We have often written about the importance of knowing your customers. It is the foundation starting position of all marketing campaigns as well as customer acquisition. Today’s blog post will tell you how to build personas to improve obtaining knowledge of your customers and customer marketing campaigns.
Check out our thoughts on customer focus.
What are personas?
As defined by Ardath Albee, a buyer persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. A way to model, summarize and communicate research about people who have been observed or researched in some way.
For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
Without personas, you may only be guessing what content your audience wants, which means you are more likely to revert to creating content around what you know best (your products and company) instead of around the information your audience is actively seeking.
Furthermore, you may have a handle on this information, but does everybody who is creating content in your organization have that same vision of your ideal audience? Documenting your personas, even if it is done quickly, is key to keeping everybody focused on the same audience.
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The benefits of personas
When you think of your audience, you may first think of it in demographic terms. Naturally, you’ll want your personas to include the most relevant demographic data points (e.g., business type, job title and function, geographic location).
However, while demographic data is used primarily to group audience members by what they have in common, personas enable marketers to hone in on key differentiators that your business can tap. For time-crunched content marketers, this ability to focus in on only the data that will help make your content more relevant and actionable is invaluable.
8 step persona building process
Building meaningful personas for your marketing outreach efforts can mean the success or failure of future campaigns. The process of creating a marketing persona allows you to gain deeper insights into the minds of your consumers, and these profiles subsequently can be leveraged to create content that connects with your audience on a deeper level.
It’s important to remember that persona building is not something you do once. It’s a process that requires an open feedback loop for frequent updating.
Personas, just like your customers, should never be stagnant.
You’ll need to update their profiles on a continual basis to keep up with emerging trends, new products, and changing economic times.
Staying diligent in your upkeep can help make sure that your business doesn’t send the right message to the wrong market segment.
With well-built personas, not only will your marketing will become more effective, but your sales and customer service teams will do as well. Understanding your customers inside and out is vital to building a great, long-lasting business.
Gather customer information
So where do you get all the information you need to make a persona take shape? There are many sources of information on your audience, from the tiny details logged away in your site statistics to actual conversations with real-life customers. Cast a wide net when coming up with information related to your personas.
Here are three places to look:
Check your site analytics
Inside your analytics, you can see where your visitors came from, what keywords they used to find you, and how long they spent once they arrived. This data is key for personas as it can reveal the desires that led your audience to your site as well as the tools they used to get there.
Involve your team in creating profiles
Get the team together—not just marketing, but customer service, growth, development, and more. Anyone with interactions with customers and customer data should be involved in sharing their perspective on what makes your customers tick.
Social media research
You can also do some research on social media. Use social media listening to find your potential customers asking questions or airing problems your product can solve on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or even try Pinterest for retail-oriented insights.
Ask your customers
Who knows your customers better than they know themselves? Surveys and interviews are often a critical component to building a useful marketing persona. In particular, interviews can reveal deep insight into your customers since you can dig into their answers and follow up with the goals, values, and pain points that will resonate the most with them.
Persona information categories:
- Customer Goals:What are the goals of consumers buying your company’s products or services? What do they hope to achieve when they take action to buy? Think critically about the needs that your products or services fulfill for your customers.
- Common Activities: How do consumers use your company’s products or services? The intended use of your items from the design and marketing phases may change dramatically once they reach the hands of consumers. Your ground-level employees can provide invaluable insight in this category.
- Problems with Products: What are the barriers to purchase? Be as skeptical as possible about your products to discover those issues that could keep potential customers from spending money.
Organize each group’s responses to these categories on your dry-erase board by post-it note color. Discuss them openly among the group with every team member giving feedback. No one should stay silent at this phase.
Eliminate from the board any proposed customer needs that the group considers invalid. Keep those customer needs that get two or three votes from your team as “true,” and put them on the board underneath their relevant categories.
Review assumptions about customer attributes
Repeat the process from your first brainstorming session, but focus on the psychological makeup of your customers and their demographics. The physiological motivations of your potential customers or clients are powerful elements in shaping your personas.
