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Why Customer Personas Matter

Consumers expect you to talk to them.  Not them as a group, but as individuals.  Marketing to the masses with a single message for everyone is a tactic of the past.  Remarketing campaigns were introduced in recent years, but even they are not perfect, not always reaching the right customer.

In Crafting the Customer Experience for People Not Like You, Kelly McDonald reminds us that one size does not fit all.  Simply recognizing this fact is a win because businesses are moving into the right mindset to beat their competitors and show they are ready to think in terms of personas.  Once customers are treated as individuals, they become loyal to a brand.  It’s about the pre-purchase experience all the way through the post-purchase care.  When you understand who your customers are, you can create a great experience for them.

The Obama campaign is a perfect example of collecting individualized data for decision making.  His team was able to send out messages that were relevant, personalized, and delivered in context.  Mainstream media and research organizations discussed his ability to “reduce every American to a series of numbers”.   In Converge, Bob Lord and Ray Velez talk more about Obama’s campaign and that the personalization of an experience is what positions anyone – a company or a presidential candidate – as the right one to meet a consumer need.  With millennials especially, personalization is not an option, but rather a necessity.   Jeff Fromm and Christie Garton write in Marketing to Millennials that this particular audience wants to engage with brands who offer personalized conversations.

Segmenting and targeting go hand in hand with building personas.  These personas represent your customers and are ideally based on real data, like demographics, education, and online activities.  Fortunately, Google Analytics can also help with some of this demographic data to develop personas, but the best source is your internal data from your CRM.

Personas are based on real people so a one-dimensional description isn’t enough.  They’re not rich, poor, male, female – they have a lot more to them.  Take multiple aspects into consideration and base this on existing research or through interviews with customers.   It can also help to talk to non-buyers.  It may be tough to recruit prospects who went to a competitor instead, but it is a valuable source of data.  Some people may even want to provide this feedback because they may have really wanted to buy from you initially.

If you are launching a new brand or product, you may not have the benefit of existing CRM data so your personas will be fictional creations of who you think your users will be.  This needs to be established early on – especially if you are developing something new.  Aim to do surveys or interviews with different types of buyers so you know who to target when you are ready to launch.

You can take this a step further with negative personas. These represent who you do not want as a buyer.  When you segment these personas out of your marketing plan, you may find lower costs in both leads and customer acquisition.  Although it can be hard to admit, “everyone” is not the audience so by owning that early and ruling groups out, it can be a time-saver in the long run for everyone on your team.

Once you can identify your target audience by developing personas, only then can you market to them with appropriate messaging and through use of the right channels.  In addition to helping marketing staff with their role of creating content, personas help the sales team know what a good lead looks like, and your software developers will know which features matter to different users.

When you have your personas, you are in a better mindset to determine how buyers’ lives might improve as a result of your product or service.  This is the opposite of an advertising strategy focused on why you think your offer is great.  When the audience is not identified, much time is wasted trying to convince people to buy what you have.

The better you know your audience, the better you can serve them beyond the point of sale.  When you view things from their perspective, you can maintain the relationship with them and ideally build them as advocates for your brand.   Building personas is much more than a theoretical exercise.  It has implications for your day-to-day work across the organization.

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