How to Develop your persona story and why it’s important
Matt and Renia sit down with Misti Ferris to talk about developing personas for industrial marketing. So, what the heck is a persona story? On this episode of Grow Live we explain what it is and how it can help grow your business. Learn tips to understand your ideal customer and how to provide content that is relevant to them.
Think of content marketing as a tool. If you start with a persona story when you write your content, it’s like giving a hammer to a professional builder. That builder knows how to use that hammer and is meticulous in the work that they do.
“If you don’t start with a persona story, it’s like giving the hammer to a toddler. Crazy things are going to happen.”
—Renia Carsillo, Director of Digital Strategy
Watch, listen or read now and learn more about:
- Learn the necessary ingredients you need to build the best persona story.
- Why building a persona story will help you be more relatable to your customers.
- How to use your persona story in the helpful content you share.
- Why the best salespeople are great storytellers.
- How the anti-persona story can help your marketing laser-specific.
“To be successful in digital marketing, you have to be relatable.”
—Misti Ferris, Marketing Manager
Are you ready to learn why the persona story is important to successful marketing?
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Read the Grow Live transcript...
Renia: Hi, guys. Welcome. We are back on another sort of sun shiny Florida Wednesday, for episode three of Grow Live and we are talking personas today. I have Matt back with me again.
Matt: This is so exciting. I feel like I'm really getting in the group now and the jitters are going away so.
Renia: If you're new to us, Matt is the Managing Partner and Chief Marketing Officer for Safety Marketing Services and we've invited Misti Ferris, one of our marketing managers to join us because she knows a whole lot about developing personas. She does these every day for her clients. Welcome, Misti.
Misti: Thanks for having. This is super exciting.
I've never done a Facebook Live show so this will be awesome.
Matt: It will be awesome because you are here and the thing I like about this show, Misti, is that we can actually say that this is the show by marketing managers for marketing managers.
Misti: Makes it very true.
If you guys are new to us today, just so you know, we will be live for the hour here on Facebook so grab a sandwich and hangout with us or if you can't stay with us for the whole hour but you really want to talk about this conversation, you can watch this back tomorrow on YouTube or you can listen to it in your podcast feed, whatever you listen to podcast on. Which app do you use, Matt?
Matt: I have some random podcast feed app that I got on iTunes. I don't even know what it's called.
Matt: It just says podcast really.
Renia: You're not one of the cool kids.
Matt: I guess not, but I have lots of podcast on there and I love seeing my own podcast on, that's pretty cool.
Renia: That is kind of cool.
Matt: Then I get a little notification when we post a new podcast so.
Matt: You can definitely, I definitely recommend using iTunes or your podcatcher to make sure you subscribe to this so you don't miss an episode.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely.
The podcast for at least for me, is a lot less painful than watching myself back on video so.
Renia: That's medium of choice.
Matt: I prefer to go to the podcast myself. Yeah.
Renia: What about you Misti, are you going to watch yourself?
Misti: I'm excited to watch myself because I've never seen myself on live TV so.
Any feedback on what's going on guys, let me know because I'm sure I'll be back at some point so.
Matt: Maybe, we'll see how you do.
Misti: Oh good feedback, good feedback.
Renia: Oh [inaudible 00:02:23] is getting hard on us, huh?
One final place you can find the transcript also at growwithsms.com, so however you like to consume your information about personas, you can find it there. You guys ready to dive in?
Renia: Awesome. I guess we should start out probably with defining exactly what a persona is.
What would you tell, you know if you were talking to another marketing manager, what would you tell them a persona is?
Misti: Well, I've had this conversation a couple of times actually, so I'll jump in.
The main difference between a persona story is that it's a story as opposed to when you typically interview or do a market survey for your clients or for your customers. You're looking for bullet points of information. You're looking for details. When you're wanting to create a story, you have to think about it a lot more creatively. You can, you need to dive in so that you can pull out pieces of that person's day that you can use to create something to relate to them. When people relate to whatever content you're putting out online, that's where you win so that's why we use the personas. That's why it's the main focus of inbound. You can't start inbound. You can't do anything inbound-wise, it's going to be productive without starting there and really getting to know your persona.
Matt: Yeah, that's it. That's a great point.
I like what you said about, that it's a story as opposed to a set of data points so that's definitely where I would go to, is that when I think of personas, I think of stories so I think of, and why is a story important, because it helps our brains understand how to relate and we're just people, human beings who are grown up throughout the eons of human evolution telling stories to each other. Even if we were sitting in a cave, huddled around a fire, we'd be telling a story.
Matt: That helps us relate to our experiences in the world and when it comes to digital marketing, having a persona or a story about your ideal buyer, helps us relate to that buyer better.
It helps us to create a sense of empathy and then by doing so, we're able to connect with that buyer better than we would have if we just had say, a set of data points.
I remember way back in like my sales training days, they would say that a really great sales person is basically a really good story teller so if you want to be really good at sales, you have to be really good at telling stories and it's hard to tell someone a story that they will care about if you don't know who they are.
Matt: You don't know their story, so yeah, I guess that's the place to start, Misti, in terms of writing your stories.
What are some key pieces of that story like, I'm writing a novel for example. I have typically, you have a way of structuring that piece of literature and obviously we're not talking about writing a novel are we? I mean, this is just a short story I would assume, right?
Misti: Well, you're right in a lot of ways.
