One of the most important elements of modern, inbound marketing is the customer or buyer persona - because without a target, most of your marketing messages will miss the mark.
If you are looking for the fastest way to sharpen up your marketing messages you need to get your head around the concept and value of buyer personas.
‘Your personas should inform everything your customer-facing teams do.’ - HubSpot
Personas are essentially semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on market research, real data and informed guesswork.
When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behaviour patterns, motivations, and goals. The more detailed you are, the better.
These personas allow you to really tailor your marketing communications to specific people through content that is relevant, emotive and a clear demonstration of how well you understand your customer, their pains and challenges.
Your mission is to create clear and considered definitions of your buyer personas that allow you to connect both emotionally and logically with their needs, but this process should NOT be the sole responsibility of your marketing team.
So, HOW do you go about creating buyer personas?
You need to utilise the wealth of customer knowledge that already exists within every area of your company. There are many ways to develop a persona but leaving it all up to your marketing manager should not be one of them. You want your personas to have value to everyone in the business so the more people you involve in creating them, the better developed and more relevant they will be.
This will ensure that your ideal customers will have a tailored experience at all points in their relationship and interactions with your company. So, let’s break down the process…
WHO creates the persona?
- Pick someone to be responsible for your personas – you will want to get everyone involved and incorporate as many viewpoints as possible, but you will need a single person to own the process and manage and maintain the personas.
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Ask for volunteers but once you have a chosen individual, work with that person to create clear objectives and a timeline of deliverables with review points.]
- Get input from the whole company – customers interact with many different departments and individuals within your company, so get a full range of perspectives. Explore everything from the performance metrics of the marketing team through to sales data and the blueprint for a happy customer. Beyond your sales and customer service teams, speak to other teams such as finance to understand what makes the ideal customer for them.
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Arrange a whole company meeting to explain to people what is going to happen and why. Follow up with department-specific meetings to illicit input and gather feedback. Create a central place to save all information provided.]
HOW are the personas developed?
- Understand your company’s purpose – you cannot develop personas and solve their problems if you are unsure of the problems your company is trying to solve and who might have those problems.
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Revisit the company mission, vision and values. Speak to key Board Members to fully understand company objectives and plan.]
- Develop a list of questions – all of your customer-facing teams should be able to develop a long list of considerations associated with the ideal customer. This could include:
- Age, gender, role and responsibility?
- Goals and objectives?
- Pain points and challenges?
- Aspirations and hopes?
- Fears and frustrations?
- Preferred platforms for communication?
- How can we best help this person?
- How could we really upset this person?
- Tone of voice to use?
- Appropriate imagery?
- Search terms the persona might use?
- Involvement and responsibility during the decision-making process?
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Task individual departments to put together their own lists. Share the lists as that might trigger additional ideas. Collate all lists in one central location.]
- Answer those questions – once you have defined the information that should form the basis of your personas you need to work through each question and provide an answer. Ideally you should apply both a quantitative and a qualitative methodology.
- Quantitative - Analyse Data:
- Preferred platforms and content
- Purchasing patterns
- Qualitative - Interview Customers:
- Develop your own interview questions
- Interview a wide spread of demographics
- Take detailed notes
- Quantitative - Analyse Data:
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Develop a rationale for this primary research. Ensure you have clear objectives, agree on the software you will use and ensure that the interviewees are reflective of the full range of demographics.]
- Review your personas – share your new personas with everyone. Gauge opinion, gather feedback and look to get consensus. If there are still a few questions that you have not answered, use this wealth of opinion to make educated guesses and fill in the gaps. Over time you will continually review and update your personas but you need a solid starting point.
[SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Arrange another whole company meeting to present the personas. Arrange additional department-specific meetings to ensure the personas are going to work for individuals as well as the company as a whole. Encourage email feedback in case people are shy to feedback. Once approved, have them designed and printed professionally so that they can be displayed prominently. ]
WHAT do you do with your new personas?
- Get buy-in from EVERYONE – your personas will not truly transform your customer’s experiences with your company until they become an integral part of your company’s mindset.
- Make them easy to use - Make their names memorable and alliterative, develop creative visuals to help remind people
- Create tailored content – plan, develop and distribute quality content specifically targeting your personas at the right time, on the right platform, in the right tone with the right solution
- Benchmark and qualify all future leads and targets – build your personas into your CRM system
- Revisit your personas regularly – encourage regular feedback and set review dates
So, you have thoroughly defined personas and you are going to tailor all of your customer-facing efforts to these well-defined, ideal customers.
This is seriously good progress and for some companies, it a point that they never seem to reach.
Persona development is an integral part of an Inbound Marketing Strategy.
So what should you do next? This whitepaper might be a great next step...