Marketing Personas – Still Relevant?

Marketing Personas

For those in marketing, strategy or communications, this is a no brainer. To pursue marketing or communications work without a rudimentary concept of who your target market is or what they look like (personas), is akin to shooting an arrow without knowing the location of the target. Sure you might hit a bulls-eye, but that would be purely by chance. In business it is more important to consistently hit near the bulls-eye on purpose, than to accidentally hit the exact centre of the target, based on luck which you cannot replicate.

Why even question the relevance of personas among marketers? Simply, an influential marketing report suggested its lack of importance. Although Salesforce Marketing Cloud are masters of marketing and create impressive research insights, one recent article dropped an unsupported recommendation. Expressly the recommendation to marketers was to “step away from lifecycle marketing and personas.” (p33. 2015 State of Marketing by Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SCM)). SCM sited that personas can be useful but that they view customers too broadly.

SCM probably had good reason for making this suggestion. However, it failed to substantiate it in the article. The recommendation came out of nowhere, and hung out as an orphan idea with no further discussion.

Persona Breadth

Frankly, marketers can define the breadth of scope of their target personas that cover a broad base, or to refine them to narrowly defined personas. Most marketers will define two to five personas for their target client base – to make it useable and a grouping that can be easily understood. Failing to go through the exercise of defining the customer personas means that marketers may overgeneralize their target market. Naturally the failure here is that you just will not engage with your audience. That is an immediate campaign killer in the world of social media marketing.

Digital and social media marketing tactics are effective when they are part of a marketing strategy. Part of the strategy is to define the target market. Personas then clarify and personify the target markets. These can be as broadly or narrowly defined as needed by the marketer. These personas are important to define and keep to a consistent brand voice – and to continually remember the right style and language to use to best speak with that customer group.

Helping with Content Marketing

Content marketing plans start with understanding the target customer. Developing both a persona and a brand voice to use in the content, helps on a consistency level. Setting a target persona let you hold to a consistent tone, voice and style throughout the organization’s communications. Content is often produced by teams, ghost writers, guest bloggers and consultants. With diverse groups writing the content, having target personas ensure the developers have a common understanding and feeling of the target customer for the piece. Using personas as a tool helps the team stick to a common voice to represent your brand to a particular audience.

Social Media

Personas aren’t just for the content marketing team. Yes, it is needed to make sure your web site has a similar voice and consistency to your brochures, case studies, and infographics. Any good social media marketer will also point out that persona development is critical to their work, too. A consistent voice, and understanding of the ideal target market is important to set out how to write and interact on social media. Simple outlines help engage clients.

A common voice for responding to a customer persona is especially important for anyone supporting multiple brands or categories. Working with several accounts or brands means needing to be organized, and to be able to quickly respond in the correct voice of the brand – with the right attitude and style. This is where a quick person outline of the target customer lets a social media specialist respond appropriately. A quick look at the brand’s personas card makes sure that a wild and off-the-wall voice (think Skittles twitter feed) is not used when answering a socially posted question for an Alzheimers’ foundation, for example.

Brand Voice Consistency

Buyer personas serve a clear and simple purpose for a brand. Organisations develop them to make sure their marketing and communications are created for a specific set of target audiences, with a consistent voice and tonality to best represents the brand. Whether it is for traditional, digital or social marketing efforts – the buyers journey, marketing funnel, and persona work are key to good marketing and a sound strategy. These are the fundamentals of business and marketing.

SCM, we love your articles and market analyses, keep them coming. We are going to forget your foible in the 2105 State of Marketing recommendation, and stick with the importance of personas.

Personas are a critical element of your marketing and communications. Ignore it at your own peril.

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