Personas are archetypes that contain a set of shared demographics, needs, wants, and objectives. Customer personas allow marketers to craft targeted messages tailored to prospects who share common attributes, leading to more relevant interactions and higher engagement.
In this guide, I’ll walk you through how to both design personas, using an example, and implement them using Pardot.
Advantages of Persona-Based Marketing
Persona-based marketing offers several advantages compared to using demographics- or behaviour-based audiences:
- Wider view: customer personas draw upon multiple data points and sources, giving you a more complete view of your segments, and their characteristics.
- Evolving: compared to simple segmentation lists, personas are evolving beings that you update and enrich as you gain new insights.
- Shared across the organisation: personas are a multi-purpose tool that can be used in anything from product, or web design, to multi-channel campaigns, and sales enablement.
1. Define Your Buyer Roles
Let’s assume that we’re working for a Salesforce consultancy company looking at engaging key decision makers at SMEs. To win a deal, we need buy-in from several parties, each with their own demands and expectations. Here’s where role-based personas come in handy.
The idea behind role-based personas is that a procurement process is a team effort. The process may include the following roles: end-user, influencer, skeptic, gatekeeper, early adopter and decider. Your job, as a marketer, is to understand these roles and cater your messaging accordingly.
Let’s start by looking at the example outlined above. Who were the people typically at the other side of the negotiation table? What buyer roles were typically involved? What did they hope to achieve? Which field or department did they work in?
2. Fill Out a Persona Card
Now that we have defined our buyer roles, it’s time to build personas based on them. This is done by filling out a persona card, often in the form of a presentation slide.
Giving your persona a face, name and relatable characteristics makes it easier to utilise, enrich with further insights, and communicate across your organisation.
Let’s call our persona Emma. Her role is the influencer in the CRM consultancy buying process. We know from practical experience, and our CRM data, that influencers often work in IT (either in a middle management or specialist position). Based on our insights, we can say that Emma is an IT manager at a medium-sized SaaS company. She has a Master’s Degree in Technology, and 5–10 years of work experience in the field.
As we know, a CV tells only a part of the story. Emma has certain goals, aspirations and values that we want to include in our persona.
- What are her responsibilities as an IT manager?
- What problems does she face in her daily work?
- What motivates and drives her forward?
When building your persona card, you should include at least the following fields:
- Buyer role
- Name and avatar
- Company profile (industry, size, business model)
- Job title
- Work experience
- Jobs to be done
- Pain points
- Goals and aspirations
3. Set Up a Pardot Profile for Your Persona
Now that we have Emma’s persona card filled out, you can proceed to the implementation.
The first step is to create a Pardot profile. The profiles in Pardot were created for qualifying leads for sales; their primary function is to identify how closely a prospect matches your company’s ideal customer profile.
Profiles are primed for customer persona assignment. You can even leverage Pardot grading to define how closely each prospect fits their assigned profile. Here’s how to set up a profile in Pardot:
- Open the Pardot Lightning App and navigate to: Prospects → Segmentation → Profiles, and click “Add Profile”.
- Choose a name for your persona, e.g. “Persona A: <first name of persona>”.
- Add descriptive labels for your profile criteria, such as “Industry”, “Interests” and “Job Title”. These will be used for grading your prospects within their assigned profile.
Pro tip: use a tag “customer persona” for all persona-related lists, content and automations to keep your assets organised and easily searchable.
4. Assign the Persona to Your Prospects
Next, we will cover how to automate the process of assigning profiles to your prospects in Pardot.
While you do have the option to set a profile and adjust grades manually, the added work and risk of human error quickly becomes unacceptable.
Luckily, Pardot enables you to fully automate profile assignment, with tools such as completion actions and automation rules that do the job for us.
The idea is that when a prospect’s activity or attribute (ie. field data) indicates that they belong to one of your personas, you add the ”Set Profile” action in an automation. Depending on the scenario, you could use:
- Completion actions, for when a prospect engages with a specific marketing asset (eg. submits a web form), or,
- Automation rules (eg. when certain values are added to a prospect field).
The most crucial stage of profile assignment is to decide on the right criteria for your automations. For our example persona, Emma, we could use the following automation criteria to set the profile:
- Prospect Default Field – Industry – is – Software
- Prospect Default Field – Employees – is greater than – 50
- ( Prospect Default Field –Job Title – is – IT Manager
- Prospect Custom Field – Interests – is – IT Security )
Note: keep in mind that the more criteria you add, the smaller your segment will end up. You need to strike a balance between depth and breadth when it comes to your persona criteria.
- File download, eg. “White Paper: 10 Testimonials from Salesforce Users”
- Form or form handler submission, e.g. “Webinar: Salesforce Essentials for IT Managers”
- Custom redirect, eg. “Facebook Ads Campaign: What Every IT Manager Should Know About Salesforce”
- List email link click, eg. “Website article: 5 Ways to Improve Your Salesforce Security”
Customer personas are a great tool for any marketing organisation that has the required customer insights, data, and resources to set them up. To achieve the best results, be prepared to invest enough time and budget on persona design.
The fuel that feeds your persona-assigning machine is, of course, data. The more you feed it and the higher the quality, the better. Conversely, if your data quality is not up to scratch, then the outcome isn’t desirable, and at worst…well garbage.
Monitor your reports and ask for feedback on how your personas are performing:
- Are you seeing improvements in your persona-driven campaign KPIs compared to generic campaigns?
- Is persona-based dynamic content performing better than non-personalised content?
- According to your salespeople, how well do your personas match reality?
- Have you used the same personas in web or service design? What results have you seen in those areas?