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A guide on how to develop the right personas for your business

The world is changing at lightning speed and the way we conduct business and engage with clients and customers is also changing at lightning speed. Traditional marketing – making cold calls, placing large print media advertisements and interruptive advertisements on TV – was all about the company finding the customer. These marketing techniques were interruptive and became ineffective as their target audience used technology such as caller ID, video recording and spam filters to avoid the message.  These techniques are also expensive types of marketing.  This marketer-centric style is convenient for the marketer as they can push out the content to people – potential customers – regardless of whether they want it or not. But it’s not a great start to attract a potential customer.

Today, we flip the traditional marketing model on its head.  Instead of pushing content out to potential customers, we try to attract and empower customers to find us. It is customer focused

and about fulfilling a customer’s needs rather than the company’s needs. Marketing, and specifically inbound marketing, is about drawing people in – hence the ‘in’ in inbound – and creating marketing that people love, and the customer being part of the conversation.

A good place to start in this buyer-centric, inbound marketing approach is to create relevant engaging content. So, how do you create content that will draw the potential customer or client to you? A technique to do this is to create personas of that potential customer or client.

However, before starting to create a persona work out what your business’ competitive advantage is. Use this simple formula to quickly and succinctly express your competitive advantage.

Business name + best at + why

For example: Joe’s Plumbing + residential plumbing services + on time, courteous service.


Your aim is to create great marketing content to attract, convert, close and delight customers. To do this, you have to know who your customer or client is and where they are on the buyer’s journey. You also need to keep in mind what your competitive advantage is.  That way you can make your marketing very specific to your target customers.

Personas are representations of your business’ ideal customers that you create to help your team develop focused content and nurturing strategies. Personas are the person your marketing is trying to reach. Don’t misunderstand personas as customer segmentation. Personas are a lot deeper – they reveal attitudes, ideals and the thoughts of that persona.

The Youi insurance TV advertisements are a good example of using personas – they communicate that Youi has a firm idea of their personas and therefore have a good understanding of their customers and what they want.

Every customer is different, so it is likely that you will need to create several personas. Make the persona quite detailed and as you are describing a real person. For example; ‘Hi, I’m Stephen, 40+ year old, expat kiwi, married with two daughters who owns a small management consulting business in Melbourne, who loves fly fishing.’

Case example

A couple of years ago, Byronvale Advisors was engaged to assist a not-for-profit organisation whose membership numbers were falling.  One of the problems was this organisation did need have a real understanding of who their members and potential members were, and how to market to those people.

We held a workshop with the board and C-suite and during that workshop we started building personas.

Persona # 1: Jane works in Bega (country NSW) at a manufacturing company. She is married with two primary-school-aged girls. Spending time with the family is important for Jane and she values the country lifestyle, although she relishes her annual girls’ weekend in the ‘big smoke’. The company Jane works for is small and Jane covers a broad range of tasks. She has two staff reporting to her. Because of the location and the small team covering a broad range of tasks the training needs to be online via webinars, etc., and also short and has to cover broad issues.

Persona # 2: John is in his late fifties and lives in Sydney. John is divorced and has two adult sons (and is hoping for some grandchildren). John is a C-suite executive in an ASX20 company. Every summer he crews on a yacht in the Sydney to Hobart Race. John likes conferences and half-day seminars as, apart from the education they provide, he values the opportunity to network.

We developed five personas in total. The next stage of building the membership proposition was to develop a suite of products and services for each member persona – webinars, networking functions, seminar-lite products, a training and information hub, eMagazines, etc.

We then started to develop an inbound marketing plan to target each persona. This included social media, redeveloping the website, creating landing pages and calls-to-action, implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system so we could analyse the contact that members had with the organisation and target members based on that interaction.

The point is, we didn’t just sit back and say, ‘Let’s run a conference for the members’ and hope that the content, speakers, location and timing that suited us would attract people to the conference. If we were going to run a conference, we had to know exactly who it was targeting, what they wanted, how they wanted it, where and when they wanted it. We also needed to know how to connect with that target market. We developed a plan to attract, convert, close and delight – then we analysed, rinsed and repeated.

While this case example is a not-for-profit organisation this technique using personas comes from business inbound marketing. Try it out for your business (big or small) and I think you’ll have a lot better understanding of your customers and they, and their needs, will become far more real to you.

About the author

A guide on how to develop the right personas for your businessStephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors.  He has over 25 years advising clients from new business start-ups to publicly listed companies and across a wide array of industries.  He prides himself on quickly understanding the client’s business and issues, and synthesising problems to develop pragmatic solutions.  He is also the author of ‘Run Your Business Better’.  You can  find out more about pricing by downloading Barnes’ free eBook ‘The Price is Right – Right?’ 


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Stephen Barnes

Stephen Barnes

Stephen Barnes is the principal of management consultancy Byronvale Advisors. He has over 25 years advising clients from new business start-ups to publicly listed companies and across a wide array of industries. He prides himself on quickly understanding the client’s business and issues, and synthesising problems to develop pragmatic solutions. He is also the author of ‘Run Your Business Better’. You can find out more about pricing by downloading Barnes’ free eBook ‘The Price is Right – Right?’

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