“I’m a one-person start up, struggling with branding. Where should I start?”

How to create a buyer persona: jargon-free tips for start ups, small businesses and one-man teams.


Speaking on behalf of my people, there’s one thing marketers are exceptionally good at: mastering our own indecipherable language.

Translation: we want to work with people who love our brand, so they’ll spread the love where it matters most.

After six years, I often feel like I’m as good as fluent; but I still find moments – usually at marketing networking events – where I have to do a Sherlock and enter my mind palace to make some semblance of sense out of what was just said to me.

As such, I’ll do my utmost to keep this post as helpful as possible; which means leaving jargon at the door.

So let’s get started!

Keep the customer at the core

I’m a huge advocate for a consumer-centric approach starting with the customer in mind.

One of the drawbacks of working in larger, older companies is that their identity is already developed, often with irreversible principles. As such, they need to go out and find the people who will respond positively to their brand.

As a new, fresh brand, you’ve got a huge opportunity: you can get to know your ideal audience. You can speak to them about their pain points what inconveniences them, and figure out if your brand can do something to help them out.

Develop your first buyer persona Paint a picture of your ideal customer

“Since 80 percent of your business will probably come from 20 percent of your customers, one of your first priorities is to figure out (or find out) everything you should know about that 20 percent—your true target market.”

 – Market Research Made Easy: Don Doman, Dell Dennison, Margaret Doman

A fully functioning marketing department will have someone in charge of market research. They’re a strategist who develops what we call ‘buyer personas’: a semi-fictional representation of an ideal customer.

They use the data and research sources at their fingertips to come up with a story that helps tie all marketing and branding efforts together. Here’s an example I lifted from HubSpot (check out their marketing blog – it’s one of the best around, in my opinion):

Buyer Persona HubSpot

Click to enlarge

As a content marketer, I can look at this and think: “Right, Molly has exhausted her budget, so doesn’t have a lot of money to generate leads (which is a pain point for her).  She reads the Mashable website at lunchtime. To engage Molly, I need to write an article that tells her how to generate leads within a small budget. She doesn’t like tech-talk, so I need to keep that in mind when writing it. The piece needs to be published on Mashable so it reaches her.”

As a jargon-free content marketer, I’d be thinking: “Right, Molly’s not got a whole loada cash left, but she still needs to figure out how to get people interested enough to potentially buy her product. That’s a constant challenge for her. She reads the Mashable website at lunchtime. To get Molly’s attention, I need to write an article that tells how how to get people interested without actually spending any money. She doesn’t like jargon, so I’ll keep that in mind when writing it. The piece needs to be published on Mashable so it reaches her.”

Don’t forget vertical interests personal hobbies and interests

If I had created this buyer persona fictional customer representation, I’d have included a section on vertical interests things Molly loves outside her work.

Why? To emotionally engage someone as a customer, you need to build trust with them as a person. Showing them that your brand has the same vertical interests is the best way to do this. Just think of all the non-football-related brands you see advertised on the side of football pitches.

Key questions to ask yourself when building a buyer persona

Here are some questions to consider before you start.

  • Location: Do they live in a city, on the outskirts, or in the country? How will their location affect their buying habits?
  • Age: What is this person’s age range?
  • Gender: What is the gender of people in this persona?
  • Interests and hobbies: What are the vertical interests of people in this persona?
  • Education: What is the education level of this person? How will this affect their buying habits?
  • Job title: What field of work do your customer work in, and what types of job titles do they carry?
  • Seniority: What’s their relationship with their colleagues like, and how might this affect buying habits?
  • Salary: How much do they earn?
  • Budget at work: If you’re a B2B business, consider their budget constraints.
  • Family life: What is the relationship status of this person? Do they have children?
  • Favourite websites: Why type of websites do people in this persona frequent?
  • Social media usage: What social platforms do they use?
  • Buying motivation: What are this person’s reasons for buying your product?
  • Buying concerns: What are this person’s concerns when buying your product? Employ the concept of the ‘Five Whys’ here: it takes five questions of ‘why?’ to get to the fundamental issue to tackle. I plan on writing a blog post on the Five Whys in the not too distant future – so sign up for email updates! You can do this either by filling in the pop up or leaving a comment and choosing to follow the blog.

Free tools to help you build a buyer persona

It’s one thing to know which questions to ask; and quite another to know how to answer them.

First and foremost, I always suggest talking to people who fit in your buyer persona. Friends, family members, ex-colleagues, clients; whomever it might be. You could take the formal route and send them a SurveyMonkey survey, or you could just have a chat. It depends on your style. I’m definitely a ‘have-a-chat’ kinda person.

For demographic information, I like to use YouGov Profiles Lite. That link will take you to a search I did on people who are interested in advertising, marketing and PR; but you can search for just about anything.

There are templates available for first-timers. You can download some templates to build your own buyer persona here. There’s also the useful Make My Persona tool, which will deliver a document to you.

