You should always have a prospective buyer/customer in mind. For example, when redesigning your website, you are not redesigning it for yourself, you’re redesigning it for your customers. Your personal opinions, and what you think is best, should always come second to what your customers need, want, and expect. The same principle applies to all digital marketing channels: Email, Social Media, Search (organic or paid), mobile, and so on.
What Is A Persona?
In simplest terms, a persona is a customer/buyer archetype; often detailing your ideal customer’s professional and personal characteristics.
Gathering Personal Information
While some personal information will be fictional (e.g. name), most other information should be factual and based on research. You should collect information from actual customers (interviews, surveys, polls, etc.), get insights from your employees (Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, etc.), and if possible do Market Research (primary or secondary). The effectiveness of your personas solely depends on the accuracy of your information.
Example (Sam Anderson, Small Business Owner)
Sam is a small business owner. He employs 10 people, and most of his customers are located in Southern California. He typically works long hours (7 am – 7 pm).
He has two daughters, one in college and one in high school, and spends most of his free time with family.
- Grow the business
- Increase profits
- Make sure employees are happy and productive
- Spend more time with family
- Be respected in his community
- Be seen as a leader
Small Business Owner
- Can be hard-headed
- Always looks for value
- Lack of time
- Managing cash flow
- Too many overheads
- Age: 50
- Location: Irvine, CA
- Family: Married with 2 children
- Income: $180,000
- Google Search
- Price (Perception of value)
- Market Conditions
Detailed personas are the closest thing to having an actual customer help you make decisions. Therefore, whenever discussing customers, you should have a printout of your personas handy.
How Many Personas Do You Need?
Each business and industry is unique. For example, complex B2B sales will require a persona for every role involved in the buying process. On the other hand, if you are selling leather belts for Men, then you will likely have fewer personas. As a general rule, you should have at least 5 personas. Anything less will not represent your customers well.
Persona In Action (Example)
Let’s assume we own a small office supply business in California. Selling office & school supplies, electronics, office furnishings, and printing services. We are in the middle of our monthly marketing meeting, and discussing our next email campaign. Typical questions come up “What are our campaign goals?”, “Which email list should we target?”, “What promotional content should we include?”, etc.
Having detailed personas will help you answer some of these questions. For example, looking at our Persona (Sam Anderson) we can see ‘Relationship’ and ‘Convenience’ are Sam’s most important buying motivations, so it doesn’t make sense to focus our promotional efforts on ‘price’ or ‘quality’, but rather on ‘relationship’ and ‘convenience’; therefore, for our email campaign we decided to focus on convenience.
We can now refine our mailing list to target business owners like Sam, and craft our content around convenience: Next Day Shipping, Automatic Refills, and Easy Return Policy. We will also include a short article, “Our latest line of printers eliminate frustration and increase productivity“, because one of Sam’s goals is to make his employees happy and productive.
Finally, we will schedule our email campaign on Thursday at 4 pm. Knowing that Sam’s biggest frustration is “lack of time” and purchasing office supplies is probably not high on this priority list; therefore, he is unlikely to open our email early in the week or early in the morning.
As you can see with this example, personas will help you target your customers better, and the more information you have in your personas, the more opportunities you will have to try different targeting tactics.
More often than not, the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business is how well they understand and target their customers. Without an in-depth understanding of your customers you cannot meet their needs, let alone try to exceed their expectations; well thought-out personas will give you a real understanding of who your customers are, what their challenges are (personal and professional), where the pain points are, and how to make it as easy as possible to purchase your product/service.