Why Personas are essential to everything you do

By July 20, 2016 No Comments

Regardless of what your business does, whether you license tax software, or sell unicorn T-shirts online, stop for a minute to think about the different types of people who may be interested in your products or services. We like to call these types your customer personas.

Why personas crucial in digital marketing

Photo: La Smala Live Concert by flickr member Kmeron

Your what? Persona is just a fancy word for the collection of character traits that identify a type of person; in other words, how he or she is perceived by others. Once you map and understand your real life customer personas, it becomes a lot easier to build campaigns that tap into your customers’ real desires and interests.

Maybe you developed customer personas when you first wrote your business or marketing plan. That’s a good start. If you did, take some time to revisit them. People, businesses and markets change every single day.

The personas you developed a couple years ago may not be so fresh. Depending on how quickly your business and market are evolving, you may need to refresh your customer personas once or twice a year.

Getting to know you

The better you know who you are selling to, the better your targeting and creative strategy will hit its mark. Because ultimately, every email, every campaign or piece of creative should be speaking to some of your target customers, but maybe not all of them. It is crucial to understand up front who you are talking to, what desire you are tapping into, and what strategies, tactics and offers will seal the deal with each individual persona.

Current versus future

Who is buying from you today?

Your customer personas are the people to whom you are selling today, the ones who are currently driving the bulk of your sales and revenue. You need to know these people as if they were sitting in the cubicle next to you telling you about their kids and their weekend at the cabin.

Explore your data to better understand your customer personas — who you are selling to now. And use these current, active human personas to develop your marketing strategy and creative.

Who is going to buy from you in the future?

Your aspirational personas are the people you want to sell to at some point in the future, when you have further developed your product or service. Don’t get them confused with the customers you want to attract today.

Look at your roadmap to imagine who you want to attract in the near future — your aspirational personas. Use the needs, habits and aspirations of these personas to guide your medium term business strategy and product development.

So where do I start?

Start with your data. Find out what kind of data you have in house that can define your current customer base. Look at any defining purchasing habits, interests or behaviours they may have shared with you, as well as any available third party market research that helps identify and further define these customer groups.

Who are you selling to today? In broad strokes, describe your top three or four customers: where they live, what they do for a living, their lifestyle and desires. Give them names. Describe a day in the life. Remember: these are not real people, but an amalgam of a customer type (though it helps if you can write your personas based on someone you may already know).

Once you have developed these personas, vet them with your team. In particular, share them with anyone who interacts with your customers on a daily basis. Better yet, develop your customer personas in collaboration with colleagues on your sales or customer service team — they’re the people who interact with your customers every day. You may be surprised to learn that your biggest customers are not who you think they are. This is very, very valuable information.

Get everyone on the same page

Once your customer personas have been vetted and approved, distribute them to anyone and everyone who develops marketing creative or who works with customer data at your organization — both internally, and externally. Make sure everyone you work with can identify and speak knowledgeably about each persona.

Now every marketing campaign, every piece of marketing collateral, needs to start with the persona. Introduce every brief with the question: Who are we speaking to? You don’t need to reiterate the entire persona, but you do need to summarize how this project will meet a persona’s need or desire.

Need an example?

Maybe you want to develop an email marketing campaign that targets young families who are getting ready for their summer vacation. Make sure your data team and your creative team understand that this is who you are speaking to. Ask your list manager to group these customers based on identifying data and pull a list.

Now develop a marketing and creative strategy that taps into the current needs and desires of this persona.

  • What are their needs at this juncture?
  • What is their purchasing behaviour?
  • How can you attract their attention?
  • How can you make their lives easier?

Map out the flow, and define how persona-specific creative can draw this person in, from subject line to email creative, to landing page. Maybe test a couple different approaches. Anything you learn here can be applied next time your target these customers. Follow the campaign metrics very closely to understand and fine tune your persona targeting tactics.

Becoming truly customer centric

Ultimately, working with personas can bring about a seismic shift in how your organization does business. Rather than thinking about what your organization needs, you may start thinking more about what your various personas need. And this, in turn, enables you to listen very closely to your customers:

  • How are your market segments responding to various strategies and tactics?
  • How are your personas changing in response to economic and social factors?
  • Are new market segments engaging with your content?

The more closely you listen, the better you become at adapting your products, services and campaigns to what your customers truly need.

Do you have a persona success story? A campaign or project that resonated with one of your customer groups? We’d love to hear your stories.

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Author Chrystian Guy

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