One of the infrastructure essentials we advocate hard for here at Wheels Up is a full set of Buyer Personas. Not only do they align messaging, they are a blueprint for content delivery and campaign strategy. You can easily spend upwards of tens of thousands of dollars PER PERSONA if you do them right with extensive in-person interviews and focus groups. But for the vast majority of our clients, a full blown, research-backed persona library isn’t practical – or really even necessary. Between the tribal knowledge of your team (product, marketing, and sales) and some time spent researching, you can build a robust-enough persona in a handful of hours.
So, what’s a persona? It’s a caricaturization of your buyers, typically stereotyped by role. They paint a picture of what makes each typical buyer tick - what motivates them, who they report to, what media they consume. Many personas are given fictional names and backstories to help really humanize the target. I’ve even seen life-size posters of stock art actors on office walls to help bring these profiles to life and keep them front and center (literally and figuratively) in the organization’s marketing efforts.
Here are 5 compelling reasons why building personas will help you hit your number:
Campaign Precision: Personas bring focus to your sales and marketing efforts. Instead of launching campaigns that shoot from the hip, you can align content and messaging that will resonate with individual personas, helping usher them through the funnel faster and with less noise.
Sales Focus: Think of these personas as blueprints for your sellers. As they build their target lists, they can align individuals to their respective personas to quickly inform the basis of their outreach. By knowing what keeps a prospect up at night, or how their success is measured, you’re already a step ahead in making sure your opener actually works.
Marketing Planning: While many persona templates stop with the individual’s profile, we advocate for extending personas to align with the buyer’s journey stages, spelling out what’s important at each conversion point. We frequently will go the extra step to align each persona with a messaging and positioning framework to spell out what it is about a product or solution that is particularly relevant. With these two extra sections, you can pretty quickly build a content matrix to identify what assets you’ll need in order to effectively nurture buyers through the funnel. This lays the groundwork for your Editorial Calendar, and it also can help you right-size your marketing investment. We believe that the best campaigns are anchored in great content, and if you have gaping holes in your content matrix, then you’re going to be scrambling each time you want to launch a new campaign. On the flip side, if you are a startup just building your marketing strategy and you don’t have a fully staffed sales organization, you might not really need spend a ton of time and money building out bottom-of-the-funnel assets right away if you’re not going to use them in campaigns for a few months. (See our blog posts on building a content strategy and a messaging and positioning framework for more info.)
Customer-Centricity: If you’re really good at integrating your personas into your sales and marketing vernacular, it’s impossible to not constantly think about your buyers (and eventual customers). At Wheels Up, we believe that having a customer-centric approach, while sometimes the hard way, is always the best way to build customers for life. Give your personas memorable names and creative backstories. Really bring them to life so your marketing is targeting actual people, not contacts in your database.
Internal Alignment: The work you do to create a set of buyer personas reverberates through an entire organization. It helps connect the dots between product development, sales, marketing, and support, and gives you a common language when organizing cross functional work. If you have any retention or expansion growth aspirations, you likely have a customer marketing strategy as well. If that’s the case, you’ll want to build user/customer personas, too. (Note that your users aren’t always your customers - different personas!) If you’re doing a great job marketing, your buyers will turn into customers, so you’ll already have a head start. Frequently Product will develop their own user personas, so take the opportunity to work with them on the endeavor to make sure you have a complete library of profiles for everyone who interacts with your product.
One last parting thought on personas: they are fluid documents. Just because you don’t know everything yet, it’s still a good idea to start. If you know what information you’d like to have, then it’s much easier to gather it. Choose the fields on the template that make the most sense for you now and start with those. A little trial-and-error is going to help you decide what information is helpful for your organization. Because that’s the point - personas should help sell more. If they’re a check-the-box infrastructure asset that is built then collects dust, challenge your team to try again and make them more relevant. Regardless, we recommend checking in with your personas annually to make sure they are still spot on. A quick interview with a few of your top sellers is usually enough to validate your completed buyer persona messaging.
There are tons of great templates available online for a variety of industries, but in the end you’ll need to customize your buyer persona template to fit your own internal needs. You can download ours as a starting point if it looks like a format will fit your customer base. Add pertinent information that we missed, or delete sections that aren’t relevant or that you don’t have the intel to complete right now. And if you need help building or refining your personas, Wheels Up would love to help. Good luck!