Business owners and the marketing community are usually up to their eyeballs with work on a daily basis that requires their pressing attention. This is probably the main reason why many do not do the one thing that would help their business grow significantly in a short time span– build a customer persona (or a buyer persona). This is something you should be doing before you even get into building an online strategy. After all, your entire business depends on customers so it’s important to thoroughly understand who you are selling to.
What is a customer persona? To simply put, it is a depiction of your perfect customer(s) based on the solid data gathered from your existing customers (good and bad) and prospects. Before we go into the steps of building customer personas (yes, you can have more than one), I’m sure you’re curious as to WHY you need a customer persona.
5 Reasons For A Customer Persona
1. Crafting The Right Messaging
Some of the ways your business or company attracts traffic online may be through content marketing and paid advertising. You create these pieces of content or adverts with the aim of connecting with your ideal prospects. A customer persona would ensure that you can do that by providing you with the relevant information about WHO you want to reach as well as their motivations and challenges. This allows you to speak to them in a language they understand, and if they ‘get’ what you’re saying, there is a higher likelihood of converting them to paying customers.
2. Focused Company Communication
If your business is more than a one-man show, chances are, everyone in your company comes into contact with clients on a daily basis. Having customer personas helps everyone in your company align to consistent messaging that provides a more cohesive front. If you are a one-man show that’s looking to grow in the future, then a customer persona will help recruits get on board quicker.
3. Humanizes Marketing
When you build a customer persona, it is backed by solid research and you’re creating an actual person who you wish to work with. When you’re planning your marketing, writing messaging specifically for this person is going to be much easier as you can put yourself in the shoes of your single customer persona.
4. Positioning For Sales
A customer persona will aid your sales staff when they are out prospecting by letting them know the type of potential clients your company is looking to attract.
5. Improves Your Sales Funnel
With a detailed customer persona, your business will have a greater understanding of the concerns your clients have when deciding on hiring you or buying your products. By addressing these concerns in different parts of the sales funnel, you will be able to improve your conversions and therefore, increase your revenue.
If you need more reasons, read 31 business building benefits of buyer personas.
I’m Sold. How Do I Build A Customer Persona? If you’re still interested at this point, that’s great! Let us show you how you can go about building customer personas for your business. You can have more than one (and most businesses do), but start small, especially if you’re still getting your feet wet in online marketing (actually, personas work great for offline marketing as well – as highlighted by our reasons above).
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3 Steps To Your Ideal Customer Persona
A customer persona requires you to answer FOUR main questions about your ideal customer: WHO, WHAT, WHY & HOW.
Step 1: Collect Initial Data
The easiest way to do this is to go through your existing client database. If you have a website with analytics set up, that’s also a great place to collect data from. Try to sieve out the background and demographic trends – location, age group, sex, and education level, as well as the professional title, and revenue generated. Note down customers that fall in specific segments to form a large group. Also, think about the ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ customers. If you enjoy working with one segment over another, you may want to concentrate on building up the ‘good’ segment as your customer persona for the future. Don’t forget to note down why you found it easier to work with that segment as these identifiers will prove useful for future prospects.
Understanding the demographic of your existing customers will help you build up the ‘WHO’ portion of your customer persona.
Step 2: Set Up Interviews
Now that you have your WHO, it’s time to call up some of your existing customers to ask them for some of their time for an interview. Set up at least 3 interviews. There is no rule on how many interviews you need to conduct. Once you find yourself answering the questions you ask correctly, it’s probably enough. Don’t limit yourself to just existing customers. Talk to prospects as well as those that chose NOT to work with you.
The interview data will form the bulk of your customer persona so pay careful attention. What kind of questions should you ask?
For the WHAT section, you want to concentrate on the goals and challenges of your customers as well as what your business can do to help them. What are their motivations at work and how can their lives be easier? Always ask why these are their goals as well. For example, someone might tell you their goal is to ‘Meet 30 prospects each month’. Asking them why may reveal that as their base KPI at work or that usually from 30 prospects, they are able to close enough deals to meet their targets. Probing will allow you to build a more in-depth persona that will help you.
For the WHY section, you should note down specific quotes and objections that these interviewees have. This is to build up an understanding of their language and help your sales staff understand common issues that may stop future prospects from converting.
The HOW section is for your company messaging – what is the best way to approach your ideal customer? How can you describe your products to them in a way they can understand. Craft your main marketing messages here for this customer persona.
Step 3: Put It All Together
When you create your final buyer persona, remember to give him/her a name and a face. A standard practice is to have their job title and a rhyming name to make it simple to recall. For example, you can have HR Harry, Marketing Molly, Sales Sameer. Find a stock photo online of someone that represents your persona so that everyone in your company can visualize this person. You can create multiple personas for your business if necessary. Most companies have at least 2, which is quite alright.
So now that your customer persona is done, you can expect your marketing strategy to be more targeted and hopefully, effective. The domino effect of this focus are greater conversions on your website (where your messaging will be aligned) and increased revenue!
To make it easy to build your first customer persona, we’ve created a FREE customer persona template for you to download.
We’d like to end this article with a word of caution through a story that has stuck with me:
A research company conducted a focus group research for Sony boom boxes, and during the interview, when asked about boom box colour preference between yellow or black, almost all the participants voted for a yellow boom box. At the end of the focus group, the participants were offered a free boom box to be picked up on their way out. Despite both options available for them to pick, almost everyone took the black boom box over the yellow.
I read this in ‘The User Is Always Right’ (a fabulous book for those looking to understand persona-building in depth) with the takeaway that although interviews may provide you with insights, it’s also extremely important to observe the actions of your customers. So besides just noting down the words, focus on the actions of your customers to have a holistic understanding of them.
If you have built customer personas, have insights or questions regarding the process, do write in the comments below or in our forums!