How to use your original buyer persona to build a brand

I was recently shown a new app called Peanut, which I feel is a great example of taking a buyer persona and building a brand around it. *Applause*

The app is built for the generation of mums who missed out on Tinder.

I’m not a mum myself, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand that the transition from ‘woman’ to ‘woman who is also a mum’ is tough. You’ll find yourself with a new purpose, a new identity, and yet still wanting to maintain your identity outside of it.

Because Peanut is a mums-only community, the women can choose to become friends based on the same criteria they’ve always had, safe in the knowledge that the person also has motherhood in common.

The brand ethos manifests in the tagline ‘meet as mamas, connect as women’. Before they built their brand or even started thinking about the tagline, they got to know their audience. Their buyer persona research identified an pain point inconvenience, and every product and brand decision thereafter is about tackling it.

Their research would have revealed that mums are much more likely to be active on Instagram than they are Twitter. True; as they have 24k+ followers on Instagram and ~600 on Twitter. Their Instagram is aimed at their audience, while I get the feeling Twitter is an afterthought that isn’t afforded much attention; a formality for journalists (who are more likely to find them on Twitter).

So what can we learn from a quick look at Peanut’s branding?

Put simply:

  • Research your customers
  • Figure out a problem they have
  • Solve it for them
  • Make your whole brand ethos – from the tagline down to the product – about solving that problem
  • Research where your customers hang out online
  • Put a lot of effort into where they are
  • Put less effort into where they aren’t

Follow a formula like this, and you’ll be well on your way to branding a beautiful business.

So there you go: how to start building your brand – no mind palace required. Let me know how you get on, and if you’ve got any questions, comment and I’ll answer them!

Quiz: what kind of small business owner are you?

You might be the driven idealist; or you could be the analytical logician. Find out your small business style with our quick quiz:

Maybe your driving force is being your own boss. Perhaps you noticed a huge gap in the market. From the driven idealist to the analytical logician, find out your small business style with our quick quiz.

Don’t forget to leave a comment with your result below!

PR for small businesses: 3 ways to make your SME stand out to a journalist

So you’re a small business with a big idea, and you just know that journalists will want to write about it. How do you stand out from the hundreds of press releases sent to them every day?

So you’re a small business with a big idea, and you just know that journalists will want to write about it.

They receive hundreds of press releases every day, so content marketing needs a more considered approach than ever.
To stand out to journalists and their readerships, here are 3 factors to consider before phoning, tweeting or emailing them.
And if you’d still like some specialist help, drop us a line.

Make sure your content is timely

Your content needs to get to the right place at the right time, so…

Keep an eye out for relevant awareness days

For journalists, traffic from social media is gold dust.

Social traffic can be a key factor when evaluating the success of an article, so stand out by contributing content that’s likely to get shared.

Awareness days are a tried-and-tested way to generate mass social traffic. They come with their own hashtags (#smallbusinesssaturday, anyone?), are more likely to trend, and articles about the awareness day have a higher chance of going viral.

Action point: Click here for a calendar of awareness days. You can go through it manually, or download the full year for around £40. Alternatively, get in touch with us and we’ll put together a consultancy package including similar information. Once you’ve got your list of relevant awareness days, work on ideas to engage journalists (and their readers/your potential leads).

Include seasonal events

You’ll have a lot of competition around Christmas, Eid, Valentine’s Day and even Halloween. However, this follows the same formula as with awareness days. A journalist’s editorial calendar can revolve around these events, so they’ll be on the lookout for relevant content.

Action point: Add seasonal events to your calendar of awareness days. Similarly, we’ll include this in a consultancy package if you get in touch.

But keep your content versatile

I recently saw Shannon McGuirk, Head of PR and Content at agency Aira, talk at BrightonSEO. One of the points that stood out to me was about an infographic she’d created on behalf of her client Vouchercloud.

It detailed the world’s booziest countries. You can see it yourself here. How media-friendly is that?

Unsurprisingly, the infographic got lots of coverage in Dry January, when it launched. As International Beer Day and St Patrick’s Day came and went, the coverage kept coming; proving the versatility of quality B2C content.

She and her colleagues demonstrated an economic approach to their client’s content. This is a salient point for small businesses in particular. Making resources go the extra mile doesn’t stop at production. It’s just as relevant when it comes to your marketing content.

Make your content credible

Journalists are primarily interested in your ‘so what?’ point. When you’re creating your content, define that point as early as possible. If a third party can back up your ‘so what’ point, it immediately becomes more credible.

This is also an opportunity to partner with other businesses on content. Here’s an example…

The marketing manager of an organic food business writes a press release for National Obesity Awareness Day. As a small business, she’s interested in local coverage. Before she starts writing, she speaks to experts at a local gym. A trainer comments on the link between fitness and organic food, and her point is included in the story. When a regional journalist reads it, he sees two different local ‘thought leaders’ in agreement. The story has credibility from the offset and is published. Delighted with the free publicity, the gym suggests a promotional partnership… and so on and so forth.