You want the story to be short and end, but the research that you can put into it is comparable to what you would do for a novel. Maybe not quite that much, but not looking to put so much on your plate.
Matt: You're scaring, you're scaring our marketing managers.
Misti: You can dig into it at that much and the more details you can pull up out of somebody's life, the better your persona story is going to be.
So sure, you could make it a whole 100 pages long if you really wanted to, but you can't do that because you need to use that in order to create content. None of your designers, not even your other marketing people are going to read 100 page novel. They need something quick and precise that's why your research taking its time and digging in, pulling out those key points and creating a story around it is what's going to help.
Renia: Yeah, so we actually as a team, we use two different versions of a persona.
We have the whole written story and then we have like a cheat sheet because to Misti's point that the longer that it is, the harder it is to use for quick reference so.
Misti: Right. You need both.
Renia: We actually make both.
Misti: You need both, yeah.
Matt: You mentioned using this persona quick reference sheet I'm assuming as a way of helping your, did you say designers and writers, particularly how does it impact them and then the job that they're doing?
Misti: Well, from a design standpoint, you don't want to hand them, your designer a job and say, "Hey, create this beautiful graphic and let's just pull something out of the air to use as an example to give you guys a little more context."
I say, we want to make a selling sheet, an ebook cover based around hi vis products. If you're marketing that toward the end user, that's something the designer needs to know like he needs to make images that are relevant to someone who would actually be wearing or using a hi vis jacket. Let's say you're not marketing toward those people, maybe you're going to market that information to someone who would be a purchasing agent or a buyer for a certain company. You're going to market that in a different way. It may be subtle. It's not going to be a huge difference with something like that but there could be other instances where the difference is dramatic, but for something like that, just getting that context in that designer's mind will help them create the best way to present it for that particular person that you're trying to reach.
This is even more true when you're talking about someone who's writing. I mean design is kind of a little more simpler. I don't know of any designers who would agree with that.
Matt: Hey, I take a little bit of a fuss there.
Misti: Oh no, I know, but I think you know writing, you really have to dig in.
You really have to present something. To me, words have just always been something that hit home a little closer than images. I know for others it's different though. I mean really, you have to know those personas to know how they're consuming that information, what matters to them.
Matt: One thing that I loved about the way that we do our quick reference sheet and maybe we could even link to an example of one. I think it might be helpful to do that and maybe the show notes or the blog that comes out.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely.
Matt: One of the things I love about the way we do ours is that we would talk about some of the brands that our personas are interested in.
Matt: I think that is important as well because if you can maybe list out a few brands like if it's Starbucks or HubSpot or Apple or, you know whatever the brands are that your particular persona is a fan of, then if you can go to this, if you're a designer, you can use that as inspiration to start designing things that are going to really relate to that persona better.
Matt: I think that's a nice little tip when you create these personas.
Think about, you might think about asking your personas, what kind of brands most resonate with them and go and look to them as inspiration for your design.
Renia: I think you can look around this table and kind of see that playing out because we all work in the same company.
We all have a similar thing that we're going after in the end but we, even just when you look at us, present in a really different way and we have different ways that we make decisions and that we interact with brands because of that so if you were just going after like this set demographic, we're all in about the same age, we're in the same profession sort of. We live in the same area, but you can just sit here and look at us right now and probably see what some of those differences are you know, one of our product.
Matt: We all wear makeup.
Renia: Yeah, we all wear makeup. One of our production crew earlier was commenting that Misti and I look like Skittles today.
Matt: Love it.
Renia: Versus Matt is pretty much always in black so the colors that you would choose when you were designing for us, if you were trying to speak to us, would obviously be really different because of that individuality and you can't get that at the market level. You've got to drill down to your personas whereas Misti and I might fit one type of personas together a little better. Matt might be completely different.
Matt: Yeah, it's a good point and I'll also point out, if you look at Renia's logo, so you look at our logo, not this one because I don't have the pen wheel, but I designed that pen wheel right, so I'm the designer here.
I was the creator of this brand but I didn't create the brand for me so that's an important thing to remember and that's kind of like getting back to this idea of who your persona is. Your content that you're creating, the brand that you're creating, it's not about you and what you like. It's about your persona and what they like, what resonates with them and so what I was looking to do was really build my brand around marketing managers who appreciate color and design a little bit more than maybe I would. Maybe I just like one or two colors, monotone kind of simplistic or minimalistic design, but I made my logo specifically with that many colors because I felt like it was going to stand out and it was going to relate better to our personas.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely.
Misti: Perfect example.
Renia: What I want to ask you, Misti, is what are some of the key details that we do need to include in our persona story?
What is some of the information that's really important to know about that end user?
Misti: Well, there's a lot that goes into it but some of the key points would be definitely demographics.
You want to find out where that person is. You want to find out where that person consumes their information so that's another key point, finding out. Do they read a lot of trade publications? Are they someone who really looks on line for information, maybe they visit trade shows? There's lots of different ways that people learn about their profession and their industry so you need to find those areas as well. Another key point would be their background. It kind of goes with demographics but a little more into their personal background like are they married? Do they have children? Do they enjoy traveling a lot? Did they attend college? Those types of things, even their salary range. We use that in our personas quite a bit. I think it just helps you to, when you're creating content, you have to know those types of details in order to provide content that's relevant to them.
