You’ve probably heard of customer personas. A customer or buyer persona is an in-depth profile of a specific type or group of customers. It’s a composite sketch of a key audience segment, usually used for content marketing purposes to help deliver information that’s relevant and useful to the intended audience. More specifically, personas help you choose the best channels, messages, and even best colors, images, and executions for your marketing materials.
If you work with a marketing automation company like HubSpot, Marketo, SharpSpring, Pardot, or Act-On, one of your first tasks will be developing three to five customer personas. Once you have those personas—you’ll map out their buyer journeys. The buyer journey is the process a persona goes through while researching, evaluating, and ultimately buying your product. Understanding this journey helps you develop content matched to each step of their journey. Then you can distribute that content so it shows up in the right place at the right time to move them closer to a buying decision.
What if you’re not ready to commit to a monthly or annual subscription fee, but you still want to experiment with content marketing? You still need personas. Why? Because otherwise, you’ll probably end up sending mass emails to everyone on your list introducing a new product or announcing a new service. And that’s not targeted content marketing—it’s just mass marketing using email instead of print or broadcast.
Maybe you’re thinking, “That makes sense. But how does this work in practice? How does the information in my persona apply to how I market and the materials I develop?”
Think of your persona as a real customer.
Name your personas so they feel like real people. This will help marketing strategists, content writers, graphic designers, freelancers and other marketing professionals truly empathize with and understand the segment with whom they’re communicating.
Meet Owner Otis Swanson. This persona was developed with input from students in my Marketing Planning Master Class in late 2017, early 2018. Perhaps you’ve met someone just like Otis. By the way, you can find tons of sample personas online. This template is a compilation of several I’ve seen and used. You may not need to go into this level of detail, but why wouldn’t you? You already have access to this information through analytics, customer data, sales team insights, customers’ social media comments, customer interviews, and surveys. Why not use it?
Refer to it for every aspect of your execution.
The big question is, “How do I use this information to develop marketing strategies and tactics?” Consider how you would market to Otis based on his persona. Be forewarned: the following will contain some generalizations and stereotypes, but they are based on reality.
Otis is 55 years old.
It’s likely that he is getting a little farsighted. So use at least 10.5-point type in any communication.
Otis has been in the industry his entire adult life.
Assume he has a good understanding the electrical distribution industry; don’t talk down to him.
Otis is a business owner.
He understands basic business principles like profit, loss, margins and labor hours. He will respond to messages about reducing labor hours, controlling expenses or saving time.
Otis values quality, trust and reliability.
He won’t be swayed by tempting offers from random companies he’s never heard of. And you can use that in your marketing messages as well. “We’ll always be here to handle any returns or problems with our products. We can also keep track of your warranty claims and service.”
Otis enjoys hunting and fishing.
A prize or reward like a cooler, high-end fishing rod, boat or camouflage gear will appeal to him.
Otis is concerned about retirement.
Products or services that can help formalize, automate or document his knowledge and experience for future generations or owners will appeal to him.
Otis wants help solving his problems.
Obviously, you need to first understand what his problems are. This may take a little more research. Let’s say you find out that he spends two to four hours every night placing orders. Otis is a prime candidate for on-site inventory storage like job boxes or a storage trailers. Or maybe he’s frustrated because his crews are constantly running out of (or losing) their gloves, wire cutters, strippers or caps. He would probably benefit from a vending machine solution—especially if you can quantify and monetize the time he loses when his crew makes trips to the store or supply house for everyday items.
Otis doesn’t spend much time online, but he uses Facebook, and so does his wife, the bookkeeper.
You can reach him with targeted Facebook posts, ads or direct messages. You can use Facebook for content marketing by writing articles or posts that help him solve problems, better run his business or learn about a new technology.
Otis would like to be more tech-savvy, but doesn’t know where to start.
Build some loyalty by sharing with him what you know in an article, online class or in-person workshop. Or simply share (on Facebook, for example) others’ articles or learning opportunities. If you have an online ordering system or app that you know Otis is not using, have your salesperson go to his place of business to do a demo or provide in-person training.
While Otis may seem familiar to you, you’ll want to develop your own personas in collaboration with your sales, customer service, and even your executive team.
Understand that it’s a real thing.
About two years ago, I suggested to a group of distributor marketers that they go back to their sales teams and develop customer personas. The next year, at the same meeting, one of those distributor marketers told me the sales staff looked at them like they were crazy. Guys, this is not marketing voodoo or mumbo-jumbo. Multimillion and multibillion-dollar companies are using these strategies to build their brands and market their product and services. And they’re laughing all the way to the bank. And so are your competitors. So you can get on board or get left behind.