Marketing Personas. Why Do We Need Them? And How To Develop Them

Scientific marketers often have a harder challenge than their peers in reaching their target audience, many of whom spend significant times in the lab. The COVID-19 crisis, while devastating, provides some unique opportunities to reach these people, while they are working from home and sitting on computers. There is currently a unique opportunity for marketers to harness the availability of scientists and use the plethora of anonymous data from their online behavior. This data enables marketers to be more strategic with their programs, both in terms of planning what to do, but also in evaluating the impact of their budgets and efforts. Many companies are taking advantage of this access by running persona studies.

Why conduct persona studies?
A customer-centric approach to business means really understanding the customer and developing marketing solutions to address their specific challenges. To do this, you have to truly understand the persona of your target audience. According to LinkedIn, “the true purpose of persona creation is to make buyers feel understood, but the numbers say most of us create personas to make ourselves feel as though we understand buyers.” We use them to confirm what we believe we already know about our target audience.

Making Marketing Decisions on Facts Not Assumptions
Truly understanding a customer requires us to know their behavior and drivers, and to talk to them in a language that resonates, not a language that you think resonates. This is where persona-development typically fails. Teams develop personas based on insights from the sales team and years’ worth of experience. In other words, they develop them on other people’s assumptions held about the audience, not on what the audience actually think and feel.

Personas are at the heart of any marketing strategy. So, if you are basing your personas on potentially incorrect assumptions, then all resulting activity (and marketing budget spent) could be wasted. The only solution is to develop personas based on data.

How to Conduct a Persona Study
We recommend using data resulting from three different segments:
Current customers
Lost customers/prospects
Pipeline prospects

Taken from three types of analyses:
What your audience says motivates them – ‘Rational’: This data is developed from a written survey (a quantitative analysis). From this, you get a ‘rational’ thought-through response from your audience.

What they truly feel motivates them – ‘Emotional’. Here, neuro-marketing principles in a phone interview are used to obtain data. A market researcher who specializes in qualitative studies asks questions that unlocks the true emotional response. For example, when asked why a prospect never bought an instrument, people usually respond to the rational survey with ‘it was a financial decision’, but when asked in a neuro-marketing interview we get a more emotional (‘honest!’) answer

How they actually behave – ‘Behavioral’. This is based on data from the marketing automation system, Google Analytics, Google Ads etc. A profile is compiled based on anonymous online behavior data

These three data sets are then combined together, and a statistical analysis conducted to identify segments and develop personas. By doing this we get an understanding of who the target audience actually is based on data, not assumption or history. We also get an understanding of how they think (rational – quantitative), they feel (emotional – qualitative) and then how they actually behave (digital). This empowers marketers to target much more effectively and get much better results. Taking a data-led approach will give you a true 360° understanding of your target audience.

I know that this sounds expensive, but when you consider the cost of wasting your budget on incorrect assumptions, combined with the lost revenue from potential sales, can you afford not to do this properly? Lay the right foundations from the outset.

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