It’s worth considering that charities have high profile spokespeople. They’re ready to pass comment in exchange for free publicity of their charity.

Action point: Create a list of relevant local businesses, personal contacts and charities.

Research similar content

Differentiation is the cornerstone of effective, memorable marketing. New Broca Creative clients get a competitor content analysis, which allows us to define opportunities to say what others aren’t saying.

Let’s be realistic: with as much content as there is out there, most ideas tread on the toes of another. If you find that to be the case, it’s imperative to find your own unique angle.

Action point: use Google Trends, Majestic and Buzzsumo. They’re free tools that can help you see if your content is different from what’s already out there.

Getting a journalist’s attention through quality content is a fine art. If you’re a small business in the UK, we’d love to help you get press coverage. Get in touch here.

3 (well, 4) free tools for writing better blog posts

Becoming a better writer isn’t easy, but there are tools that can give you a leg-up.

There are 2.75 million blog posts written and posted every single day. I’ll let that sink in for a second.

I wrote my first blog post in 2003 and despite working in content for as long as I have, it’s still a lot to swallow. With the sheer volume of content out there, mediocrity simply isn’t an option.

Becoming a better writer isn’t easy, but there are tools that can give you a leg-up. And if you find you need some more help, I’d love to see what I can do (drop the team a line here).

Step 1: Start with a blog post idea generator

Not sure where to begin? You’re not the first. As long as you’ve got a vague idea of what you want to write about, this little tool will start you off with a blog post title.

Have a go on the HubSpot blog post idea generator

Step 2: Let yourself get distracted – but only a little

Ever wonder why you have your best ideas in the shower? It’s because being a little distracted helps you think creatively. According to a peer-reviewed study from University of Chicago:

“a moderate level of ambient noise is conducive to creative cognition”.

I’ve always worked in shared workspaces, which can provide distracting environments. For the first few years of my career, I really struggled to work on meatier copywriting projects.

Then, in 2012, I heard about Coffitivity. It’s an app that plays the noise of a cafe in the background. That’s it. That’s all it does.

When I’m in a loud environment, I pop my headphones in and transport myself to the focused anonymity of a coffee shop down the road. Definitely worth trying for yourself.

Try Coffitivity

Step 3: Get a second opinion from Hemingway

Grammatical correctness is more than an appropriately-placed apostrophe.

If you’re not 100% confident* in your copywriting, paste your first draft in Hemingway. It highlights what you need to change and why; allowing you to hit ‘publish’ on copy that reflects your best voice.

*and even if you are (complacency kills)

Use Hemingway

Bonus for freelance copywriters: WorkAbout

I keep hearing this crazy stat that by 2020, half of the American workforce will be freelance in some way. It’s a swell I noticed a few years ago, and one that’s showing no sign of slowing down.

Freelancing comes with a wealth of opportunities for individuals and their clients. Having said that, I can’t deny two big obstacles:

  1. Where should freelancers work?
  2. How can they beat the loneliness often felt by sole traders?

A friend of mine is working on an app that tackles both of these issues and a heck of a lot more. The app locates the best public spaces to work in; and connects you with other freelancers and potential clients nearby. I’ve seen the roadmap for Workabout and while I can’t say anything specific just yet*, now is the time to hop aboard.

*let’s just say you’ve definitely heard of a company it’s working with

Join WorkAbout

Broca Creative has launched!

Hello, stranger. Welcome to Broca Creative: we’re a content lab based in Bristol, UK.

…And as you’ve been kind enough to visit our blog, I’ll leave the plural pronouns there. Let’s get personal. I’m Amy; though if you’ve worked with me before, you might know me as The Grammar Hammer.

With a nickname like that, it’s not wholly surprising that I’ve decided to break away from my day job to start up Broca Creative. The reasons are multiple; but it all boils down to the following:

  • All I want to do is create beautiful, valuable and well-crafted content…
  • …because traditional marketing died on its arse when brands realised consumers want to be helped, not marketed to…
  • …as demonstrated by the fact that 47% of buyers view 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep*…
  • …and I want to make sure those 3-5 pieces are bloody glorious. For both parties.


What you can expect from the Broca Creative blog

In a digital-content-driven world, it’s a bold move. The pressure is well and truly on, particularly when strategising our own blog. I’m a firm believer in transparency, so make sure you subscribe to get updates on:

  • Content tips: I’ll be exposing some of the basic tricks of my own trade. This will be helpful for anyone who’s a content newbie looking to step up to amateur level.
  • Creativity in Bristol: it’s who we are! Content creation requires inspiration. The real-world kind.
  • Content inspiration: Because all of that real-world creativity is great; but we’re excited by how it manifests online.
  • Company updates (and exclusive, subscriber-only promotions and discounts): because everyone loves a freebie.

Next week I’ll be sharing 3 free tools for writing better blog posts.