Every business exists to solve a problem for its customers. Whether we sell donuts or houses or technology consulting services, we know our customers, we understand the problems they face, and we know how to give them what they need. That’s why we’re still in business.
You understand your customers’ problems. You get them. Your customers know this about you. They love it about you.
Now, look at your marketing. Your website. Your social media presence.
Does it speak to your customers as clearly and honestly and convincingly as you do? Does your social media help your customers solve problems? Does your website make their lives easier?
How can you be sure?
Imagine that your perfect, ideal future customer has just clicked through to your website and they’re learning about you right now by reading it.
Who is this customer? What is the specific problem she’s trying to solve? What does he look like? What are the forces she’s trying to balance in her busy day? What’s the most important factor when he’s choosing between you and your competitor?
Here’s a technique used by marketers to help you get inside your perfect customer’s head.
Let’s imagine that we can create the ideal, perfect customer for you. The one you want more of. We call this person a Buyer Persona. A buyer persona is defined by Hubspot as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on real data and some select educated speculation.”
Getting to know your buyer persona is an exercise in creativity and it’s time well spent. By investing a little research and some critical thinking, we can dramatically improve our marketing effectiveness and bring in more customers online.
How personas help
Thinking deeply about your personas can help you to uncover things you know about your customers but haven’t really figured out.
- Where do they spend time online? (And therefore, where do I need to be in order to find them?)
- What kinds of problems are they trying to solve? (And therefore, what kind of information should I be providing to make their lives easier?)
- What are their values? (And therefore, what are the most important features I should be highlighting in my marketing materials?)
Knowing our Buyer Personas helps us create stronger content and clearer marketing messages, and it helps ensure we are spending money to amplify those messages in the right places at the right times.
You may have two or three different personas, but remember, we’re talking about the ideal here. The best possible customer. No business can cater to more than two or three at a time without losing its identity. So let’s focus on one for now.
How to create a persona
Here are a few steps that can help you create the best personas for you.
Think about both your current and your ideal customers. What questions do you need to ask to gain a deeper understanding of exactly who they are, what they need, what their biggest challenges are, and how you can help?
Think in general terms, about the person as a whole.
- Common behavioral patterns. Where they go online and off. How often. Why.
- Shared professional/personal goals and struggles. Values.
- General demographic information. Age, gender.
- Biographic information. Background, culture, family life. All of this matters.
You need to work to create a complete, unbiased view of who your persona is. To do this, it is necessary to consider all the questions to which your persona needs answers. Picking and choosing questions about your persona can lead to establishing a persona that you assume you have rather than the one you actually have.
And be sure to also include specific questions relevant to your business too. Only asking broad questions leads to only a general understanding of the person. Asking detailed, specific questions can help you determine exactly who you need to be targeting. For example, if you own a real estate agency, be sure to consider the type of housing-related questions that drive purchasing.
- Why are you considering buying or selling your home?
- How many people are in your family?
- Do you know a lot about real estate?
- What kind of work do you do and how does that affect your housing budget?
- How have you been researching real estate?
- What’s the single most important factor in choosing a real estate agent?
There are many ways to conduct research for your personas. The best thing you can do is interview current customers. Is it possible for you to call a few select customers – those who are most representative of your ideal customer persona? Some businesses hire a research firm. Others conduct surveys via social media or email.
If this kind of research sounds too difficult, your own salespeople are a resource. They’re obviously out there every day hearing from customers and learning first-hand about their values and aspirations. Ask them what they’re hearing. Moving beyond salespeople, almost anyone that interacts with customers will have some insight.
Even your website’s analytics tools and social media presence can offer insights. Monitor your social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to find your potential customers asking questions or discussing problems your company can help solve.
After you have conducted sufficient research, you can then begin to compile all your data into one, paraphrased, easy to read format.
Here is an example with that fictional same real estate agency in mind:
Well known, midsize corporation
· Very busy with work
· Wants to see family more
· Find a safe home for family
· Work from home more
· Hopes to retire in next 20-25 years
· Has expendable income
· Wants something easy/relatively quick
· Wants reliable
· In mid 40’s
· Family of 5 – 3 kids
· Has 2 dogs
· Currently lives on outskirts of city
Consider the following best practices to help you round out your personas:
- Focus on reasons for behaviors
- Pay more attention to WHY someone does something rather than WHAT they are doing
- Remember that personas are fictional
- A persona is only based on real customers, it shouldn’t be specific to that one person
- Choose one or two dominant personas
- This will help you focus and determine the best approach
- Develop each persona’s specific story
- Rather than simply listing facts, create a relatable story
A persona should not be vague or general. We’re trying to create a fictional person who feels real. Flesh them out with enough psychological detail to allow you to get inside their point of view and see your company’s products or services from their perspective.
A strong persona can function almost like another person in the room when making a decision. He looks at what you’re doing from his specific vantage point, and points out flaws and benefits for him. Getting inside his head can help you mold your marketing content to be more interesting and useful to him.
He’s your ideal customer. An important person. So once you’ve fleshed out his biographical details, go ahead and give him a name.
Introducing Family-Man Frank
Frank is a 45-year-old man that lives right outside of Seattle, with his family of 5, plus two dogs. His children are 12, 13 and 16. He has worked as a high-level exec at Microsoft for the last 10 years. He commutes by bus and enjoys this time to read and catch up on extra work.
He wants to move into a larger home to better fit his family’s energetic lifestyle. Education is important to Frank, so he wants to ensure that his kids can still go to good schools. He would like a larger yard for his dogs and a more modern kitchen, since he loves to bake. His wife is a successful designer who longs for a home office in which to meet her clients.
Frank is concerned with his family’s safety and wants them to feel safe in their new home. He would like to find something quickly and while he is willing to spend the money for the right home, he wants to get the best deal possible. He wants to trust his real estate agent to find the perfect home for him and his family.
Incorporate personas into your strategy
Once you have established your key personas for your company, it’s time to incorporate this knowledge into your marketing strategy. It begins by taking a good, hard look at what you’ve already created through the eyes of your personas. Does it meet their needs? Are you speaking to their values?
Use the personas to help create stronger content that will be more relevant to the kind of customers you want more of – whether it is a blog that will spark their interest, a social post that will catch their eye, or a new product offering they can’t refuse.
Meeting their needs makes it easier, in the end, for them to choose you over your competition.
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