Imagine if you knew your customers like you know your best friends.
You know what kind of food they like, what movies they like, their hobbies, interests, and social activities.
You know what type of gift they like and conversely what they don’t like.
All of this helps you to not only be great friends but also to know their needs.
Now imagine if you had just met your friend yesterday. If you wanted to form a deep friendship you’d start learning about them a little at a time. There is no “Science” behind this stuff. Mankind has been doing this from the beginning of time. Before computers, cell phones, and internet existed, businesses knew the importance of “knowing” their customers.
So in a way customer persona is not a new concept. You can easily call it anything you like.
Yes I’m sure we can find lots of textbooks about the subject, loads of research, and plenty of YouTube videos but the essence of customer persona is the same as it was 10000 years ago.
What has changed is all the amazing tools at our disposal to reach people anywhere on the planet and learn about them regardless of who they are.
If you follow the 4 step process below you can gain significant knowledge about your customers leading to higher sales.
But here’s the caveat, you’d need to take your time. Just like you did when you got to know your best friend. YOU invested time into it. If you take a short cut you’ll end up missing potentially important information about your customers.
What is a customer persona?
Personas are fictional characters, representing a segment of your customers.
Where do you use a customer persona?
Customer persona information can be used any time we communicate with our target market to inform, engage, and sell. It can be used to help design new or improved products. I believe understanding your customers is beneficial to anyone running a business. For example It can be used in:
How do you use it?
It depends. If I’m preparing for a sales meeting I can use my customer persona to determine the kind of questions I ask. Or I could use it to confirm whether the prospect fits my model of an ideal customer.
If you’re preparing for an email marketing campaign to promote your products then write your copy as if you were directly addressing your customer. Try to make it personable as if you really know the person you’re writing to. Keep it relevant to his needs and interest.
Step #1 Define your audience
Buyer personas are a fundamental aspect of any business.
In essence a persona is a list of personality traits and interests. But before you start looking at your customer persona you need to define the audience.
For example if you sell pharmaceutical products that help with diabetes, then your target audience can include:
Early stage diabetic population
People with weight related issues
Once you get into the details, there are many more segments of population that can benefit from your product.
Step #2 Research social media to understand your buyer
Now that you have an understanding of your audience and segments of your customers, you can start learning more about them in a personal way.
In the case of the example we gave earlier, a pharmaceutical company, they certainly can access all kinds of public healthcare records to do this. But they most likely will also do social media search to have up-to-date information.
But let’ say you want to start a new business selling fountain pens.
If you know the interests, backgrounds, needs, education, etc. of your target customer then you can fine tune your messaging and your product design to achieve the desired results.
Social media drives 31% of overall referral traffic on the Internet with Facebook contributing a major share to this traffic. That’s why 90% percent of small businesses are on Facebook. 70% of businesses also rely on Twitter for capturing real-time attention of their audience.
So you can head over to Instagram and search for #fountainpen.
Immediately you’ll see lots of results (311,327 to be exact). Hundreds of sources of fountain pen vendors, and hobbyists.
But you’ve got to focus here. It’s easy to to start surfing Instagram and end up spending lots of time doing something that doesn’t give you the information you want.
Rather, start reading the comments and try to get a feel for what people are saying about fountain pens. Here is one such comment I found on one of the photos “I love the matte Black finish and the fluting”. Information like this can be valuable for your hypothetical fountain pen business.
If you’re new to social media or if you don’t have the time to figure this out, then there are many freelancers that can help you with the information you need.
If for some reason you don’t want to do social media or if your customers aren’t on social media then you can use any of these other approaches:
Talk to your best customers
Do a survey
Talk to influencers
Attend trade show events
Get involved with professional groups
In The Brand Mapping Strategy, branding and marketing strategist Karen Tiber Leland shares her hard-earned insights into personal and organizational branding while looking at 4 personality areas:
Why is this stuff important?
Because you’re selling to people who have unique traits as well as common desires and the better you understand them the better you can be in helping them meet their needs.
Honestly this exercise can take time depending on how well you know your customers and target market. But you can start with the basics and build on it as you research. Keep in mind we’re not trying to psychoanalyze people but we do want to get a decent understanding of key attributes that drive their decision making process.
In general you’re trying to better understand:
Interests, hobbies, needs, values, attitudes
Age, income, education
What activates do they participate in to make life easier for them
Social media platforms of choice
Personality traits–introvert, extrovert
Values–conservative, old-fashioned, risk-averse, risk taker, open-minded
Attitudes about social and cultural events
Keep it simple
When I first started my career in engineering one of the common points of conversation in product design was “Keep it Simple”. Look for personal traits of your customers that are common in your industry and things that could make life easier for them.
According to Harvard Business Review, 86% of potential buyers are more likely to make purchase with brands that simplify the customer journey.
Step#3 Do competitive research (aka Google)
This is a self explanatory step. It’s straight forward provided you know WHAT you’re looking for. Also notice some of these steps overlap that of the previous step. But here you’re trying to learn more about your competition. Because learning about your competition can help you better understand your customer needs. It can also give you insights that help you go back to step 2 and dig a little deeper.
Social media: Take a look at your competitors products and services and comments posted
Google Adwords: pick some relevant keywords pertaining to your target market and plug into the Adwords Display Planner. One of the first set of results that it will generate is some of the most accurate and recent demographics
Online Forums: Google (your niche) forum. Adwords is a great tool for checking into what type of keywords maybe relevant to your industry and niche. Adwords can give you some quantitative information about usage and interest across Google Search. Go through some of the results and write down what readers like or dislike
Facebook for business demographic data: Great resource to learn about your customers but requires a FB for business page.
Conduct interviews- Talk to your potential customer in person
SurveyMonkey – survey your customers for deeper indights
Google– That’s right, conduct a simple search
Google Analytics– check out your own analytics page for insight into demographics
Alexa– Competitive intelligence benchmarking, requires a paid account
Facebook has over 1 Billion active users spending 20 minutes per day perusing the platform. Where as once upon a time telephone and brochure stuffed envelopes were the only way to communicate with customers and prospects, now you can communicate with multitudes of people anywhere in the world with a click of a button. Learning about your customers’ interests and needs is a part of communication. And communication is part of determining customer persona.
Step #4 Measure results and experiment putting it all together
Your deliverable can be a document or spreadsheet. It can be as detail as you want it to be. It doesn’t really matter how you deliver your customer persona as long as it is in a form that works for you. You can have multiple personas for different product categories and different markets.
Once you have collected data about your marketing persona, start experimenting. See if you can find any patterns, and tweak it a little as you find new information.
Here is the example of a simple customer persona that was created using Microsoft Powerpoint.
Imagine if you know a lot about your customers. You know their deep desires, their interested, where they like to shop, where they like to hang out when they aren’t working. Their preferable method of communication, their preferable time of searching online, their personality and all those other things we talked about here.
Knowing this information can make a HUGE impact in your business, it can mean the difference between wasting a lot of marketing money on programs that don’t produce versus making a lot of money and saving yourself from a lot of headache. It can mean extra time for your family fun versus wasted time trying to figure out how to make more sales.
Do the work, find as much as you can about your customers and then use the information to create smart strategy that can supercharge your business.