are more likely to inadvertently focus on what YOU like vs. the persona. Remember you are not the customer. You are not the persona.

Final tips for creating and using personas

  • Create a comprehensive list of your personas and make them available throughout your organization
  • One program should target one persona–if you are creating an email marketing program that targets three personas, you are probably not effectively targeting anyone
  • Smaller super targeted campaigns are better for keeping a focus on individual personas

And remember, personas are for all sized businesses. They are crucial to getting your positioning right. But personas are really important and rarely urgent. The challenge of current operating businesses is to pull out of the day-to-day in order to spend time on a persona project. But so much knowledge can be gained and your marketing can really improve by doing it right.