Building personas and understanding your audience

Good content means you have to anticipate what your audience wants. But how do you do that? Ginny Redish, in her book “Letting go of words”, suggests seven tips for getting and using information about your web users. We think it can be as simple as three:

  • Collect: Who are your major audiences? And what are their main characteristics? What else do you know about them? Gather your audience’s questions, tasks and stories.
  • Create: Use this information and customer insight to create personas. After all, it’s far easier to communicate with your audience once they stop being strangers—and start being someone whose interests and motivations are more familiar to you.
  • Conceive: Use your information to write scenarios for your website; journeys and stories that would capture the persona’s interest, using language and analogies that would be meaningful to them.


So what information goes into a persona?

You need to go beyond the crude segmentation that’s often all that’s available in the B2B space: company size, vertical, geography, demographic, job title and weave in more personal elements so the character takes shape. These 1-2-page descriptions cover aspirations and goals, patterns of behaviour, values, skills, attitude and the constraints and opportunities of their environment.

For example:


  • 55 years old
  • Finance Director
  • Lives in London
  • Married

Richard and his wife work full-time. They make six-figure incomes, and they put in the hours that requires.

Richard uses email but doesn’t get on the web much at work. His web use is mostly personal, at home. That doesn’t mean he has time to waste. He’s impatient at home, too. Time is very precious for Richard and his wife.

He wears contacts; his eyes aren’t what they were when he was younger. He hates websites with tiny print; they make him feel old.

When it’s time to renew his phone contract, he’ll try online this year and save himself some paperwork—if it’s easy to do.

“The web is a tool to get things done. Fast”
“If it doesn’t work right, I move on. I don’t have time to figure it out.”

Typical web tasks

  • Reads news
  • Checks sports sites
  • Buys things for their weekend house


Now, instead of talking generally, you can talk specifically about whether Jane can find the information about Big Data (for example); will this help Bob fix his problem? When Jamie knows the fee what will he do next?

And, you’ll also know how best to address their questions—a quick read, an audio description, an explanatory video.

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