When should I create secondary personas“Secondary” personas are detailed prospect profiles that marketers use to better understand what content to send to various potential customers.

For example, in one successful persona-based content marketing campaign, global information vendor IHS used “secondary” personas to create custom content sequences for sub-groups with specific content needs.

Unfortunately, these sub-personas aren’t free. They cost time and money to set up in your content marketing system, to create content for, and to track over time. So when does it pay to create one?

When a sub-persona is different enough from other groups of prospects to need different content and respond to it in a way that generates revenue or profits for you.


Since my focus is the IT market, I’ve come up with some differences among various types of IT buyers that signal you should consider creating a secondary persona for them. What would you add here?

  • What gets them a raise or gets them fired? Consider two prospects with a “network management” persona. One, in the security operations center (SOC), gets fired if the network is hacked. They’ll fight unnecessary changes to the IT infrastructure. Another in the network operations center (NOC) gets fired if they don’t upgrade servers and switches quickly enough to meet demand. They need separate sub-personas because they need different content to help them keep their jobs.
  • Are they a purchase influencer or a decider? The technical staff that actually use IT products or services often play a big role in suggesting what the decision makers (CEOs, CFOs) should buy. The same might even be true within a single functional unit, like application development and testing. Asking for titles within a single unit might identify the technical types who need “speeds and feeds” in their content, versus the decision-makers who need to understand the business benefits to justify their purchase.
  • How informed are they? Consider the overall “industry expert” persona that includes trade press reporters and industry analysts.   The “analyst” sub-persona is usually already knee-deep in your field and require a lot of technical depth to write a lengthy report. Reporters juggling multiple beats need to quickly know “what’s new” in your product or service, how you stack up against the competition and whether you can give them a fresh angle and sources for a quick story. With such different information needs, they deserve separate personas.
  • What link in the value chain do they occupy? Within a given vertical persona such as “manufacturing” lie potential sub-personas along the value chain. These include procurement, design, engineering, manufacturing, logistics and support. Each of these prospects have different questions about your product and service, different time frames for buying, different regulatory or internal approval requirements and different measures of success. Decide which are most important in the buying process and how different are their content needs and decide which deserve sub-personas.

Start Small

I’m not suggesting you go crazy creating dozens of sub-personas. You could start by focusing on your most profitable products and services, or those you hope to grow the most, and create a few of what you think are the most critical sub-personas to achieve that growth. Then, refine them over time as you gain experience.

But do focus, in your persona creation, on the content the prospect needs to succeed in their job, not in the story you’re dying to tell them.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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