A new business “to do” list never ends. Depending on your niche, it can include things like buying equipment, signing leases, figuring out payroll, and chasing down the mail truck to find out why you haven’t received any deliveries in days. With all of that going on, sometimes developing something as seemingly abstract as marketing personas to support your marketing strategy is just an impossibility for a small nonprofit or business owner. If this sounds like you, or if you aren’t actually sure what marketing personas are, read on.

What are they?
First, please know that full blown marketing personas are important. They are imagined, data-based snapshots of your typical customers. (Here’s a great post from Matt Dickman at techno+marketer that takes a deeper look.) They will help you develop a better marketing strategy, because you’ll really identify your target customers. You’ll know what they want and where they spend time online, along with a bunch of other interesting (and useful) pieces of information. But if you’re already dancing as fast as you can, you just lost a shoe, and you need something (like a website) yesterday, try this quick fix (then, of course, get back on the path to developing a more complete marketing plan).

Recently I was meeting with a client fresh off her first week of starting her own business. She wanted her website up and running (actually, it was up and running, but she needed it revamped) as quickly as possible. One of my first steps was to ask her about her audience, which often stops the conversation cold. Not so with this intrepid business owner, but I could tell with the myriad problems running through her mind as she launched her new business, she needed something quick and simple as a short-term solution.

So, we developed a shortcut. Ideally, the approach would be something more like John Haydon’s advice in his recent blog on Inspiring Generosity (his article is directed at nonprofits, but adaptable for small businesses). But in this case, we decided to start more simply. We pulled out a blank sheet of paper and wrote down the top three audiences that were critical to her business, along with what information they would need when they visited her site. In other words, we made sure we were answering the primary questions her customers would be asking.

This looked like a Venn diagram gone horribly wrong by the end of our conversation, but it worked. We mapped out her basic, “starter” website presence and made sure that the most critical pieces of information would be represented there. We also tried to use architecture that would allow for additions and modifications, once her world quits spinning quite so madly, because we know we will be walking through this process in more depth within the coming months.

Make a Date to Dig Deeper
You’ve put out the fire, but don’t stop there. Make time on your calendar to come up with thoughtful, precise marketing personas that you can build your strategy around. In addition to the Inspiring Generosity post mentioned above there are a number of other great resources for doing this, including this one from HubSpot and this one—written specifically for nonprofits—from Nancy E. Swartz at Getting Attention!, (a great all around marketing resource for nonprofit organizations).