When we create a customer persona, we create a vivid impression of an imaginary member of our target demographic. It might seem a little strange to be playing make-believe as a functioning adult but stick with us for a while! The superpower that Customer Personas afford us is empathy. Empathy that helps us understand the fine details of our audience's wants and needs.
Most of us make some fairly broad assumptions about the audience our brand is aiming towards, and while our instincts might be carrying us along the right track, it can be all too easy for us to miss fundamentals or go off on the wrong tangent all together. Putting in the legwork to create Customer Personas and building an understanding of the problems and passions associated with this ‘individual’, allows us to craft our marketing towards providing solutions that real people desire. So, if we've caught your attention, you might be wondering: where is the best place to begin?
1. Get technical about what your product has to offer
You know your product inside out and upside down, but when it comes to understanding its usefulness, we can all sometimes slide into a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. A powerful foundation for forming indispensable Customer Personas is to grab a crisp piece of paper, or open a spreadsheet, and start an in-depth analysis.
Begin with a list of all the potential uses and benefits that your product or service might hold. Be creative, as this exercise is about opening your eyes to your product's potential! Once you are satisfied with that list, make a list of all the problems or needs that the first list might serve, and lastly, a list of all of the people who those factors are relevant to.
For example, a company that makes headphones might identify that listening to music is great for alleviating boredom, and public-transport commuters are a great demographic for marketing their headphones towards. Down the line, their carefully constructed Customer Persona might help them to target young professionals using social media during rush-hour. It might seem overly simple in practice, but sometimes, our free exploration of how the world works can offer insight far greater than we would have achieved without it!
2. Gather what information you have about your current audience
Unless you're right at the beginning of your brand journey, you might have an audience already in place, filled with useful insights that are ripe for plucking! Demographics can evolve over time, and whilst our initial audience might not be as fine-tuned as it will eventually become, it's certainly a handy place to start. You might have already collected some demographic data, such as ages and locations, but your website and social media analytics can shed more light on your crowd. Make the most of resources such as Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter's Followers Dashboard to get right into who has organically been drawn to your brand so far.
3. Check out the competition
Doing some digging on your competition is powerful in two different ways. On the one hand, it allows you to see who is interested in their products, and how they are approaching their marketing. On the other hand, it can help you find inspiration to target a slightly different demographic, carving out your very own niche.
Invest some time into not only delving into the social media profiles of the competition you know about, but searching far and wide for others. From start-ups that might not yet be on your radar, to similar businesses doing well on the other side of the world, each puzzle piece can help you flesh out a vision of the Customer Personas you are going to create!
4. Collect information whenever it's possible
Of course, there's no better source than directly from the horse’s mouth. Therefore, conducting surveys with your customer base, followers, and subscribers, is invaluable. There are more options to collect data in this way than you might imagine. From customer-service surveys as part of after sale care, to creating a fun quiz that links from your email marketing, and social media polls. Get creative and give your audience a chance to be heard.
Potential information categories to seek out:
- Marital or family status
- Income level
- Education level
Allowing your audience to directly weigh in with their observations also gives you the chance to identify what you're doing well, or areas in which you might have room for improvement. A fatal flaw on your website might never reveal itself if without feedback. Your audience and customers are the best advisors you'll ever have, so pay attention!
5. Build personas to help you segment your marketing efforts
Now you've got all that glorious data, this is the moment when the magic happens. You might want to start by creating, say, three to five Customer Personas. The reason we may need more than one is that most products are suited to more than one type of person. Those headphones might also be great for sports enthusiasts or stay-at-home mums. The idea is to begin to segment our audience into groups that we can target more precisely, and then create a Customer Persona that represents each segment.
Be bold now, even if this still feels a little unnatural. Give each Customer Persona a name and an appearance. You want to create a rich and animated sense of identity! Who is this person, and where are they from? What are their struggles, and what gives them joy? Where do they work, and what are their aspirations? Do they make a lot of money, or carefully save for the things they desire? Are they concerned about sustainability? Each brush stroke towards your final Customer Persona portrait will help you tap into new and relevant ways that you can connect with real, living people. In the end, no matter how wonderful your product, if you can't connect with the people who will benefit from it, you will never realise your potential!
The Personas you have created will now allow you to zero in on why your product matters, and how to convey that. Of course, there will always be a few people who don't quite fit the mould, but the more representative your Customer Personas are, the more effective your marketing can be. You can now explore tactics such as playing with tone and energy, and the ways in which you communicate. For example, studies tell us that millennials favour text-based chat over picking up the phone. Facebook and Twitter offer great power for engaging adults, while teens tend to favour Instagram. The potential for more effective reach is huge. Who knew that in an age of data and communication, a moment of make-believe could still be so powerful!