Step 2: Create a marketing persona

Chances are pretty good that you’ve been in a marketing persona before.

If you’ve ever bought Pledge from a grocery store, flowers from a boutique, Tide laundry detergent from Target, you have been profiled, analyzed, tested and marketed to, thanks to something known as a marketing persona. They come in all shapes and sizes (typically the larger the budget, the more in-depth the analysis), but large corporations and small businesses alike create these personas for several reasons.

First, they recognize that it’s not enough to just believe that their laundry soap is the best possible laundry soap on the market. Second, they recognize that competition is tight, all the time. Third, they recognize that their primary job (outside of having a product that lives up to its hype) is to find a way to reach and convince you, the consumer, that it lives up to its hype as well.

A friend once told me about an experience she had working for Amazon. Everything in Amazon is about reaching the end consumer. If you’re the VP of engineering and have a simple idea about improving the delivery rate on packages weighing more than 10 pounds, that’s great—but the idea won’t pass muster unless that VP can prove how it enhances the experience of the customer. This is one way that Amazon keeps its employees focused on its mission: all things redirect back to the Amazon customer’s well-being.

Without some parameters around an Amazon customer, or say, a book reader, creating a product that sells and marketing it becomes really damn difficult not to mention, selling becomes somewhat impossible. Without the north star of a marketing persona and all its insights, we can end up trying to reach anyone and everyone and, ultimately, reaching no one at all. What makes a marketing persona a north star? It’s not just the clunky bumper rails that keep us from writing non-fiction to an audience that’s seeking a spiritual memoir. A marketing persona gives us a foundation for nuance, imagination and creative connection.

How I write to a child, for example, necessarily softens, the language simplifies, the colors become brighter, the words fewer. But writing to an educated audience becomes more complex. Without identifying my audience, making these stylistic choices (however simplistic my examples may be) isn’t really possible. When we take a marketing persona out of its corporate environment and into the relationship between author and audience, there are a few things that happen.