You're going to provide information very differently to someone who is just out of college and in their first job than you would someone who's been in the industry for 15 or 20 years and they've really done well for themselves. They need different information, completely. It's not the same whatsoever so those are key points. There's many more so just, let's think for a moment. I'm kind of blinking out a little bit but, so also their challenges, their struggles. What their every single day looks like? That's very highly important. In order to be relatable, you have to know, you have to be able to empathize like Matt was pointing on. You have to say, "Okay, what is this person digging into everyday that they just cannot stand to do?" Everybody has something. For me, it's checking email, but we all, you have to do it, but if you can empathize with somebody in just that little moment of that. It's not something you're going to spend any amount of time on, but it's something that makes you even more relatable and that's the goal for marketing digitally. You have to be relatable.
Matt: If anybody wants to sell you like email productivity software, you're just going to.
Misti: I'm going to be all over that.
Matt: All over that.
Matt: Got it.
Misti: A way to check email without actually checking your email, I don't know. Is that okay?
Matt: You've probably downloaded a few ebooks in your time overall.
Misti: I have.
Renia: Assistant is on Misti's I want list, someone who runs her email.
Misti: Keep that in the background.
Renia: That is my holy grail, is to never have to look at my emails so I totally feel.
Matt: She has some daughters, she could give them her work.
Misti: I could, I could.
Misti: Do a little slave labor, they'll be all right.
Renia: I love what you said.
I just want to like pull this out for everybody to really like if you were going to write down one thing from this show, to be successful in digital marketing, you have to be relatable and that's something that you said Misti that I think is just so powerful and we, it's a test that we need to be thinking about with everything we're putting out. Is it relatable for that persona, will they get it?
Renia: One of the reasons we talk about stuff like age and why, and things like that is, are they a digital native or not?
This, for us and our industry, for you guys in industrial marketing, this is a big pain point, right, because half or so, maybe a little less than half still of our end users are digital natives, you know they're our age.
Matt: I like how you're saying digital native and not millennial.
Renia: I'm tired of the word millennial. I'm tired of hearing the word.
Matt: I know I was going to step on a landmine there.
Renia: Basically, digital native means we've had it since we were kids.
We've had it at least, I think I was like nine or 10. Anyone younger than us who's had it ever since they can remember versus if you're talking to someone even five years older so the difference between talking to someone in their early 30s and someone who's 40, online right at this moment is huge because someone who's 40 was just old enough to not be a kid when all this stuff started coming down and the way you speak to them and the way you design for them, is very different and so that's where the age stuff becomes really important. We talk, Misti, I know you talk a lot with your writers about tone and word choice based on education, right?
Misti: Right. It's something that we help our writers do is to write in the voice of the client.
That can't be done without a really good persona story, also takes a little bit of time to just get to know each other, get to know your client, get to know their style, but you have to present to a writer, something that they can use to set that tone. Another key point of personas help with that is what does success look like for that client or that customer that you're trying to reach? With information like that, that defines how it is that they're going to look at something and say okay, this is really working or this is how I want my project to end up or this is something that makes me feel really good when I purchase it. I know it's going to work. I know I've made a good choice. In order to write something in a tone that reflects that and helps encourage that, you have to provide those persona details.
The work that you have to put into a persona is well worth it. It touches every piece of your digital marketing, from the first day until the very last thing you've ever put up online, it will always touch everything that you do.
Renia: Yeah, sorry, go ahead.
Matt: I just wanted to say one thing that just made me realize, so content marketing and we say inbound a lot, content marketing whatever, a lot of it's crossover terminology, but one of the things that I was going to say is that it's not anything new.
I mean we've been, people have been doing content marketing, blogging and writing content online for well over a decade now. I think a lot of companies have failed because they haven't seen much, they haven't seen as much results as they would expect from it, or maybe they got impatient and they just didn't see the longterm, the return on the investment and a big part, in my opinion, on the why that's happened, is because they didn't start with a persona. What they did was they started writing to a generic audience and so they were trying to make their content applicable to everybody and they really impacted nobody.
Matt: I think a big part of why personas are important is because you're narrowing down your focus and the way that you write and content that you consume that feels like it's written just for you, you'll notice that you stay on the page of those websites longer and you end up probably becoming customers because they've related to you specifically and not just in a generic way and that's why, so if you've tried, if you're out there right now and you've tried content marketing in the past, maybe you've written articles and maybe you didn't see the results.
Ask yourself, did you have a really clear persona story to write, to give to your writers, to write content that was very laser specific to them? If not, then maybe it's time to give it another chance.
Renia: Yeah, so that's a perfect point, Matt. I want you to think of your digital marketing.
It's a tool, right so your content marketing is a tool. It's a hammer. If you start with a persona story, it's like giving a hammer to a builder and they're going to very meticulously use that hammer. If you give your hammer, if you don't start with a persona story, it's like giving the hammer to a toddler and when a toddler.
Matt: I know what happens when you do that.
Renia: You know what happens? Crazy things happen.
Matt: I can show you some pictures.
Renia: The persona story, the barrier to entry, anybody can get a blog out there in 15 seconds flat.
The barrier to entry was so low that a lot of us, myself included when we first started, didn't take the time to think this through, but the persona story is really your foundation for everything. What I want to ask you, Matt, is you've been doing this for a year and a half or so for SMS, what happened, coming out of very traditional marketing where you aren't thinking about it in this way, what happened for you? What was the process for you when you were going through developing those initial persona stories?
