Personas Drive Inbound Strategy

By Patty Cisco

Whether you’re new to inbound marketing or an experienced practitioner, you quickly associate positive conversion rates with a sound inbound strategy driven by personas.  Why?

Personas Force Focus

Remember your college marketing classes when they conveyed the importance of focusing on your target market? Wikipedia defines target market as “a select group of potential or current consumers, which a business decides to aim its marketing and advertising strategies at in order to sell a product or service”.  Over my 25+ years of traditional marketing experience, defining my target market was always the first stage of developing my marketing plan or campaign.

Digital marketing arrived in our arena around 1999, and Alan Cooper introduced the concept of user personas to help inform web design strategy.  Instead of focusing on a broad demographic or group of people, personas (also known as buyer personas) force us to describe one single imaginary person who most closely embodies our primary customer. 

Through research, we uncover the buyer behavior insights which define how this persona makes online decisions. Details contained within a persona would include:  Their age, where they live, their goals, fears, challenges, interests, wants, desires, channels they utilize and keywords and phrases they search.  We even find a random photo of a person and give them a name. 

Personas allow us to see things through the eyes of the customer, thus forcing us to be customer driven in our approach to attracting the customer and fulfilling their goals. 

Personas Drive Inbound Results

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “Creating content for everyone resonates with no one.” I have found this statement to be 100% true. It only makes sense that the more we focus our strategy on a very specific persona, the greater the results.  It’s important to remember that even though you may want everyone in the world to be aware of your brand, frankly the only people that care are the ones that have an immediate problem (pain point) and are searching for a solution.

Creating an inbound strategy based upon personas results in crafting great content that connects with your persona’s identity, emotions, and gives them relevant information.  In developing our content strategy, we like to say that our content joins the conversation taking place in the persona’s mind.

That’s really what inbound marketing is:  delivering the right content, in the right channel, at the right time, exactly the way the persona needs and wants it.  Just take a look at a few success stats from other persona based strategies:

  • Using buyer personas in an email campaign improved open rate by 2x and clickthrough rate by 5x. MLT Creative
  • Behaviorally targeted ads are twice as effective as non-targeted ads. HiP 
  • Using marketing personas made websites 2-5 times more effective and easier to use by targeted users. HubSpot
  • Buyers are 48% more likely to consider solution providers that personalize their marketing to address their specific business issues. ITSMA
  • A MarketingSherpa case study found that buyer personas added the following value:
    • a 900% increase in length of visit, 
    • a 171% increase in marketing-generated revenue, 
    • a 111% increase in email open rate, 
    • and a 100% increase in the number of pages visited. Act-On
  • In the case of Intel, buyer personas surpassed campaign benchmarks by 75%. They were more cost efficient than the average campaign by 48%. Demand Gen Report
  • In the case of Thomson Reuter, buyer personas contributed to a 175% increase in revenue attributed to marketing, 10% increase in leads sent to sales, and a 72% reduction in lead conversion time. Demand Gen Report

I suggest the main statistic that you pay attention to is:

There is a significant disconnect between the content buyers want and the content marketers are creating. Seventy-five percent of global business leaders say they turn to content to research complex business ideas (peer practices, business strategies) within their industries. But 93% of marketers connect their content directly to a product or service. (MarketingSherpa)

Why?  Because there is significant opportunity to advance your competition by using personas to develop relevant content that resonates with what your customers want — not what you want to tell them!

Final Thoughts

Thanks to new technologies, there are more channels used by your customers and buyers than ever before. Organizations practicing true inbound marketing methodologies are using buyer personas, backed by solid research, to improve company-wide understanding of customers.  Buyer personas are an essential component of any inbound marketing program. Without them, you’re practicing traditional intrusion based marketing which turns off your customers. Personas are your ideal buyers – the people who are most likely to purchase your product or service, and who you would love to do business with. Targeting your inbound strategy directly to them increases the likelihood that you’ll be doing business with your favorite buyers.


Author Bio: 

As founder and Principal of Marketing Essentials, Patty Cisco, MBA’s continual quest and drive for helping businesses grow is her passion. With over 30 years of strategic business management and leadership experience, she is known as a catalyst and understands the challenges CEOs and Marketing Directors face in executing inbound digital marketing & sales strategies that yield results. No surprise you will find her feeding her hunger for lifelong learning with a good book and latte!