Segmenting by demographics will help you understand your product’s reach as well as the geographic and economic factors that make up your target market.
Use customer data to verify assumptions
The third meeting of your brainstorming cohort should focus on data that backs up the opinions gathered from your previous two get-togethers. This is an area where your marketing team can shine by presenting their customer satisfaction surveys and internal studies of sales.
You can also include information gathered from testing user experience and interaction on your e-commerce website, if your business has one, via third-party programs.
Assumptions that lack substantive information shouldn’t make it past this phase.
Customer acquisition … leverage social media for customer insights
If you lack facts to back up your assumptions about your emerging personas, there’s still one more place that you can go to obtain the unvarnished truth: your following on social media.
Your business should have its own Facebook page and Twitter account (at minimum).
Log in and review the comments and tweets about your products and the experiences that customers have had at your stores. Reach out to users who express their frustrations and ask them what your company can do to improve. Talk to visitors who love your business and ask what factors influenced them to become fans of your brand.
Organize groups into personas
Give each pattern of needs and customer attributes a name and title that corresponds with relevant information that you’ve verified from the previous steps.
Imagine a typical person from each group as a character to make the persona seem more real for you and the rest of your business.
Each one that your team creates will represent a distinct archetype of a potential customer. Depending on your data pool from your past brainstorming, you should have enough to create between three and ten unique profiles.
Perform quantitative research
With your personas created, you can start to estimate the number of customers who potentially fall into them. Using quantitative research, establish how users within your personas behave. You’ll once again reach out to your customers, but you’ll use more targeted methods to get information from them than your qualitative research.
Customer acquisition … employ personas in marketing funnel
Understanding where each persona fits along your marketing funnel is vital for your content creation and public relations teams. When you know what behaviors indicate buying signals or a willingness to spend, you can develop strategies to move each persona along the funnel.
You can also create content that addresses persona concerns as they move down the funnel, increasing sale chances. Outreach, as a direct result of your team’s increased knowledge, becomes more effective.
Here are the important stages of the marketing funnel and how personas can match them:
- Awareness Stage: The persona knows that your product or service exists, but has no direct wish to buy. She or he may have friends on social media who use your product or service, so she or he sees your brand regularly.
- Consideration Stage: Something happens (pay raise, new need, effective advertising, etc.) that starts a persona thinking about buying. The persona may look to multiple businesses to satisfy his or her need and consider what values are important to them as he or she looks into each company and product.
- Preference Stage: Personas form their opinions about your product based on a variety of factors, including your advertisements, peer reviews, and promotional offers. Each of your personas forms opinions, positive and negative, in different ways. Effective targeting of multiple personas requires a multi-pronged marketing approach that combines compelling content, social proof, and promotions.
- Action Stage: This point is when the personas make their decision to buy your product. If your marketing has led them down the funnel, your business generates a new sale. The experience that the persona has at this stage from your product’s performance and the attitude of your salespeople also dictates whether the customer turns into a brand ambassador or warns others to stay away.
Planning to catch a persona at each stage of the marketing funnel is important for every phase of your business, from marketing down to the employees on the sales floor. Think about the actions that personas take at each stage of the funnel and devise a concrete plan to win them over.
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Test persona marketing strategies
You’ve done all the hard work to create your marketing personas, and now your teams are implementing marketing strategies across your brand. However, the question remains: Do they work?
Measuring results for outreach efforts isn’t about winning a quick buck or instant success.
Your departments — sales, product development, and marketing — need time to put out content to attract new customers and adjust tactics to close sales. Not every effort that your business implements will succeed, and that’s part of the process.
Testing conversion rates for campaigns provides insight into how right your personas are and what you might need to adjust:
The bottom line
Marketing personas will help you identify with your customer community and better solve their problems. And when you solve their problems, they win, and you win. Can’t be better than that can it?
Be sure to include the whole team in coming up with these personas as everyone brings a different perspective and different information to the table. Then once you have your personas in place, act on them by using specific messaging with your content and by empathizing with customers as they go through your funnels.
Need some help in capturing more customers from your social media marketing or advertising? Creative ideas to help the differentiation with your clients?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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