Matt: Yes, good question.
I mean, looking back on it, it was interesting because I knew the things that I needed to do to start producing content but I never thought about starting with a persona until I learned, I went out and started studying what are the best practices and one of the best practice that kept on coming up was write your personas out. Pick one and start writing content for that one persona instead of trying to conquer the world. I started building out these personas and I realized, oh my gosh, I thought that I knew my customers but until I went through the exercise of, I know, interviewing a few of them and talking about their pain points and sitting down, thinking about it, something happens when a thought comes out of your mind and it gets on paper. That's where I started to understand my customers so much better and it was like I got a booster in relatability immediately. Yeah, the persona development process was excellent.
The way that I did it was, our writer who I had on staff at that time, I had her come into my office and I said, "Here's my persona. I want you to interview me on each one of these personas and I'll tell you everything I know." Then we took that and then the next thing we did was we went out and we interviewed a couple of customers and based on my data points, the customers' data points, she was able to put together a really good story. There's a couple of revisions, but then once we had that story, I pass it out to my team and it was as if I just unlocked, it's like I pulled back the curtain behind the business plan and everybody started to understand, oh, I see. This is our customer. This is their pain points. This is how we can relate to them, and now, it wasn't just the writers or the designers who understood, but the whole organization started to see the bigger picture that maybe only me as the sales person really understood well.
Matt: I feel like out there, especially industrial supply, there's lots of tribal knowledge that's away inside of the brains of these great sales reps right.
They know their customers better than anybody else, but unfortunately, that information does not make it out of their brain to their marketing department and that's where the disconnect is happening and I feel like if that could happen and through a persona development, I think the marketing team could do great things and there would be better alignment.
Renia: Absolutely, and to that point, Misti. I know you've seen with some of your clients then really do some interesting stuff once they understand that persona story themselves because this can be tough for people upfront. It's a little bit scary sometimes for people, focus on just one person.
Renia: Right, so what have you seen happened as a result of this?
Misti: Sometimes our clients don't always choose just one persona to start off with, but in those cases where we have done that, sometimes it always, it always comes back eventually to narrowing down to picking that one persona to create a campaign around.
It's hard to choose just one persona, I mean if you think about your business, I'm sure you can come up with at least a few people that you market to, but there's always, some business have 10, 20 different personas that they may be trying to reach. You have to prioritize so if you're just starting out with content marketing, you want to pick the main one that you find. It can have a different angle. It can be someone who you haven't been able to connect with and you want to challenge yourself to be able to bring in that sort of buyer a little bit more or it can be somebody who is your very best client and you just want to really provide them some additional support through your business. You have to narrow it down to just one, sometimes two. I mean that can work as well.
It doesn't, there's no real hard line rule for that but you can do enough research to create one persona and you can really create a whole campaign around one persona. You can create many campaigns around one persona. Start small. You have to start small and you have to kind of grow from there. It may seem a little bit overwhelming but it's really not. I mean the benefit that you get from it is amazing and you can do a lot of good out of learning just about that one persona that you have. You'll see a lot of return on the fact that you've put in that extra bit of time, that chunk of effort so that you can really get to know that person and then you're going to send out content that's relevant to them. You're going to be able to relate to them a little bit easier and once that happens, it turns every other wheel in the system and so it's. Go ahead.
Matt: No, I'm just, I don't want to interrupt you. I don't mean to interrupt you but one of the things I wanted to kind of respond to that and just kind of help our audience better understand what we're talking about here.
Let's say that you have in a typically, in the sales process, there's usually, let's say it's an operations manager or a safety manager. Somebody who is out there researching solutions, responsible for the productivity or the safety in the health of their organization, right, but then there may be a lot of the situations where there's a purchasing manager who actually has to be the one who goes to the website or calls in the order and so they're doing their own bit of research. How do you know who's the right persona to focus on? What would you say and I guess I'd open it up for both of you guys, curious to hear your thoughts on that, but how do you narrow it down to that one persona because ultimately, you can't write for two personas at one time, right.
Misti: Right, it's a one step at a time thing. It's a really good question. I think the main source of that answer would probably come from your sales team. You have to dig from them and find out where the best place for opportunity is and where there's the most need for it. What do you think, Renia, is that?
Renia: I think you have to figure out like who's doing the searching because ultimately, if you're thinking about using your persona for digital, who's doing the searching that's the most likely to find you quickly, because we want to start with that persona that's low hanging fruit first, meaning this is a little bit less competitive maybe than some of the others and most of us have that.
We have one little corner of the market where we're particularly good in for whatever reason and the person that's buying in that area, it's much easier to build for them first. I would look at that one first and that would probably be where I would start but I have a belief and this is just based on my experience and some people that I trust on this that almost every brand has about five personas. I don't, again it's a belief, we can debate this. It's debated a lot but there's about five that are their main personas that they should be writing for.
Matt: We have five.
Matt: Go figure.
Renia: Five are, those five personas need to be developed out for over time and to give you guys an idea, I really want you to think about this, about how long it takes to develop content out for a persona for each stage in the buying journey.
It takes about a year for most companies unless you have a big budget where you can hire 30 writers to flood content, it takes about a year for most companies to build out a good amount of content per one persona, which means it's going to take you five years to develop out all the content that you need for those five personas and then guess what happens. You realize you need more content, right, or you create something new.
