How to Use SIC and NAICS Codes to Refine Personas & MQL Criteria

Jonathan Stanis
Posted by Jonathan Stanis on March 10, 2016


Creating target personas and defining market qualified leads (MQLs) can be a daunting task.

Who are you selling to? What makes them tick? What are their motivations? Why are they in the industry you are selling to?

If you have had a large amount of customer interaction you may already know some of the answers to these questions. Being a recovering engineer, I can usually figure out a former colleagues motivations.

But what if you don’t have a lot of experience in an industry? Perhaps you have just started at a manufacturing company to build their new inbound marketing program and need to understand their industry fast.

There are a few tools out there that can help you get an understanding of your personas and MQLs.

Two of those tools are SIC and NAICS codes.

What are SIC and NAICS codes?

There are two systems currently used to define an industry sector, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) and North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS).

SIC is the older of the two systems, established in the United States in 1937. Its original purpose was to measure, analyze, and share data across various government agencies. It has since been adopted by academic and business sectors.

SIC is a 4 digit, top-down code. The first two digits define the major industry sector, and the second two digits further refine the sub classification of that sector.

For instance, the Conveyors and Conveying Equipment code is 3535. The first two digits, 35, refer to its major category of Industrial And Commercial Machinery and Computer Equipment. The third digit, 3, defines Construction, Mining, and Material Handling. The 4th digit, 5, specifies Conveyors and Conveying Equipment.

NAICS is a newer, 6 digit version of SIC, first put into use in 1997. While it has largely replaced SIC, some areas of government and business still use SIC codes, so it is important to understand both tools. For instance, Conveyor and Conveying Equipment SIC code 3535 uses NAICS code 333922. You can cross reference SIC and NAICS codes at

Using SIC and NAICS codes to develop a persona.

In Inbound B2B marketing, understanding your target persona is a key to building an effective content strategy. Creating a persona will help you understand what their motivations, pain points, and goals. Tools like SIC and NAICS codes can help you define who that persona is.

Being Specific About Your Personas Industry

First, these codes define the vertical your target persona is in. When defining a persona you want to be specific. Both codes, but especially the longer NAICS codes, can get very specific about an industry.

Do you sell products to paper manufacturers? If so, what part of the paper manufacturing?

NAICS has codes for:

  • Pulp Mills

  • Paper Mills

  • Paperboard Mills

  • Corrugated and Solid Fiber Box Manufacturing

  • Folding Paperboard Box Manufacturing

  • Other Paperboard Container Manufacturing

  • Paper Bag and Coated and Treated Paper Manufacturing

  • Stationery Product Manufacturing

  • Sanitary Paper Product Manufacturing

  • All Other Converted Paper Product Manufacturing

As you can see, they can get fairly specific.

Find Companies in your Industry

Websites, like, list companies in each of the code categories. By going through each of your target industries codes you can find specific companies in those verticals. You can then research those companies.

You can see if they have any open positions on job posting sites like You can find the companies and their employees on LinkedIn to get a better understanding of their histories, interest, and what drives them.

Find Related Industries

After you have drilled down to find specific companies in a SIC or NAICS code, you can then drill back up to find other industries that company is part of that might also be a good target for your content.

Refine Your MQL Criteria

Because SIC and NAICS codes can be so specific, you can use them to refine your MQL definitions.

If you sell equipment to paper manufacturers, which ones are the best targets? Mills? Converters? Paper bag and coated and treated paper manufacturing companies?

You can use these specific identifiers in your forms to identify your MQLs and present your website visitors with a complete list of options. This will make your converters more likely to select their specific industry instead of falling down into the other category when they don’t see it on the list.

SIC and NAICS tools are a fantastic tool to help define your personas and define your marketing qualified leads. They help you be specific and understand more about your target industries.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

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