Should You Market to Pain or Persona?

Persona Marketing I just had an interesting conversation about campaign targeting with a really smart client. We were discussing the best way not only to attract prospects, but also to set up a lead nurturing campaign that will convert the largest number possible into paying clients.

The technical definition of persona is “the way you present yourself to the world.” But in marketing terms, we think of personas as individuals who share common characteristics that represent important segments of your target audience. For example, if you sell accounting software, one persona might be middle-aged males who are controllers at mid-sized retail companies. As in this example, personas can be fairly general, but they can also be much more detailed in terms of the target segment’s demographics, interests, buying motivations, and so forth.

When you are targeting or nurturing a persona, the idea is to focus your messaging as if you were speaking to one individual and not just a bunch of nameless and faceless prospects. In the hands of a talented copywriter, persona marketing can be much more effective than (pardon my French) the “spray and pray” approach.

While persona marketing has its uses, you should also carefully consider marketing to the pain points of your target audience. Basically, products and services exist to answer the needs, challenges and desires of customers. In other words, to overcome their pain points. When you successfully identify the major pain points, you then target your messaging, offers and sales process around the alleviation of your prospects’ pain points. The major point to remember about this type of marketing is that the pain transcends personas. For example, instead of marketing to middle-aged controllers at mid-sized retail firms, you cast your promotional message at anyone who has the pain of attempting to close their monthly books promptly.

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As we have shown in multiple client engagements, online media can be extremely effective at both identifying pain points and then creating content, offers and lead nurturing programs to convert prospect pain to awareness, leads and revenues. The more acute the pain, the more important it is to keep focus on the specific pain point, and the alleviation thereof, than to immediately jump to the totality of the solution.

As mentioned earlier, persona marketing can be an effective way to conquer a market, but it does tend to have a lot of moving parts. The small image at the top of the page is an infographic from Tony Zambito titled the Buyer Persona Canvas. As you will see if you download the canvas, there is a lot of research, hypotheses and testing involved in persona marketing, while pain point marketing can be accomplished much faster. I recommend that you don’t make it a Persona vs. Pain argument, but rather figure out how to incorporate both strategies.

Carpe occasio.


Christopher Ryan
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One comment

  • Jud October 6, 2014   Reply →

    Chris, this is great marketing advice. It makes sense to target both personas and pain points to accurately target your audience with the right message. Thanks!

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