Matt: Then we start over at the beginning with the first persona.
Renia: You start over, but it's not, it's very, very difficult to do lots of them at a time and so it really is a gut check to say, which one of these is going to be the best for me, live in the studio, you see. Someone's calling.
Matt: You can phone in your question.
Renia: It's an opportunity.
Misti: [crosstalk 00:30:06].
Matt: At 888 grow live, actually, I don't think that works so don't try that.
Renia: Don't try that, do not try this at home.
Yeah, I really think that it's important that we understand the time commitment on developing each one and it doesn't mean that you're not going to be selling to other people in the interim. It means that you're building out that content over time for each one of those personas but to kind of loop back around to your question too, choose someone who's doing the searching first. What we found with a lot of our clients is the person who is actually making the purchase is not the person who's looking for the answers so that's where there is sometimes occasionally, a disconnect with the sales team that we have to watch out for where if the person who's Googling all the solutions is a lower level person who's going to report back to the boss that's going to make the decision and you've built out all your content for the boss that's going to make the decision, you'll get missed.
Renia: The person who's doing the searching is the person who's going to find your site and that person is probably a little further down the totem pole than the person who actually gets to pull the trigger?
Matt: Exactly, so that's kind of where I was getting at, right.
Matt: I don't know if this would be helpful. You tell me if this is helpful or not, but I thought maybe I would go through a couple of our personas.
Matt: Just talk a little bit about the way that we do things. Case in point, what you just said, our primary persona is a persona that we created called Marketing Mindy, okay so Marketing Mindy, in basic terms without going through the whole story, is a marketing manager at an industrial supply company and specifically, why we picked that persona is because what we found is that industrial distributors or suppliers that work best with us have at least the size and budget to have one full time person on their marketing team.
It usually takes a full time marketing manager to help manage all of this work that we're creating. We found that, that's our ideal buyer and so people that are, that ideal buyer have a marketing manager Mindy and that marketing manager is the one who's been tasked with, "All right, Mindy, here's my e-commerce site. Let's get these products loaded. All right, Mindy, here's our blog. Let's get some blog post written. Oh, can you manage social media? Oh, can you send this box to shipping?"
Mindy has a lot of tasks that she has to do and so what she's doing is she's the one at the industrial supply company who is out research solutions and so we want to be found by her with our content, hopefully our content as value speaks directly to her in a way that is a relatable that empathizes with her pain points and that she's trying to do everything by herself. Mindy, you don't have to do it all, SMS is here okay. That's the idea of our content strategy.
Matt: Then Mindy, when she finds a solution, SMS for example, she will then pass it on to the decision maker usually the principal or VP or CEO.
Renia: Yeah, so to that point, that's a perfect example, Matt. We have lots of content that we are building out for Mindy to help solve her problem of being really, really busy, having a lot of stuff to do, really needing some help, getting pressure to figure out digital and e-commerce and stuff like that but not being able to do it all on our own, that's the content we're building out there.
Behind that, we do have a couple of key pieces like you'll see an ROI calculator and things like that on our site, that are specifically designed for that decision maker. If you're like us and you are identifying a persona that's not the one who's ultimately going to sign the check, you will do want to build out a couple of pieces upfront that are decision level pieces for that higher level decision maker and they are just kind of outliers from what you're doing for this persona for a little while.
Matt: A good example of that, if you're, let's just say you are an industrial distributor and you're primarily creating content for your safety manager and that content most of the time looks like, here's this particular OSHA regulation and here's some great solutions that will help you guys stay safe on the job.
That's a pretty standard type of persona content that we would create but then, you might also want to pepper in some content that talks a little bit about what potential cost savings you might expect to see by working with this particular distributor, or you might talk about ways to consolidate your PPE spend and these are areas that are not particularly interesting to a safety manager unless of course, he's compensated by saving dollars, which very may will be the case but most of the time, those safety managers are focused on getting the very best solutions and typically what they have over top of them is like an operations manager or a C-level person who is looking to maintain cost. Of course, they care about safety but they also want to balance that with budget and everything. Those are some content pieces that you might want to consider adding if you don't already have that.
Renia: Why we want to think this through while we're developing the persona, I'm going to give you an example of a couple of our clients that we've been through this with so we have two industrial distributors, right. One is a slightly larger company than the other, both of them have a persona that is a contractor, right. In our minds, I think most of us when we think of a contractor, what do we think of?
Misti: First thing that pops in the head would be a builder on a site of some kind whether it's.
Matt: Construction company.
Misti: Yeah, a construction guy.
Renia: Yeah, so like a construction company, I think of home builders because I grew up with a bunch of home builder contractors. Some people might think of small job sites or something like that. Well, to one of these companies, their contractor persona is like a small contractor like I think most of us would think of. They may have like a couple trucks on the road, 50, 60 employees and that's what they're really happy with. The other one, when they say the word contractor, same word, they're talking about 20,000, 30,000 person, sometimes 100,000 person company that does huge things like build huge skyscrapers and stadiums and stuff like that. Same word.
Renia: If they just tell us to go after contractors, what happens?
Matt: Right, and a lot of assumptions happen right, so that's an important thing to understand is what is, not just the persona but what are we talking about here in terms of the ideal buyer profile and that's a whole another topic I know but that's more of a sales conversation, but we're talking about the company at that point.
