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The Power of the Persona

Or, Why Imaginary Friends are Good for Business.

One of the practical marketing tools I mentioned in my webinar yesterday, 7 Steps to your Brilliant, Brand-Building Book, was the persona: it proved particularly popular with attendees and I was surprised how many people were unfamiliar with the concept. It’s widely used in software development and website design, and is a key tenet of agile methodology, but I believe it also has very practical application for business strategy and marketing, particularly content marketing.

Assuming that you have your core business strategy in place – not a series of goals or fluffy concepts, but a clear-sighted view of where you’re going and exactly how you plan to get there, leveraging your strengths and opportunities while planning how to overcome your weaknesses and the threats you face – you’ll have a good sense of your ideal client and your target market.

You’ll probably have done some thinking about this group of people: what are their needs and how exactly can you benefit them? Where do they hang out, online and off, and how can you best reach them with your message?

Now instead of thinking of your ideal customer as a type, imagine them as a real person. Give them a name. What’s their job title? How old are they? What does their daily routine look like? Where do they go on holiday? Where do they shop? What do they drive? What do they read, and what websites do they visit? What technology do they use? What are their everyday frustrations and pleasures? What objections would they raise if you asked them to buy your service? You can create several personas if you have more than one core target market, but don’t go crazy – the more you have, the less you can focus on any one.

Find a stock picture that looks like you imagine your imaginary person does, and print out their biography. This is a real example from the US Department of Agriculture (and therefore free from copyright). It might sound overkill, but I’ve heard of software developers who create life-size cardboard cut-outs of their personas* so they are literally in the room throughout the design process – there’s no way you can forget your end user when they’re standing next to your desk as you code.

And then whenever you have to make a business decision or design a new website or write your blog post or your book, check first: what would Matthew make of this? What about Gloria? Just as reading about one human tragedy can touch us so much more deeply than a news story reporting on a disaster in which thousands have died, so creating an emotional connection with an individual, even a fictional individual, will be a much more effective focal point as you write – they will stop you writing for yourself, and they will keep reminding you to stick to the point – what’s in it for them.


Tags: persona | marketing

This entry was posted on 19 September 2014 at 11:35 and is filed under content strategy | business coaching. You can leave a response here.

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