Creating a Persona for Effective Email Content

Posted by: Becky Bradbury


Saying the right thing at the right time creates successful email marketing. Saying the wrong thing can damage your online reputation, and it can lose you leads – wasting the time and effort you’ve spent nurturing your recipients.

Blasting the same content to everyone, in a generic tone, won’t get the same results as tailoring your message.

Knowing what your audience is interested in hearing about will help you to tailor campaigns to meet their needs (and not just your sales targets).

How exactly do you tailor content?

A great way to start tailoring content that speaks to your recipients, or ‘hails’ their interest, is to use personas.

A marketing persona is a fictional representation of your typical customer, encompassing the important characteristics that make up your customers and prospects.

How do I create a persona?

It starts by gathering information, what do you already know? The information held about B2B and B2C data often differs, but generally you’ll have a good idea about who your average customer is. Creating a persona is less about segmenting according to job title for example, it’s about marketing to the typical person that you are targeting. Even at work, people are still people, and thinking carefully about their personality and lifestyle attributes will make your tailored email messages more effective.

Determining your typical customer/prospect

It can seem a strange exercise at first, to sit down and begin to ‘stereotype’ your ideal customers. Summing up their education, income, beliefs and affiliations, whether they read newspapers or go to the gym can seem like you’re being judgmental, but you’re not.

It’s simply a way of imagining that person in your mind, and addressing your email and online marketing messages to them.

Some of these attributes can be measured, by gathering some data on your email recipients, such as:

  • Demographics: age, gender, geographic location, income, employment status.
  • Psychographics: lifestyle, beliefs and values, attitude and buying motive.

Other questions are more subjective, and might require some imagination. These could include:

  • If they drive a car, what would it be?
  • If they went on holiday, where would they go?
  • What would their favourite drink be?
  • What would they do for fun?
  • What newspaper would they read?

Finally, think about how your persona views your products and services. What are they be looking for, how do your products meet or exceed their expectations? What kind of sales process do they need? What objections might they throw up?

Let’s think about an example of using a persona

For example, let’s imagine a luxury boutique hotel by the coast in Cornwall. The hotel is small and has an open fire, a library, and a dog friendly policy, and cater for urban couples seeking relaxation and Cornish things to do. The hotel does not have a spa.

The persona for this particular example could begin with something like this:

  • Female: women tend to do most of the holiday booking in couples. (According to a Hotels.com survey, only 12% of men in relationships take the lead in organising breaks away, but only 7% of women are happy to finance the holiday).
  • 25 years old and up (youngsters may not be able to afford the rooms).
  • Likes walking, being by the sea but not necessarily in it, fresh air, scenery, a log fire, something hearty but healthy and locally sourced to eat after all that walking and fresh air.
  • Earns a decent salary, likes to catch up on the news by reading broadsheet newspapers on weekends away, over a good breakfast, or novels by the fire on a rainy afternoon.
  • They may bring their dog, or be delighted to be around other people’s dogs as their busy urban lifestyle prevents them having their own.
  • They’re not afraid of getting their wellies and waterproofs on for a holiday in Cornwall.
  • They appreciate ethical products and environmental considerations in the places they stay.
  • They might consider having spa treatments but are not put off by the lack of spa at the hotel.

So just by starting to think about personas in this example, you’ll start to see ideas for email marketing…

You could send emails including:

  • Details of lovely walks in the area, with beautiful photography of the local scenery
  • Information about a new menu with locally sourced dishes in the restaurant
  • An update email about the new locally produced environmentally responsible beauty products in the bathrooms
  • You could run a feature about the person at the beauty product company and their products, and link to their online shop
  • You can include real photos of your chef, your dog or the local chickens where you source the eggs for breakfast
  • This leads on to affinity marketing (offering packages and promotions through associated products) – perhaps you can promote spa treatments nearby, or a swim or gym deal, kayak hire or guided walks with local companies.

Using a persona gives your brand far more personality and makes you approachable, friendly and ultimately memorable – all of which will engage new customers and encourage repeat bookings.

What if there’s more than one typical persona?

You may find when you begin this exercise that you have more than one clear persona. This is fine, it just means that you can now tailor your web content and email campaigns to different personas, and use dynamic content based on their previous interests and behaviour to put the right message in front of the right person.

Create a persona for consistency across the marketing team

Completing the persona exercise will allow you to learn about your target audience. Really get to know them and understand what they expect and need, from tone of voice, to time of day to send.

Creating a persona will create consistency across the marketing team, your campaigns and a clear message to your subscribers.

Don’t forget – its likely you’ve got more than one persona (multiple product offerings certainly will), you may need to go over the exercise again, concentrate first on your most important core clients/sectors.

Why create a persona? The important benefits

  • Your email marketing campaigns will resonate more effectively with your recipients, being closely aligned to their personalities and needs.
  • Creating a persona helps you to better understand your recipients purchasing decisions in the sales cycle.
  • Understanding the behaviour of your customers in the sales cycle will allow you to produce better marketing strategies.
  • You will have much more insight into your target markets and prospects.

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