Matt: Not the individual, the individual maybe similar in some ways, but the needs behind that individual, the company needs can be dramatically different.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely. The persona will tell you some details about that so like Misti was talking about understanding what their pain points are. You know a person with a 20 person crew, it's probably an owner making their decisions versus a 20,000 person business. There's a buyer somewhere in an office, making decisions for the crew on the ground.
Matt: Right, there's a safety manager.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. It's a different ballgame for sure.
Misti: Yeah, that's one of those key points that you dig out when you're doing the research for a persona story is to ask what type of company they work for, what's their position in the company, what do they actually do on a daily basis, that's information you need to get that information to decide, is it a contractor? Like home builder or is it a contractor that's building a skyscraper up in New York somewhere.
Renia: Misti, when you're developing these persona stories for your clients, can you help the people watching to understand where they go to find this information? How do they get it?
Misti: That's where it gets pretty fun for me. I kind of like doing that part because you can, there's so many places you can go but you always seem to, I at least, or maybe it's because I'm a stalker, but I tend to go to social media.
Matt: I know why you like it. You like to stalk people.
Misti: I do, I think it's really interesting. All the social media platforms of course, Facebook or LinkedIn, Twitter, anywhere you can find them online, that's where you're going to pull some details from. It doesn't always have to be just a business profile either. You can also look up whatever is public.
Matt: Let me stop right there. Keep going, but are your end user persona profiles, are these people on social media?
Misti: Right, that's I mean.
Matt: Are they?
Misti: Well, they might be, but they might not be so if they're not, you have to rely on a little more traditional sleuthing.
Matt: I think that the thing that I've heard so many times was, well, my buyers are not on social media.
Matt: What I found, I cannot tell you how many times that I have gone and, because I can see inside many of our clients' CRMs and I can look inside. I can see their customers in there and I can quickly Google search them and find them on social media nine times out of 10.
Renia: Misti's nicer than me guys so let's just have a little heart to heart about this right now. I'm going to assume you're American if you're watching us here in Florida. We're living in the United States, 70% of people who live in the United States use Facebook. 70% so if you're telling me that you're clients are part of the 30$ that's not using Facebook, the first thing I'm going to ask you is are they under the age of 10 or over the age of 75, because that's the 30% that's not on Facebook..
Renia: There are rare exceptions, but they are rare so that shipped has sail. I don't know if 70% of anything that Americans agree on except Facebook.
Matt: Even my grandpa is on Facebook.
Misti: Yeah, that's true.
Renia: All right.
Misti: Some very surprising [crosstalk 00:40:51].
Matt: All right.
Renia: Sorry, Misti. I had have some tough love.
Matt: That's a little, you know. I wanted to have that Renia but you did it for me so thank you..
Misti: It's true. You can find somebody somewhere, like you said, there maybe one or two exceptions, but you're not marketing to those one or two people. You're marketing to a persona so you do want to check those traditional sources though, you can't leave that out. That's a very important factor. You can do interviews with some of your customers, that have been customers for a long time or maybe a good close friend who knows your business really well and has bought a few things from you. You can pull key points from any of those types of people as well. Interviews are a major, majorly important part of a persona. You can't build one just around a social media findings. It's not going to be very complete. No one puts everything out on the web. They don't want you to know all their secrets so.
Matt: Can I make a-
Renia: Do you have a secret to share?
Matt: No. Yes, but not on this show.
Renia: After show.
Matt: Yeah, but I was just going to say, as important as the interviewing of your good customers are, I would actually, this may sound crazy so you totally slap me on the side of the head if you think this is wrong, but I think it might be good to interview your bad customers.
Matt: I think as much as I want to know who my ideal customers are, who my ideal personas are, I want to know who the customers I have who drive me nuts that I don't want to have you know.
Matt: Those bad customers that place onesie twosies orders and they're not as profitable as they could be or maybe they're always complaining and they never are satisfied. I want to know who those people are so that I can make sure my content does not relate to them.
Matt: Am I right?
Renia: Absolutely and that's a great point Matt, because it's actually easier sometimes to start with what you don't want. It's kind of like if you ever made a list of like traits you're looking for in a partner or something like that, a lot of times it's easiest to start with the things that you don't want so it's sometimes easier if you're struggling with this idea of narrowing down your persona, start thinking about the things that you don't want. Who are the customers that drive you nuts, that don't make you money? Where are the places you don't want to go? Do you want to be national? Really think that through, does it make sense for you? Do you want to be national, because most of you probably don't if you are doing a lot of business in a small demographic area. Even if you do, it's easier to build that area first and then expand out versus trying to wrap your arms around the whole country at once. Start crossing things off the list if you're struggling with putting things on the list. You can even have an anti-persona.
Misti: Right, an anti-persona.
Matt: Yeah, can you? Cool.
Misti: That's a thing.
Matt: All right.
Misti: Yeah, you can do an anti-persona and kind of define what you don't want to work for.
Matt: Write it up.
Misti: Don't waste your time, you know I mean if you can find those good customers that you want.
Misti: Those are the ones you want to cater to.
