So you're sold on the idea of creating personas to help you reach people in your target market? That's great, but keep in mind that even when it comes to creating personas there's a right way to do it and there's a wrong way to do it.

In fact, there are plenty of wrong ways to do it. That's why you should follow the several habits of highly successful marketers who've used personas in the past.

Here are 6 important points to keep in mind when creating buyer personas.

1. You're Going to Need Tools

When it comes to creating personas, you need to gather data. When it comes to gathering data, you need tools.

The good news is that there are plenty of tools available.

The better news is that many of those tools are free.

For example, Google Analytics offers a healthy amount of information about people who've visited your website. It's possible that you can create personas just by poring over Audience data in Google Analytics.

In addition to GA, almost every social media site offers analytics as well. Check out the demographics and interests of people who follow your brand on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

If your brand is fairly new and you don't have a lot of visitors or followers on social media, you might need to make an investment in some premium tools.

For example, SEMRush gives you the option to analyze your competitors. That might give you some information about people in your target market.

BuzzSumo is another tool that you can use to mine data for personas. Just plug in some key terms relevant to your target market and you'll find the most popular articles associated with those terms.

FollowerWonk is yet another app that's great for gathering data if you're just starting out. It lets you compare the followers of 2-3 Twitter users (i.e., competitors) so you can look for overlap in their audiences. Use that overlap info to create your own personas.

2. Old School Still Rules

Even though it's the Information Age, there are still some "old school" practices that you should use to help create personas. One great example is customer surveys.

Your relationship with a customer isn't finished once the transaction is complete. You should follow up with the customer to gain some valuable feedback. Some of that feedback can be used to build personas.

Send out customer surveys that ask a few simple but important questions related to your business model. Couple that information with the data you've harvested from the tools mentioned in the previous point and you're well on your way to creating some very specific personas that you can use in your marketing efforts.

3. You Should Create Negative Personas, Too

During the process of creating buyer personas, you should create one or more negative personas.

Negative personas are, as the name implies, the exact opposite of buyer personas. They're idealized people that you want to exclude from your marketing campaigns.

Why would you want to exclude people? Because you can get a better bang for your buck when you spend money on highly targeted marketing as opposed to "big tent" campaigns.

For example, if you're in the men's fashion niche, you might want to emphasize the quality of your product as a justification for the high prices. That means you're not targeting bargain hunters who are looking to buy clothes as cheaply as possible. In that case, those people are your negative personas.

Negative personas are important because they essentially tell you what not to do when you're creating a marketing campaign.

4. You Can Take It to an Extreme

Once you've established your goals and understand the characteristics of your personas, you'll probably ask yourself the following question: "How many personas should I create?"

It depends.

If you're just starting out with creating personas, don't sweat it too much. Just create a few at first. You can always add more later.

The last thing you want to do is get into an analysis-paralysis situation.

Just get enough personas to create some great marketing campaigns (usually 4 to 5 standard personas and 3 negative personas will do).

5. Personas Are Great for Market Segmentation

It's possible that your target market consists of a variety of people who don't share interests or demographics. That's why it's important to segment your market.

When you segment your market, you split it up into sub-groups of people who do share interests and/or demographics. Then, you can create marketing campaigns aimed at each sub-group.

And when you create personas, you're actually doing a lot of the work required to segment your market. That's because each persona reflects one or more interests, demographics, challenges, personalities, and/or goals.

The reality is that personas almost force you to segment your market. That's a good thing because you can run highly targeted marketing campaigns towards each persona. Those campaigns should give you a great return on investment.

6. Personas Help You Identify People at the Right Point in the Sales Cycle

Beyond market segmentation, personas also help you identify people based on where they are in the sales funnel.

For example, let's say you're running a fishing tackle company. One of your personas might be Jack, who loves deep sea fishing but hates reeling in fish from 300 feet of water because it's so exhausting.

Then there's Bob, who also loves deep sea fishing and is in the market for an electronic reel so he can easily reel in fish from deep water. He's just not sure which electronic reel he wants to buy yet (for the record, I hope no one is this as lazy as Bob).

Jack is high up in the sales funnel because he's frustrated with his current tackle but he's not yet aware that electronic reels exist.

Bob, on the other hand, is lower in the sales funnel because he's ready to buy. He just doesn't know which brand he wants to buy yet.

You would probably target Jack and Bob with different marketing campaigns. You'd likely run a campaign to educate Jack about electronic reels whereas you'd try to convince Bob that your electronic reels are the best. If that is what you are selling.

That's how personas help you target people at a specific point in the sales funnel. This is the basics, there is much more to know on the topic.

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There's no doubt about the importance of creating personas before moving forward with a marketing campaign. Once you've used relevant data to create personas, you'll be in a much better position to reach people in your target market.

Published on: Sep 27, 2016
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