Do you know who your customers are? Seems a pretty straightforward question, but you’d be surprised how many marketing managers waste dwindling budgets and resources, simply because they don’t understand their customer base.
Here’s a more critical question:
Can you identify your “ideal” customer?
Can you describe them in writing? Define their roles, where they hang out, their likes and dislikes? List their desires, goals, and preferences? And most importantly, do you know what matters to them when they do business with you?
Why personas are important
A persona puts a face to your “ideal customer”.
Also referred to as user, buyer, or marketing personas, they are an invaluable tool for marketers in any field. In fact personas help everyone in the organization – from marketers and sales reps, to customer service and product development specialists.
Personas inform your organization’s business strategies & marketing decisions.
Engaging personas help take the guesswork out of marketing. If you’ve done your homework, your personas will help you:
- Identify which offerings will attract and retain your ideal customer.
- Connect with customers how, when, and where they prefer to be reached.
- Address any misconceptions or perceived roadblocks that existing/potential customers may have about doing business with you.
- Optimize campaign messaging and marketing spend.
Create multiple personas.
Depending on the nature and size of your business, you might create three to six personas for each offering, i.e. people who would regularly purchase and use your product or service. Some businesses such as large manufacturers, or government agencies that communicate to the general public, may find they need as many as 20 personas per offering.
Yes … that’s seems like a lot of work. But the hours you spend honing your personas will help ensure success on the backend of your campaign – the more you understand your customers, the more specifically you can target your campaigns, the more likely you are to achieve the results you want.
3 steps to creating personas
1. Get to know your ideal customer base
Most people want to rush through this stage so they can begin creating personas, yet this is the most important part. Rush your discovery phase, and you’ll pay for it later with personas that aren’t relevant and don’t work for you.
First, identify the groups you want to target by asking:
Who are our ideal customers? (May be one or more groups.)
What do we want from them / what are we providing them / how will they do business with us / when, where, and how will they use our product or service?
Now collect as much information as you can about these customer groups.
The most beneficial personas are based on solid market research.
Gather industry data, analyze web metrics, conduct interviews, study surveys. Review feedback on existing customers (you are using capture forms on your website, right?). Talk with people who have positive and negative things to say about your business. Talk with those who haven’t used your company; who know little about you. Talk with frontline team members who hear from customers every minute of every day.
Capture real soundbites.
“Ethical #hacker, secure code geek. Night owl, cat lover, indoor enthusiast.”
Whenever possible, include direct quotes from your research and interviews, to help flesh out your character. For example: we get a pretty clear picture of how “25-year-old persona Jack Sutton” sees himself, from the Twitter profile quoted above.
2. Define your ideal customer (+ photo)
Begin each persona with the name and headshot of your fictitious ideal customer. The photo makes it more realistic by literally putting a face to your ideal customer. Remember you’re going to create multiple personas depending on your business needs.
The more detailed your persona, the more effective your targeting.
Physical – give each persona a name, age, and headshot.
Psyche – describe their emotions. Are they introverted or extroverted? Calm or anxious?
Background – describe their job, their experience, their attitude toward technology, the company. Where are they from? Do they have a family? Other responsibilities?
For example, a “starting outline” for “persona Maddie Wells” might look something like this:
Maddie Wells: Busy 48-year-old, stays up with technology but doesn’t consider herself an early adopter since she prefers to let others work out teething problems. She’s impatient when products don’t work properly, and when service providers fail to deliver.
Senior manager with 8 direct reports, oversees a team of 44 junior and mid-level managers in North America. Has an executive assistant. Married with four children; two Labradors; live-in nanny; husband works at same company — also senior manager.
Family time is limited and therefore “time is precious”. They live an active, outdoor lifestyle. Interested in green products and making a contribution to their community. Maddie rarely has time to spoil herself. Her #1 goal is to simplify, simplify, simplify; #2 goal is find more work-life balance … but she’s not sure it exists.
3. Define patterns, situations, personal preferences
Once you have a basic sketch of each persona, drill down into the data you’ve collected to flesh out a living, breathing character.
Consider goals and preferences. Look for situations and situational needs. Determine patterns of behavior, intrinsic needs, personal values.
Play with your persona questions and answers.
What do they need? How do you provide that?
In a specific situation, with a specific goal, how will this persona use our technology or engage with our brand?
When, where, and how does this persona typically prefer to do business with us? (Think times, circumstances, and devices.)
What language would this persona use?
How do they prefer to receive communication?
How will they benefit from product or service?
What would make our brand #1 with this persona? How will they see us differently from our competition?
What motivates them to sign up for a newsletter?
What’s the best way to engage this customer?
What kind of features do they want and expect?
What drives them to respond to a special offer? To save money, time? For convenience? The “latest” technology, etc?
What prompts them to leave a website or unsubscribe?
What is their biggest concern or challenge about doing business with you?
Personas evolve with your business
Just like real people, personas should continue to evolve over time as your organization introduces new initiatives and technologies. Providing you keep them relevant, your personas will continue to shape your marketing decisions by answering questions such as:
- “Should we give away a mobile phone or a mini-break?”
- “Should we create an email and/or print campaign?”
- “Will this persona respond to digital ads?”
- “How and where will this persona find us?”
Create that “Wow … just for me!”
Engaging personas not only inform you. They let your customers know “you get them”. You’ll deliver more relevant experiences, improving customer satisfaction. You’ll create more meaningful content, that converts prospects to customers. You’ll help your sales and service teams engage in deeper conversations, building stronger relationships. And you’ll help your development team deliver the products and services your customer wants — when, how, and where they expect.
If you’d like more information about creating personas that work, contact Aquent Studios.