Don't Overthink Your Personas

I go back and forward on the value of personas. Sometimes they are super-critical to your marketing approach, sometimes it becomes a factor of analysis paralysis. Considerable time has been wasted trying to create the perfect persona, so I try to simplify my characters more into habits than details. If you’re doing product development, sure, go nuts with your finer elements, but for marketing, we’re trying to intercept people.


The Person

A lot of time can be spent building individuals with names, hair color and where they grew up, but it has to be relevant to the purchase itself. Does the fact she works out twice a week matter to your product? Or does the fact she has two kids? Or grew up in a big family? Be selective on the details you build before you create personas that fail to actually direct your marketing.

What is the lifestyle? 

This is where components of the person’s life factor into their purchase behavior. Convenience, popularity, longevity; these are elements that can matter to how you position your product, and you can take them into consideration when creating a persona. The time I have in the day and my environment will often dictate my purchase behavior, just be certain to focus on contributing details, not fluff.

What are the struggles? 

Outside of the purchase, what challenge in life is drawing our person to shop? Is it replacing an older system? Early adopter? Understanding the trigger to begin shopping will help you establish a need if it doesn’t exist, or tap into an existing stream.

What is their relationship stage?

It’s not just about getting new customers, it’s also about maintaining current ones and transitioning new purchases. Build stages for your persona from before they make a purchase until they leave you. It might sound sad to build the exit path for you customer, but the better you understand it, the more likely you can prevent it. The easiest way to do this is build the major lifecycle stages:

  • Pre-need – Aren’t aware of you
  • Current need – Shopping for you and your competition
  • Decision making – Making a choice
  • New customer – Their first steps with you
  • User – Engaged with your product
  • Mature user – Legacy user, may be shopping
  • Exit – Moving to a new provider or refreshing current relationship



How do they buy?

This is probably the most important element, and it is filled with more components as you dig deeper. This is what will help you determine messaging, channels, content and just about everything in the marketing mix.

Where do they shop?

Is it online? Is it face to face? Most of the work I do in content writing comes into support an online audience, but you have to know where people spend their money. The way people shop is impacted directly by where they browse their options. This isn’t the decision phase yet, this is the research phase; you have to draw the distinction because the type of information is different between a browser and somebody ready to commit to a purchase.

What factors in their decision?

Is it reviews? Is it name power? The easiest way to determine this is to understand how people are successful currently and to understand what people fear. Some products people fear buyer’s remorse; sometimes it’s how cool they will look to others. This is where name brands, guarantees, service and other details factor into how people choose one product over another. You need to line up the strengths and weaknesses as your CUSTOMER sees it.


What is their pain?

Is it education? Is it access? People are shopping for a reason, and this is core to your success. This is where you dig deeper into the person and understand the root cause of their motivation, not symptoms. If you’ve ever mulled over two options in a store before, think about what you lacked, particularly if it’s not a price-based decision. Understand the purchase decision pain, and unless you’re the only company in your market space and everybody chooses you this pain exists, figure it out. 


These are the factors that I consider most often, particularly when I start building content or do any writing for a new client. Consider these points and it should help you better understand your customers, and how to market to them.