Personas: Starting the Marketing Conversation

Gail Straus

QuestionWe do it every day. We begin a conversation with a friend, colleague or family member with some basic understanding. Who is this person? What does she value? What are his perspectives on the topic under discussion?

When we talk with a group of people, we begin much the same way but we often generalize the answers. We think about why the group is together and what they might expect. We know they include some men and some women and that they might not all agree. Essentially, we think about the personas of people.

Strategic marketing begins with the development of audience personas. When we market goods or services, being mindful of who comprises the audience is a good first start in our recognition that we are frequently not the intended audience. Be it business insurance, wastewater treatment technologies or a South Beach vacation, our marketing strategy begins by understanding who are the most likely buyers. We ask questions that help us appreciate what they value, what challenges them and what drives them up that proverbial wall. And yes, we look for ways to interject messages regarding our product or service in their day.

1.              Begin by documenting what is known about the audience. Where do they work? What job responsibilities do they have? How or where do they use our product or service? These and other hypotheses are a starting point.

2.              Then reach out and talk to representatives of the audience. Likely, there are several profiles that reflect the relevant segments within the larger audience population. Representatives of each segment should be interviewed to understand their collective lives, values, attitudes and habits.

3.              Each working persona is probably a composite of several interviewed audience members. By including a picture of a representative of the segment, the persona comes to life.

4.              The finalized persona becomes part of the day-to-day world of the entire marketing team. Questions such as “how would she react to a creative concept” or “where would he expect to see this announcement” keep the audience in the room and top-of-mind.

Creating these working audience personas is a simple process but one that has to be engaged to get the best results.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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