Renia: We have a few of those, you know the one of the most obvious ones is it cost money to work with us. We're a 20 person team so it's not investing in like the marketing company across the street that works out of their garage so a one or a two person team, that's probably just not a good fit for us usually and so we just kind of know, like we can give you guys a lot of free content that's really going to help you and you can read our blog and download our stuff and we're happy to help you but as far as to work with us in a partnership, you got to have a little bit more resources typically so that's kind of in our anti-persona, is there's such a thing as too small. There's also on the other side such a thing as too big.
Matt: Too big, yeah.
Renia: We are a 20 person team and we don't want one client to be our entire business so if you're a $50 billion company, we probably can't help you right now.
Renia: That might snap.
Matt: If Granger's out there watching, call me. I'm just joking. It's probably not going to work out.
Misti: It's probably not.
Matt: I'm joking guys, relax.
Renia: All right, Misti, sorry.
Misti: I lost track of what it was, the main point there. We kind of went off and I know I should circle back around but I don't remember what you were talking about.
Matt: That's all right. I think we covered a lot in there.
Misti: Yeah, I think we did.
Renia: I do want to ask you, we have talked a few times about interviewing our customers.
Renia: I really think that is huge but how do you approach that as a marketing manager? How do you approach someone to say this, you know we want you to go interview your customers. How do they have that conversation?
Misti: People actually like to talk about themselves. I don't know if you guys have noticed that but if you show genuine interest in your customers and tell them what you're doing, say, "Hey, I'm starting this new digital endeavor and I really need some help getting to know what my customers are all about so that I can create something that's special for them. I value your opinion, would you mind setting up a quick time to talk about it?" You can do it by phone. You can do it by email. I don't really suggest it, but if you have to, you can do it in person. Invite that person over. They're giving you something very valuable so you should treat them that way. Let them know that you're going to be using them as a resource to kind of help you grow your business. People are going to be excited to be a part of that. It's just on a human level, it's not really, doesn't have anything to do with being a business of any kind.
People like to help other people, that's genuinely, makes people happy so be open about it and let them know what you're doing and ask them for their time and then make sure that they're rewarded for the time that they spent with you. It doesn't have to be anything crazy but a sincere thank you at least.
Matt: Yeah, I think it's a good point. I think that most people, I often thought about what do you always have to have, a hook, does everybody always have to be rewarded? I used to think that way. I used to think every time I did a survey or every time I asked for my clients to do anything I had to reward them with some sort of bait you know to get them in, but I found that the good customers that you have, they genuinely want a better experience.
Matt: If you come at them and you say, "Listen, this is all about me providing a better experience for you guys and you relating it back to us, providing additional value to what we're already doing." I think your good customers are going to jump all over that.
Matt: If they don't, then maybe they're the anti-personas.
Renia: Absolutely. I would consider a little bit of a warning sign. Now someone saying they just don't have the time is one thing, but if someone is like, "I'm not interested in talking to you.", that might be part of your anti-persona, right.
Renia: If you're a marketing manager at a bigger company where you as a marketing manager, you're not really ever interacting with the clients on an individual level, where would you go, Matt? Like who would you go to, to help bridge that gap for you so you could talk to some clients?
Matt: Yeah, well, the answer's easy for me because I live in this world. I live literally with one foot in sales and one foot in marketing so I'm always thinking smarketing.
Misti: That's my favorite term.
Matt: Since I'm always thinking smarketing, what good smarketing is, is closing the loop on communication between your marketing team and your sales team and so the way that you do that is by scheduling regular conversations with the people who, like I said before, are those thought leaders, those people that have the tribal knowledge in their head and make it fun. Don't make it look like it's a police interrogation room or anything like that. Get them in conversation in maybe once a month and get the feedback from them.
Go into it reporter style and ask them, "What are you seeing out there? How are our customers interacting with the products? What are they looking for? What big wins did you have? What things did they want that you didn't have?" These are all really important questions that a marketing manager can use to better equip the sales team and so once the sales team's better equipped, then they can do a better job selling. They come back and the feedback just happens in a loop and if you can start building that relationship with your sales team or your sales manager, great things can happen.
Misti: Yeah, and that's your in. That's where you go to the sales team and you say, "Hey, I want to do a few interviews." They're going to hook you up with whoever they've been spending some time with that they feel could give some good feedback, whether it's good feedback or negative feedback, you can use all of it so.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely so I mean that relationship with your sales team is absolutely critical.
Matt: Absolutely it is.
Misti: That was eight.
Renia: Was that eight? Oh, no. It's not like a game of chance if we are working together, right.
Renia: I can't get that eight out of my head now. I'm like, "Don't say it again, don't say it again." We have a little game going with the team about.
Matt: Yeah, just tell them, just tell them what it is.
Renia: Apparently, Matt and I say absolutely a whole lot. He blames it on me so we have a little game going on with the team that if we say it more than 10 times in any show, they get something.
Renia: I did bring you guys sandwiches last week.
Matt: You're going to shut it down right now.
Misti: That's true. She's one of [inaudible 00:50:36]
Renia: Okay, so.
Matt: Let's see how may times you say absolutely if you get on a live show for an hour.
Renia: That's right. You just ruined it. You just did it.
Matt: Oh, we're not in.
Misti: You're getting really close.
Renia: Oh, okay.
Matt: Do not say it one more time. Do not say it, okay.
Misti: You guys can play along at home with us. There are a few absolutely in the comments. It'll be fun.
Matt: Damn it, that's 10.
Misti: Just stop.
Renia: She just, see, she-
Misti: See, I benefit from it though so.
