Just imagine you’re writing a blog post, creating an eBook, or even a brochure. The best writing comes across as if it were an intimate conversation with you. However if you’re not Hemingway, achieving this voice can be difficult. A good first step is to create a persona. A persona helps you get into the mind of your reader and connect with their priorities and interests. More importantly, you might earn their attention and trust.


When I was a media planner on Procter & Gamble advertising, we used a tool called Prizm which attributes psychographic segmentations by Zip Code. There were all sorts of fun names to these segments: Country Squires, God’s Country, and Blue Blood Estates.

In the B2B space however, personas tend to fall in to role-based categories because it’s more practical to speak to CIO’s or software developers as business groups than try to separate them by their personal interests.


Country Squire is one of many names Prizm has for its zip code based personas.

Country Squire is one of many names Prizm has for its zip code based personas.
Source: Claritas Prizm

Step 1: Developing Persona Segments

Use Market Research to segment your most influential audience members into distinct groups. This doesn’t have to be as scientific or expensive as it sounds. You can get this information from a number of sources:

  • Easiest: go to sales. Ask a sales rep in your company, who makes the final purchase decision. What approvals does that person need? What titles are their primary leads and prospects?
  • Moderate: Customer surveys. you can distribute a short survey either through your sales team or your eMarketing database asking customers:
    • Do they have the main purchase authority?
    • Internal characteristics: Job title, company size, industry, etc.
    • Likes, dislikes
    • Sources their information about the purchase, eg. Industry publications, social media, etc.
    • What product or service attributes made a difference in their purchase?
  • More advanced: a full scale segmentation study. You probably don’t need to spend the time and the big bucks on this unless you’re P&G, so I won’t go into this one. If you’re curious about it, I recommend this guide to segmentation analysis from Ipsos, a highly reputable research firm in the space.

Step 2: Developing the Persona Profile

Now that you’ve decided on your list of personas, it’s time to gather more detailed information. Going back to your sales teams or marketing database, find a few customers willing to speak with you and schedule a quick interview to gather this information. You can use this template (courtesy of Hubspot) to provide the framework for your persona interviews.

Information you’ll need to gather from the customer interview:

Background. Basic details about persona’s role, Key information about the persona’s company, Relevant background info, like education or hobbies

Demographics. Gender, Age Range, HH Income,

Personality Characteristics. Buzz words, Mannerisms

Goals. Persona’s primary goal, Persona’s secondary goal

Challenges and Pain Points. Primary challenge to persona’s success, Secondary challenge to persona’s success

How Your Company Can Solve This Person’s Needs. Further towards the consideration stage, make the connection between their challenges and your products and services.

Best Media to Reach This Person. Everyone goes to Google, but what keywords to they use? Do they read industry pubs or the Wall Street Journal?

Step 3: Understand Where Your Person is Most Influential in the Buy Cycle

In the B2B space, usually you have multiple roles throughout the organization driving the buy cycle through the process. Understanding where your personas are most influential in the purchase cycle is critical for developing your content and marketing plan. For example, if you know that a CIO is only involved at the beginning of the purchase cycle, you should plan to target the CIO in the “assess the need” stage.

IT managers which come in further down the buy cycle would require more product information at the consideration level as they begin to research the product.


Where IT Decision Makers Play in the Buy Cycle
Where IT Decision Makers Play in the Buy Cycle

Syndicated Resources which provide buy cycle information:

  • Forrester Technology Marketing Navigator: this is the Cadillac of this type of information for Technology Purchasing. With 18,000 participants you can slice and dice by geography, type of technology purchase and more. However, it can be pricey.
  • Sirius Decisions has solid research on a general B2B purchase cycle.

Step 4: Plan Your Content with Each Persona in Mind

Knowing where your personas are most influential means you can invest more wisely on content when it matters to them most. You can focus your creative efforts, and most importantly your budget. For example, if you know that a CIO is only involved at the beginning of the purchase cycle, you should plan to develop thought leadership pieces which target his/her concerns, then target the IT managers with more solution evaluation content.


Step 5: Speaking the Right Language

Now it’s time to start writing and producing. Is your technical or business focused? Do they prefer high-level concept graphics, or detailed data? What keeps them up at night?

Getting into the heads of your audience means speaking their language. If you’re a CIO, you might be wondering whether moving to the Cloud is cost effective. If you’re an IT Director, the security of a cloud platform might be of top concern.

In order to develop the right language, read through some of the industry publications your personas value. What are the hot issues which pubs are writing about?

  • For example, in CIO Magazine, you might find articles about how to better align with your lines of business.
  • You’ll find IT managers in infoweek.com reading about network security.

Write down the top keywords. Include their top issues in your Persona Profile template.


I look forward to hearing your comments!

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