It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your customers are?
You know, the ones you’re hoping will engage with all of that content you’ve been creating?
You needn’t know the exact coordinates of your customers—that would make you a creepy stalker, but you should possess a solid understanding of how they generally spend their time and what stirs them to action. And you won’t know this information unless you’ve taken the time to develop personas (or you happen to be a private investigator).
Personas vs. Marketing Segments
Before we dive into how exactly you go about creating personas, it’s important to note how personas differ from traditional marketing segments (a.k.a. customer segments).
Both are the byproduct of extensive research, and if used wisely, both will help you promote your brand and offerings to customers.
But while marketing segments group customers across broad demographic and lifestyle categories, personas drill deeper and help you form an emotional and personal connection with your target audiences. Marketing segments usually rely heavily on quantitative figures, while personas draw more from qualitative data.
Think of personas as composite sketches of your customers. Each persona takes authentic attributes of a segment of your target audience and ascribes them to one imagined customer. These attributes can certainly include the baseline demographic data found in marketing segments, like media consumption habits. However, what makes personas unique and valuable are the detailed descriptions of the motivations, triggers, and goals of these current and prospective customers. How do people become aware of your company? What are they trying to accomplish? What would convince them that your product is the right solution to their problem?
To answer these questions, you could attempt to place yourself in your customers’ shoes and make an educated guess, but that would be counterintuitive because (spoiler alert) you are not your customers!
You’ll need to dig deeper to get valuable source material for your personas. The research methods you use will depend on your business model, budget, and ability to access current and potential customers. Here at Planit, our strategy team uses a variety of research tools and methods to develop personas, including surveys, one-on-one interviews, and analyses of online user behavior. Your research findings will also help determine the number of personas you need to create.
Why do you need personas?
Prior to becoming a customer, every one of your prospects makes a journey through the sales funnel—they go from first becoming aware of your product or offering, to considering it for their needs, to purchasing, and then to (hopefully) repurchasing. This customer journey should directly influence the information documented in your personas. You can’t effectively appeal to customers without taking into account their goals and concerns at each stage of their journey. Consider the questions your customers have. What information do they need before moving to the next step in the funnel? Prospects become—and remain—customers when they feel understood and valued.
Who should use personas?
Treat personas as the charter document for your content marketing plan. Every person tasked with creating content for your organization should look to them when coming up with ideas, executing those ideas, and distributing the finished product. And because sales and customer service teams spend the most time with your prospects, these departments should familiarize themselves as well.
So as you can see, there’s no need to physically stalk your customers. You’ll find personas take the guesswork out of creating quality content. Once you know what moves your customers, it’s much easier to craft content that resonates with them—even at 10 p.m.