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How to Create Personas That Target the Right Prospects

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
How to Create Personas That Target the Right Prospects

Is your marketing missing the mark? The issue could be that you haven’t fully defined the people in your client base, which may make it impossible to genuinely connect with them.

You may know whether you’re trying to reach men or women, people of a certain age, those who work for specific organizations, or people with a defined education or income—but have you fully fleshed them out? Truly understanding your audience is the only way to create marketing they connect with.

The best way to fully understand the people in your customer base is by developing complete buyer personas. A buyer persona (or just “persona” for short) is an in-depth biographic narrative portrait of the people you’re targeting. Personas are more than just facts and figures. They’re realistic narratives that explain all critical aspects of the people you want to do business with.

This guide explains how to create personas that will take your marketing to the next level.

Conduct Customer Research

The first thing you need to do when creating personas is to gather information about your best customers. They might be deemed the “best” because you like working with them, they’re easy to sell to, or they’re highly profitable. Without research, your personas will be about your imaginary customers, not real ones. Imaginary customers are causing your current marketing issues. Until you get real, your marketing and sales results won’t improve.

Here are some types of research that will help you create in-depth personas.

  • Conduct interviews with ideal customers. Interview at least five of your top customers. (In some cases, you may need to interview 20 or more people to really understand all of your customer types.) Keep interviewing people as you gain new insights. Once you find that you’re not uncovering any new insights in the interviews, the interview process is likely complete.

  • Talk with people who interact with your customers. Sales and customer service representatives may have unique perspectives about your buyers. These are the people who work directly with clients and prospects and hear their needs and concerns. They also have personal insights on how your products and services improve people’s lives. Consider hosting a group workshop. Working together, your reps may be able to share critical information about the people in your customer base.

  • Leverage personal insights. If you know things for certain about your customers because of your interactions with them, leverage the information in your persona development process.

  • Take advantage of social media and web analytics. Your analytics dashboards and reports are packed with quantitative data about prospects, customers, and followers. Be aware that data can provide you with information about the actions customers take but not the rationale for taking the actions. You still need to speak with them to learn their motivation.

  • Use your sales data. It tells you which customers are purchasing what from you. This information should be the foundation of your persona creation.

Ultimately you must conduct whatever research is necessary to understand your consumers. Never take shortcuts with this part of the persona development process.

Segment Your Target Audience

Some small businesses may only need a single persona because their client base is finite. However, most companies have more complex and varied customer bases, requiring several personas. Each should be based on a significant group with similar backgrounds, needs, behaviors, goals, and buying habits.

When segmenting your customers into personas, analyze your research data. Then identify common behavioral attributes across customer segments, including:

  • Attempting to learn about your offerings and completing specific shopping and buying tasks

  • Achieving goals

  • Solving problems

  • Interacting with your products or services

Be aware that a persona is a collective image of a segment of your target audience. Each should represent a different type of buyer with unique needs, not subtle variations of essentially the same consumer.

Share your segments with your salespeople or a marketing expert. See if they can identify any missed or duplicative segments.

Choose a Persona Layout

Select a format that meets the type and purpose of your personas. Many good options can be found online.

Turn your first completed persona into a final template. It’s likely you made some modifications to the format while developing it. It will help you maintain the same persona structure across your entire project.

Document Demographic Information

All personas include some demographic information, such as age, income, education, location, and more. Demographics are relatively simple information to document and provide a solid foundation upon which to build the rest of your persona.

Name and Illustrate Your Personas

Give your personas meaningful names. Choose either a fictional first and last name (e.g., John Eagerman) or a short name for the group (e.g., Big Spender). The first action helps build empathy—the second provides insight into personality or buying traits. Consider mixing the two for maximum impact (e.g., John Eagerman, the Big Spender).

When selecting photos for personas, avoid using staged shots or images of recognized celebrities. They can seem bland in the first case or cause confusion in the second.

Describe the Persona’s Background

This is the fun and creative part of persona development. Write down everything you know about your persona’s background. Even a small detail may provide you with valuable insights. However, you want to avoid unnecessary facts that could create confusion. This section should do two critical things: Encourage empathy and understanding and provide useful and insight-rich information.

Define Goals for Each Persona

Explain what the persona wants out of their interactions with your organization. For instance, one may seek discount offers, cheap deals, and best-value products. Another may prefer to see verified customer reviews and ratings and high-quality product images on the website. You can’t know if you’re meeting customer needs unless you define them in your personas.

Identify Motivations and Frustrations

Documenting what motivates and frustrates your consumers helps ensure you can identify critical things you need to say to earn a sale and proactively address barriers to one. You must get into their hearts and minds, which is at the core of effective marketing communications.

For instance, one persona’s pain point may be that she doesn’t want to deal with high delivery charges. She also wants to know when discounts will end. On the plus side, she likes early access to deals and discounts and receiving reminders about sales. Clearly addressing these things in your marketing and sales process will help ensure you will earn a long-term customer.

Add Additional Details as Needed

At this point, your persona should be close to complete. However, every company is unique, and you may need to add additional facts and figures to finalize your persona. If you feel anything is missing, now is the time to add it. Understand that this is an evolving process.

Create Your First Persona

Leverage the information in this guide to develop your first persona. It’s a critical first step toward taking your marketing to the next level.

Bonus: Looking for ways to save money on your marketing costs during these uncertain times? Check out our top nine tips.

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