Renia: We didn't, yeah, we didn't tell Matt about the trigger word though.
Misti: That's true.
Renia: Yeah, so there's a trigger word this week too, but.
Misti: Sorry, gentlemen.
Matt: Will you still tell me what that is?
Renia: There's always games going on in the office so, let's wrap back around.
Misti: Let's finish up.
Renia: Bring it all back in.
Matt: This IPA is a really good one.
Renia: What can a marketing manager do today to start working on a persona? As we're kind of winding down for the hour today, what are our next actions? What can she go do?
Misti: I think the first stop is once you decided you're ready to go digital, you want to start thinking about who that ideal persona is and like we've mentioned, it's going to be a hard task. You're going to think of everybody but use Renia's tip or go for that low hanging fruit or someone who's really into the niche that you provide and could be a good place for a lot of growth. I think that's a good first stop like you have to really put some thought into who that main persona should be for now. It's not the end all. You'll add to that eventually but you have to make a baby step first. It makes it easy to jump into, too.
Renia: Yeah, absolutely.
Matt: The step one, definitely agree. You want to, I would say actually going back, you need to step behind that is list out all your personas, like Renia said, there could be five or six. List out your personas and then have a conversation usually you're not operating completely in a silo. I would, for this, I would bring in, if I'm at a company where I have, and I'm the only person doing marketing, maybe I am, maybe I'm not but if I have a team, I'll bring in a team but if I am the only person, I'll bring in a sales person. I'll bring in maybe the owner of the company and we'll have this conversation about who are we driving our message towards and I want to get some feedbacks. I don't want to make these decisions completely in a silo and then once I have that persona, go about doing what Misti said earlier and starting to extract what you know from your team already.
Okay, so there's inside knowledge that you already have. Once you have that, build on that inside knowledge by interviewing a few select customers perhaps doing a few bad customers so that you know what you do not want in your persona. Then from there, you're just crafting a document that can be super functional so we don't want something that's fluffy language. We want something that is super utilitarian. Something that designers, if you're using freelance designers, if you're working with an agency, if you're working with your internal designers or your internal writers, something that you can give to them that will put them immediately on the same page. Those are just, I think if you start there, you're going to set yourself up for success.
Matt: Anything to add there?
Renia: Yeah, I think you guys are exactly on the right track on what it needs to be. What I just want to say is something that came to mind that I don't want us to miss is, have you guys ever heard of the concept of the reticular activating system?
Renia: It's a big fancy word.
Matt: That word is way too.
Renia: Yeah, so basically what this means, have you ever bought a new car and you think you've like done all this research and you think your car is really special and like you've got something unique and you've never seen it before and it's like, or not everybody on the road is driving this car and what happens as soon as you start driving it?
Misti: Everybody's got one already.
Matt: That's right.
Renia: You see that now, I drive a white Prius so they really are everywhere.
Matt: I drive a gray Honda Accord.
Renia: We are clearly not car people, right. You start to see even if you think you had something unique, you start to see it everywhere and you'll see this start to happen in your company as you start to have these conversations about personas particularly with your sales team. Something that was a little bit vague, all of a sudden they'll start to see opportunities everywhere because you've now taken something that was a little bit vague out in the peripheral and you've made it a very specific thing and that's why the persona, that's the scientific word for why the personas are so important is because it triggers the reticular activating system. It makes everybody start to see that person over and over again so that if you're a writer, you're writing for that person.
If you're a designer, you're designing for that person. If you're a sales person, you're looking for that person as an opportunity and that spreads throughout the whole company. Like Matt said when he brought the personas out for SMS, for the first time, a light bulb went off not just for a writer writing a blog, but for the entire team so what you're doing here is really bigger than your digital marketing. It's globally going to benefit your business.
Matt: I love it. I love it, that's a dropping of science bomb on the whole conversation. I think it's a great way to wrap it up and end on that note.
Renia: Awesome guys, so thank you so much for spending the hour with us today. I have to say like we're going faster and faster, it seems like every week.
Misti: Yeah, it didn't seem like an hour.
Renia: Yeah, awesome. We will be back with you again next Wednesday, same time, same bat channel and we are actually bringing in Shannon Gayton, one of our writers and she is going to talk to you about writing for these personas and how to produce really engaging content online. I'm so excited to have her with us so come back and join Shannon next week and as always, if you have questions, you can leave them in the comments below. You can watch us back on YouTube or on the podcast or you can email us at?
Renia: That was in the transcript, exactly six times for the last show so.
Matt: That's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renia: All right.
Matt: Love to hear back from you guys seriously.
Misti: Thank you guys.
Matt: Even if there's, if you feel you want to make fun of us and make fun of my makeup, I'm okay with that. I just want to see your comments and hope that you can engage with this content and share it please if you find it valuable. We really would appreciate that. There's all those things you can do that help this content get out to our audience better, sharing it on social media, sharing the emails and of course, reviewing us on iTunes, would be awesome if you could.
Matt: I really would appreciate it and thanks guys for a great conversation. Misti, thank you for having me.
Misti: Thank you.
Matt: For coming on the show.
Misti: It's really fun.
Matt: Appreciate it.
Misti: It's really fun.
Renia: Thank you for being with us, Misti. All right, everybody, have an awesome weekend. Hey, send us your persona stories that you're writing. Let us see what you come up with. See you next week, everybody.