Across the country, brands are trying to form stronger connections with their audience to build brand loyalty and enhance their image. Companies can work to create a more favorable brand image by connecting with customers on a more personal level.
By using more advanced targeting methods to identify with their key consumers, organizations can tailor their products and campaigns to directly meet the wants and needs of their target audience. To help reach these goals and hold a conversation with audiences on a more personal level, brands can construct a tool known as a buyer persona.
What is a Persona?
Personas are a way for organizations to pinpoint their ideal customer before they even make a product. Personas are essential to reach the higher level of targeting needed in the digital realm. Personas are used to help a company to get a better idea of their current customers, competitors’ customers, or to get a better picture of a target market. They should include any and all information relevant to your organization and the users of your products.
With so many brands competing for the attention of a relatively small market on the Internet, brands must make sure that their products align with the values of their customers at every level to help ensure their success. By casting your company’s image in the hue of your ideal customer, you should be able to communicate more easily to their values.
A persona is meant to represent a real individual within a demographic that the organization is targeting. Personas look a lot like social media profiles. They usually include a name, age, lifestyle, income, family, and even superlatives to describe exactly the type of activities and interests of the target customer enjoys to provide more insight into consumer behavior.
Creating personas allows you to do a much more specific type of market segmentation. For example, if you are selling dentures you might change the demographic of “rural females 50-75” into the persona of “Embarrassed Elaine”. It is a lot easier to get a handle on Elaine’s wants and needs than a faceless market segment. From here, you could even try to define her preferences and where Elaine might spend her time online and in the physical world. Does she drive or take the bus? Does she have a Facebook profile? How much TV does she watch? These are all questions that you can work to answer with a thorough persona.
Who Uses Personas?
Any industry that needs to target their marketing has a use for personas, but there are a few fields that benefit the most from this tool.
In advertising, brand creation often requires personas to align the values of a product with that of its buyers. Personas can help influence everything from channel to product features to even colors. Our persona, Elaine, from before may not want a lime green package for her dentures, a nice beige might do more nicely for her, or she might not hear a radio ad if she takes the bus.
Sales Teams and Designers
Besides branding, there are a number of other fields that use personas regularly. Sales teams can use buyer personas to help them figure out what their customers want to hear. Personas are also especially important for experiential marketers that design experiences around customers. This carries over to the digital world where UX designers often build personas in order to help them create apps that are more user-focused and won’t frustrate the customer.
Everyone Uses Different Aspects
Depending on the function of your persona, there is probably certain information that will be more beneficial to you than others. For example, in branding, it may be less important where the customer frequents as much as what products they buy. Digital literacy, personal wealth and lifestyle will all play varying roles based on your product.
Now that you have a better idea of what personas look like, you can start working to create your own.
Creating a Persona
Creating a well targeted persona can be a lot of work, but don’t let that discourage any entry-level marketers out there. It is still an accessible tool that almost anyone can take advantage of to create a better portrait of their ideal customer.
Start with Demographics
One of the most important steps in creating a persona is discovering the basic traits of the potential customers in your industry and products. One of the simplest ways to start this discovery process is by defining demographics.
There are a number of sites that work to divide the population into manageable groups that can be easily identified and marketed to. I use Nielsen’s Claritas software to identify market segments. Analyzing your product can help you locate the segment that will work best for you. This process often will require a lot of research, but don’t get discouraged. As you will soon see, information is a big part of what drives persona creation.
For example, if you are selling premium ski equipment you know that your product is rather expensive and requires a large amount of free time to enjoy the sport. In this case, the target consumer is probably going to be within an older, wealthier market that resides within close proximity to mountains or ski resorts and is still active enough to enjoy the sport. Skiing is also a sport that requires a lot of equipment and is something all ages can take part in. So, we can reach the reasonable conclusion that we are going to be targeting a segment that includes upscale families, ages 35-54 that live within driving distance of a ski resort.
Create Your Perfect Customers
Once you have your market segment, you can start building your ideal buyer; we’ll call ours Confident Craig. To create Craig’s persona, we start by doing a lot of research into this segment’s habits, likes, and values.
There are a few major ways that you can generate the data that you need to construct Craig’s profile. The first would be through interviews of current customers or focus groups of those you are trying to reach. Interviews allow you to get straight to the source and ask the questions you want to know the answer to.
Another way to gather this information is through your own sales and CRM data. If your company has a database that it can use to interpret buying behavior then you can use this data to inform your decisions about Craig’s behaviors. There are also a number of online databases that can be especially helpful in determining customer behavior. These should be backed directly by connections and patterns made through your research. If you assume too much in this early stage, it could throw your persona off target.
One of the most useful tools in creating persona’s is observation. Asking is a great way to get direct answers, but sometimes people have trouble articulating what they mean or we, as interviewers, don’t ask the right questions. This is where observing real people that match our personas can be extremely helpful.
Spend some time scrolling through social media profiles of real people who enjoy skiing. What companies do they like? What are they sharing? What kind of food do they eat? What other hobbies do they have besides skiing?
Head to the slopes and casually chat with someone that fits your description. Who are they with? What do they do before and after they ski? What are the biggest challenges that they have when they are trying to ski? Why do they like skiing? Make sure to tailor these questions so that they are most relevant to your product and helpful to your persona.
Through these methods you can create a persona similar to that below and we can start to breathe a little more life into Craig.
Often times, companies will sell the same products to very different customers. It is hard to find just one demographic that is interested in your product and most of the time companies will use multiple personas to target their products.
In our ski equipment company’s case, they may sell their products to retail stores and to ski resort rental shops as well. Obviously, these are two very different buyers with separate motivations, access channels, and preferences when buying the same product. In this case, it becomes important for our company to have multiple personas to reflect the needs of different buyers.
The correct number of personas can be hard to designate sometimes and it can vary based on your company’s products. When deciding how many to create, it’s important to think about the number of verticals that your product serves and how those differ from one another.
Next, within those verticals you can find separate niches based on buying preferences and demographic differences. For skis, this might include different colors or logos based on whether the equipment is designed for men or women. Creating too many personas can muddle your brand, but don’t be afraid to have several options.
Applying Your Personas
Now that we’ve collected the data and interpreted it into meaningful statements about Craig and his behavior, it’s time to put our persona to good use.
First, it is best to present personas in a format that reflects the traits of the customer, this is a tool that workers in all parts of your company will be using. So it should look the part.
The persona can be used to inform any sort of branding, styling, or product decision for your organization. It’s a signpost for every part of your organization to look to. In terms of ski production, shape, size, color and style should all be fit to Craig’s preferences. Pricing and sales channels are also affected based on where Craig shops and how much he’s willing to pay.
Finally, marketing uses Craig’s persona the most. To market using the persona, hang it up and always keep in mind what Craig would think of the campaigns you are implementing. By allowing this faux customer to vett ideas, you can create marketing materials that fall right in line with Craig’s values.
Now that you’ve successfully created your first persona, you can use this tool throughout your organization to make a positive impact on your marketing strategy.