Night Of The Living Persona: An Inbound Marketing Horror Story

Meg Hoppe
Posted by Meg Hoppe on October 31, 2013

living persona blue

In light of it being Halloween, we wanted to have a little fun. We hope you enjoy this fictitious tale!

It always happens this way: Just about the time you think you’ve created some good content your prospects will like, a zombie walks through the door and ruins everything. 

Me and my cube mate, Turbo, spent a bunch of time writing content we thought was pretty brilliant. It all had a point, almost everything was spelled right, it used big words, and our moms really liked it. We worked, like, hours on this stuff. We worked almost until 6:00 (we so thought about quitting). 

Anyway, we had all this great content ready to go, we’d made workflows that kinda made sense, and we’re just minding our own business surfin’ the net, when out of the blue someone knocks on the door. I open it and this big bloody guy is standing there, his nose half off, he stinks, and there’s like green junk oozing out his eyes. Hashtag #gross. 

I let him in cuz, you know…why not…and I give him Turbo’s chair to sit in (for sure I’m not giving him mine) and he says, “I’m one of your personas.” 

So, first I have to remember what a persona is. Turns out it’s like a fake person, but not really: it’s a real in-depth characterization of your best prospects. Very cool indeed. 

Then Turbo says to the guy, “Why are you here?” which I thought was a solid question. The bloody guy says, “I’m almost dead.” Turbo puts down his Dew and looks the guy right in the one eye he had left. The almost dead guy says, “Help me. I want to live.” 

What you should know right now is that it was like 4:30 or something. Definitely shuttin’-down-thinking-about-a-Zima time for me. Plus, no kidding, it was a Friday. 

Only because I wanted to get out of there, I asked him how we’d go about that, since now his nose was entirely off and clumps of skin were falling off his noggin. Seems like fixing him would be a pretty big deal at this point. 

He says, “I have no meaning. I’m generalized and one-dimensional. I need specific, actionable characteristics and behaviors in order to be useful to you as you create content that I’ll get value from – so much value, in fact, that I’ll give you my contact information in exchange.” Or something like that. 

I’m about ready to get back to when Turbo gets religion and agrees to help this guy. 

I take Turbo aside and ask what the deuce he’s thinking. Personally I think we should just put the guy in our boss’s office, lock the door and no one will be the wiser. But ol’ Turbo has a point: YouTube! We film this stuff, it goes all viral, we get on Tosh.0 and all the sudden we’re hawkin’ 5-Hour Energy on TV and partyin’ with Jay-Z. BOOM! 

So we go back to the persona guy, who’s spinning one of his feet on the end of a pencil like a basketball, and tell him we’ll give him some more detail, but that we need to make it quick. 

Turbo gets behind his keyboard and pulls a questionnaire from an old issue of Seventeen magazine, titled, “Is Your Guy Mr. Dreamy…Or Mr. Dud?” He figured it was a decent starting point for getting this guy to describe himself. 

Here are some of the questions we asked bloody guy and what he answered: 

  • Q: What is his deepest, darkest secret? A: I’m risk-averse. I’m nervous about engaging a new vendor because I have to answer to upper management if the project doesn’t turn out as expected. The safest path for me to take is to go with what I know, which may be a vendor who hasn’t performed to entirely my expectations, but hasn’t fully let me down, either. It’s often the lesser of two evils. I am someone who needs data, references, and other validation in order to choose a newcomer, and that information has to be pretty compelling in order for me to act. 
  • Q: What are his best features? A: I value skills and do not hesitate to invest what’s necessary to get the best quality and best outcomes. I’m in a position and at a time in my career when I still have rungs on the ladder to climb, and projects like these are what’s going to get me there. Price is not really a roadblock for me, and if a vendor can demonstrate real value, I’m sold. 
  • Q: What keeps him awake at night? A: Fear of the decision-by-committee approach of my department and those with whom I must collaborate. It’s part of what causes me to be risk-averse, and it’s a primary frustration as I try to get things done. We seem to spend more time in meetings than we do getting work accomplished. This is another reason I need proven vendors with quantifiable results – only with these will I be able to convince others to act and to promote my projects internally. 
  • Q: Who in his office does he dislike and why? A: My Group General Manager is someone who, because of his position in the company, has shown signs of “checking out.” He has nothing left to prove, in a sense, and while he closely follows my numbers, he’s not someone to whom I can go when I need buy-in on a concept or for a modest spend. Consequently, I have to rely heavily on my own instincts and the expertise of vendors to validate my choices. I need assurances in the form of past successes with like-industries in order to feel good about choosing a vendor with which to work. 

It’s now like 2 minutes to 5:00 and I ask persona guy if he’s good to go and he says, I kid you not, “Now you need to fix the content.”

Say what?! 

Turbo says he’s got to wait for the #7 bus to take him to InkedIn (this tattoo place for executives) anyway, so why not fix the content. 

living-persona-blue-2So we get crackin’ on the content, much to my disarray, but I realize I don’t know what I’m doing. Turbo says, “We need to make a connection between bloody guy’s answers and our content – our content should directly address his needs, challenges, pain points, hurdles, perceptions about our product type and any relevant beliefs about the market, as well as presenting our competitive advantage and benefits, all while showcasing our expertise and value as a resource.” 


I start looking over all the stuff we’d done to date which, by the way, was already amazing, to see if we could make it even awesomer. 

So below is from Turbo’s list of “Things We Did Tonight,” which we’re going to hand to our boss Mr. Ladenfass (we call him Mr. LadyFace), so he has to pay us for the extra hourage: 

  • We evaluated our topics. We made each meaningful to our personas; in some cases, the topic had been focused on telling them what we wanted them to know, but not what they wanted or needed to hear
  • We focused on ensuring each piece of content addressed a very distinct need or challenge, and that each presented a compelling case that our product was the right solution
  • We made sure our content was answering specific questions each had about our type of product – questions about performance compared to competitors’, price, cost in use, benefits of features, longevity, maintenance, etc.
  • A few dug deeper into the facts and figures used in the content and, rather than simply reporting them as we’d done in the past, we saw that we needed to provide a perspective that helped establish us as experts
  • We reviewed the words: had we talked to our prospects using their own language, lingo, acronyms, and expressions? Had we shown an understanding of them that helped the persona trust us?
  • We ensured that each piece of content was appropriate for its place in the workflow – simpler pieces at the top, with more in-depth education in the middle, and engagement offers at the bottom
  • We scoured each piece to make sure it provided something of value – something that would help our prospect as they search the internet for products or services
  • Finally, we asked the question “Is this content something our persona will be interested enough in to give us his or her contact information for?” 

(You can probably already tell, but Turbo went to college for like a year.) 

I almost forgot about the almost dead guy, then all the sudden I hear him making these sick sounds, so we go over there and he’s trying to wire his lower jaw back onto his face with some paper clips. “Well, Mr. Zombie, we articulated your needs and modified our content to more accurately reflect you. You’re alive. Thanks for helping us. Now time to bounce.” 

On his way out, he paraphrased the awesome Walter White, saying, “I’m not some dead man, artificially alive, just marking time. Don’t remember me that way.” 

And he left, foot in hand.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing

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