If I were to ask you to describe your spouse, one of your children or a close friend, would you describe them as a “White Male, 25-49, College Educated, Household Income of $75,000”?
Yet that is often how we describe our customers or the audience we’re appealing to. Over the decades, we’ve gotten used to segmenting by such demographics. We were able to get away with that for a couple of reasons. First, our messages were being broadcast to a very wide, diverse group. And since every prospect was going to receive the same message, it was okay to over simplify. And secondly, we often didn’t really know that much about the people purchasing our products and services.
Since the onset of Marketing 2.0 however, things have changed dramatically. We’re now able to seriously segment our audiences by lifestyle interests, passions, preferences and context in which they use our products. We’re able to look at the different “triggers” that cause segments of our audience to act. And we are better able to deliver specific messages to specific audiences (sometimes specific individuals). This gives us the chance to make our communications more “personal.” We have the opportunity to design richer communications experiences that add more context to the narrative you are telling. It moves you from “selling” to “conversing.”
An effective way to start defining exactly WHO your buyers are is to create buyer personas.
A “persona” is a vivid lifestyle description that defines a prospect on an almost three-dimensional level. By culling user information, we are able to make accurate generalizations about what specific members of our audience are like. We can then use this information to create a detailed buyer persona that looks at our potential customer as an individual instead of a member of a large amorphous group.
A customer persona is a fictional character or ideal customer. This person may not exist in the real world, but their job, daily routines, pain points, beliefs, preferences and challenges do.
Think about your customers and the kind of issues and pain points they have. Think of the questions they ask you every day and start to build a picture of a persona. Most businesses have more than one type of customer so it is a good idea to create at least two, three or more personas (some organizations have been known to create as many as 50).
Often times, it helps to give your personas a back story, a detailed history and even a name. You may also use a stock photo or clipped photo from a magazine to give them a look.
The advantages of using personas is that you are able to create content for purposes of reaching that individual. And that “individual” is really an amalgam of a large swath of your target market.
It gives more context to the narrative you are telling. It moves you from “selling” to “conversing.”
Personas are as useful (in some cases even more useful) for business-to-business organizations as well as for consumer products and services. Here’s an example of a detailed persona developed for a company called Munro American, a maker of comfort footwear for women (you may wish to enlarge this).
How to get started on defining personas? A good start would be to inventory what you know about your existing customers, in detail. Survey them, and rather than ask “how satisfied they are” with their experience, probe deeper. A few questions to consider would be:
What is their job and their seniority?
What does a normal day look like for them?
What irritates them (both when it comes to your product category and their lives in general)?
What are their passions? Their hobbies? Their interests?
What are their aspirations?
What is important to them (once again, thinking beyond the category)?
When they are looking for information, where do they go?
Which social networks are they active on?
Answering questions such as these will help you build a picture of your buyers and will form the building blocks for future content and marketing.
Another thing about personas: they are not set-and-forget. They should be an integral part of every communications brief. And just as real-life customers are ever changing, so too are personas. It pays to revisit them every month or so to make sure they are up to date.
Posted by Mickey