Intent Personas – What Are They & Will They Replace Marketing Personas?

Intent personas - image showing digital avatars

This week we are talking about “personas” and we do not mean the long running, beloved JRPG series.

Marketing personas are a tried and tested tool in every marketers toolbox. But in the era of personalization and unique digital experiences, are they actually relevant? If they are not, are intent personas an adequate “replacement”? Or should they work hand-in-hand and complement each other?

We will cover what marketing personas are and how intent personas work a little bit differently.

Let’s take a look at these different types of personas and what it all means.

Intent personas - A desk with numbers and data
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What Are Marketing Personas?

A marketing persona (sometimes referred to as a customer or buyer persona) is a fictional representation, based in fact, of a group of customers who have very similar goals, journeys and personal profiles. Businesses use them to look at the types of groups who would be interested in their products or services. Personas typically use demographic data to flesh out their picture of different customer groups. So a business can have many different marketing personas for the different types of customers that may be interested in them.

They help businesses to decide the ideal customer that they want to attract and help inform overall marketing strategy.

But in the age of personalization and the more chaotic purchasing funnel (or messy middle as it’s sometimes known) that could feasibly involve hundreds of different touchpoints, are they still relevant?

For example, say you own a business selling mattresses. A mattress is usually something of a one-off purchase. So is it a productive use of your marketing budget to bombard someone with ads, who fits your persona, once they have already purchased a mattress?

This illustrates an issue with marketing personas in today’s digital marketplace. They do not take user behavior into account.

This is where intent personas and customer behavior can step in to save your spend.

Image of a meeting
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What Is The Difference Between Intent Personas & Marketing Personas?

A customer intent persona is a type of persona that focuses more on behavior than demographic data. It looks at the types of keywords customers are using in search, the content they are consuming and when and where they make a purchase.

Thankfully we now have access to a treasure trove of customer behavior data. Most businesses have a lot of customer data that they may not be using to its full potential.

Intent Personas can help you to leverage this data and focus some of your marketing efforts on customer intent.

By asking yourself why customers are using specific search queries, looking at specific web pages and behaving in a certain way you can focus right in on solving their needs.

This is different to traditional marketing personas that tend to focus more widely one what your customer looks like. Intent personas look at what your customers are doing.

So to use the mattress example again, if someone googles “best mattress shop near me” does it matter what demographic group they belong to? They only need to be nudged in your direction. And they want to see a brand right at the top of Google’s search engine results with content that answers the questions they may have.

Intent personas - Imagine showing Google search app logo
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How To Find Intent To Build Intent Personas

The good news is we now have a lot of tools available that can help you to quickly find customer intent. 

Google is one of them. Not in Analytics or the Queries in Search Console (though that can help), just Google Search.

You will know that when you type something into Google that a large number of query auto-fill options appear. These queries all demonstrate intent. They show the types of content a potential customer looks at when they are searching for something related to your product or service. 

So something as basic as just googling a query related to your niche opens up some very basic intent data for you to use. This is where you can begin to look at your own data. What search terms get your best traffic? How do your customers interact with your website or app? Are customers engaging with your content before making a decision? Or are customers getting to your site then leaving? If that is the case, it may be that you are not currently serving customer intent on your website. 

Now it’s time to look at your content. Does it give your customers what they need?

Actions You Can Take:

  • Start searching in Google, what are your customers looking for? Log it everything you can
  • What content do your competitors give to customers? Do they answer questions?
  • Look at the keywords you rank for in organic search and your main paid search keywords
  • Are there keywords you are missing out on? 
  • Look at your bounce rate in Google Analytics. When users arrive from Google do they leave right away? That indicates you are not giving them what they need to make a decision

Image showing "audience" on a whiteboard.
Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

Intent & Content

It’s time to give your customers what they need. Right now.

But how do you do that?

It is not a quick fix. If you are attracting then losing customers you will have to thoroughly audit your content and look at what your competitors are doing in the space.

The biggest tool in your toolbox here are your product pages. They are a place where you can give your customers information, product specifications/statistics and even reviews. The product (or service) page is where you can answer very specific questions. But this content can still be personalized, but it speaks more to “what the customer needs at this time” than “who the customer is”.

By marrying keyword data and behavioral data you can begin to build a typical intent persona. By looking at these different data sources and your own first party data you can then build content that helps to drive intent.

Actions You Can Take:

  • Create content that addresses user needs by utilizing intent data. The easiest way to start is by answering basic questions related to your niche
  • If you have product or service pages, flesh them out as much as possible
  • Fill in the blanks! If you think you are missing content that addresses a problem, use your data to help you create it

Image of a question mark.
Photo by Emily Morter via Unsplash

Do We Need To Change Over To Intent Personas?

The short answer here is a resounding NO.

Marketing personas fulfill a vital purpose. They help you to decide on a tone of voice in your messaging, how your branding should work and they give you a very good idea of what your customers want.

The ideal solution is to marry intent data and personas to your marketing personas. Once you know who your customers are, intent personas can tell you what they need and how you can solve their problems.

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Talk to MAQE

If you need help leveraging your customer data to better understand the needs of your customers, talk to MAQE via [email protected]. We can look at the data you have, what your competitors are doing and make sure your business is wherever the customer is with a solution that the customer needs.