Persona by any other name

This little piece of vocabulary is taking on a whole new significance as many of our clients are exploring the idea of content marketing and building out their strategy. It’s not a new idea of course, especially in publishing where the readership of a magazine or newspaper is well understood. Pick up the Guardian or the Daily Mail, for example, and you instantly recognise the stereotypical reader that they’re talking to. My first encounter with a system that used something similar to personas was Experian’s Mosaic system. How many of you remember that, I wonder?

Short cuts to understanding your audience

There was also a competing system called ACORN. Whichever you used at the time to make sense of buyer behaviour, it was the fact that the people were named: Darren and Joanne with their middle England happy family; pensioners Percy and Ada living in twilight subsistence; and symbols of success Rupert and Felicity (how 80s is that!), that piqued my interest. These weren’t just made up labels but the output of statistical analysis as to what the most popular names were for people in these geodemographic groupings. When crafting persuasive communication, it was a huge help to hold a picture of enterprising Dean, holding the keys to his white van, front of mind.

Personas are stereotypes by any other name. They are a useful short cut to understanding an audience. Wikipedia sums it up nicely.

A user persona is a representation of the goals and behaviour of a real group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesized from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2 page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. For each product, more than one persona is usually created, but one persona should always be the primary focus for the design.

Using buyer personas in B2B content marketing

When it comes to content they are an exceedingly useful tool. They go beyond the crude segmentation that’s often all that’s available in the B2B space: company size, vertical, geography, 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, skills, attitude and the constraints and opportunities of their environment. This way, when we communicate, it’s not a stranger we are talking to; it’s someone whose interest and motivations are more familiar to us. How much easier it is therefore, to tell a story that will capture their interest, using language and analogies that are meaningful to them.

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