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For years, marketing professionals were confined to developing promotional campaigns and creating content based on an idealized (and often largely fictionalized) view of their buying public.
But with the evolution of online commerce, digital content creation, and the sharing and manipulation of data via the internet, it’s now possible to pull in enough high-value information and insights to generate a much more accurate and actionable view of the customer – one that may be used in developing more focused and specific content and advertising. Welcome to the world of the persona.
What’s A Persona?
Much like its general usage, in marketing terms a persona describes the personality of an individual – in this case, a character modeled to represent the typical customer for a certain product, service, or niche.
Why Would I Need One?
Rather than creating promotional content or developing campaigns based on some nebulous concept of who you think (or more likely, would wish) your target customer to be, a buyer persona gives you a tangible framework – the characteristics of a fully rounded notional person – around which to design and deliver the content that’s most appropriate to their wants and needs.
In addition to this, by documenting your buyer personas and making them available to everyone in your organisation, you’ll establish a common vision of who you’re marketing for, and promote consistency in all the content that’s produced.
Make It Personal
Crafting a buyer persona isn’t a fun and games exercise, or a venture into the world of make believe. The personas you create and the materials you create for them are a critical part of your marketing efforts and the overall success of your business.
Buyer personas should be real-time representations of the masses of existing and potential customers out there who closely resemble them, and share goals, challenges, and needs in common with them. Real people, for whom you’re crafting a real message.
That’s why it’s important to make your personas as well-rounded and realistic as possible:
these are the people with whom your marketing staff will have first contact, and it helps for them to have recognisable individuals to structure their ideas around.
Giving them proper names is a first step – hence the Mark and Maggie of our title. Faces and photographs are appropriate, too. Some organisations go as far as creating profile pages, web sites, or blogs for their various buyer personas, and populating them with posts and comments directly related to their activities and market preferences. At least one company has three-dimensional models of their personas hanging around the office.
You don’t necessarily have to go that far, but in creating your personas, you will need to round out their personality profiles using verifiable facts.
Starting With Demographics
Demographic data gives a logical peg for honing in on a particular market sector. Information like age, gender, location, education levels, wage levels or household income may begin the process of fleshing out a persona, taken alongside their name, employment status, job title, and key information about the company (if any) they work for, and their role within it.
Statistics gleaned from the likes of Google Analytics may be used to supplement your own market analysis, and information derived from surveys of your actual or prospective customers.
Fine-tuning With Details
Further information should be added to the mix regarding how Mark and Maggie’s interests and activities intersect with those of your organisation and the products or services that you’re selling. In particular, attention should be paid to any goals or ambitions they may have, the pain points or challenges they encounter in trying to meet these objectives, and how your team may deliver the content and services that assist them in overcoming these obstacles.
Web site and Google Analytics can help in this. More specific information on aspirations and pain points may be obtained through social media analysis, as your customers raise questions or air their grievances on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
Behaviours And Patterns
Drilling down even further, analysis of web site activity, buying patterns, and interactions on social media and other online platforms by customers in the same demographic, employment bracket, or interest groups in common with Mark and Maggie can reveal habits and patterns of behaviour to round out their personas even further – and to suggest content strategies and marketing tactics more relevant to their interests.
Activities to consider might include:
Plot Their Progress
Bear in mind that Mark or Maggie’s needs will likely change as they proceed from one phase of their “buyer’s journey” to another. In order to create the best and most appropriate content to assist and guide them along this path, it’s a good idea to map your personas against relevant points at each stage.
Being able to identify their goals, activities, and requirements at each point along the path will empower your marketing team to create and deliver content strategically designed to assist them on their way.
Emphasis On Actionable
As you can see, information gathering, analysis, the crafting of personas, and the delivery of content and interventions specifically tailored for the Mark and Maggie on your customer list aren’t passive activities. And the emphasis at all times needs to be on extracting actionable insights from the information streams that you consult. Design and delivery also need to be active, ongoing, and responsive processes.
Document Those Profiles
Finally, don’t forget to archive and document your personas – if necessary packaging them in a format most appropriate to the departments within your enterprise that will have access to them. These days, that could include everyone, as interactions with customers (e.g. service requests, response to comments and questions) may occur on social media at any time.
Remember to refresh your persona documents periodically, to reflect changing market conditions, shifts in consumer behaviour, and to allow for the personal growth and changing circumstances of Mark and Maggie.