PersonasWhen you know who you are talking to, it's a whole lot easier to say the right things. In a nutshell, that's the basic idea behind creating marketing personas.

Personas and segments are sometimes thought of as being interchangeable terms, but are actually quite different. Segments are customer groups tied together by common factors like geography, age or purchase history. Advertising is often aimed at different market segments.

In marketing terms, a persona is a fictional person that represents your ideal buyer. Personas are helpful when making strategic decisions about how to market to your audience. At what size company does he work? Where does she live? How does he access information online? What does her typical day look like? What are his biggest challenges? These are examples of questions you should ask yourself when identifying your buyer personas.

Personas are given actual names and are often represented within organizations by photos or illustrations to help bring these fictional individuals to life. While the number may vary according to your industry, creating three to five personas is ideal. This number is large enough that you will be able to represent most of your customers, but still small enough to be precise.

So how do you get started creating personas for your organization? Here are four tools that can help:

1. Web analytics and intelligence. While you may already have an idea of what your typical customer looks like, tools like Google Analytics and the ClickDimensions web intelligence feature can help you discover specific details about where your audience is coming from and what interests them. How do they access your site? What pages do your web visitors view when they get to your site? What are the demographics of your audience? Where are they located?

2. Dynamics CRM. With Dynamics CRM you have an extremely powerful slicing and dicing platform to divide your audience into manageable groups. You can use the power of advanced finds, views and dynamic marketing lists to comb through the opportunities that you have closed to determine what your best customers have in common. Take a look at the industries of your opportunities and/or active customer accounts to identify any trends there. By doing this, you create personas that will help you seek out more of these same buyers.

3. Interviews. Going straight to the source is a great way to collect data for personas. Have your account management or sales teams connect you with individuals that would be comfortable with being interviewed about their basic demographic data, their pain points, their position at the company, their role in the buying process, their goals and more. Also, try interviewing people in customer-facing roles within your organization to get a broader view of your customers as a whole rather than just specific individuals.

4. Surveys. Surveys are another effective way to get a broader view of your customers in order to build your buyer personas. While interviews are a worthwhile tactic for gathering customer data, some individuals may feel more comfortable sharing via a survey the kinds of information that would be helpful in developing personas, particularly demographic data. In addition, you can incentivize customers to complete surveys, which can help strengthen your relationship with them.

Developing personas is often the first step in creating a successful content marketing strategy. To learn more about building, executing and measuring content marketing strategies, download your complimentary copy of our Hooked on Content eBook today!

Happy Marketing!