I recently met with a marketer who was busying herself creating a detailed marketing plan.

Regular readers of this blog will know, I’m not big on planning. I believe if a plan is more detailed than a single side of paper, you become a planner, not a doer. In an age where agility is everything, doing is definitely more appropriate than planning.

So what was keeping her so busy?

She was inventing personas.

A marketing persona is a fictional character designed to represent different types of groups within certain demographics (i.e. the various types of customers you want to attract).

The problem with any work of fiction is that unless you are highly skilled at developing characters, they are often not very believable. Remember, people buy from people they like and are influenced to buy by people they identify with.

Developing solid marketing content based on fact is much easier than writing fiction. Show me any reasonably-sized marketing department and I’ll find you at least one frustrated novelist on the team. Writing fiction involves digging a lot more deeply into your imagination to create something appear real. Marketing content creation is a lot more like journalism. It’s about asking the right questions to the right people and then packaging and delivering the facts to suit your agenda and audience.

Moreover, if you want to demonstrate how a potential client can use your product or service, featuring a real customer would provide a much more authentic approach to you marketing. Because you speak to these people every day and have real relationships with them, they will do a far better job of helping you promote your business than any made up persona. It is also so much quicker to invite a real customer to speak on your behalf than invent one.

How are you using real life personalities to drive marketing engagement? Share your comments below:

An edited version of this post first appeared on the iContact Email Marketing Blog.