It’s a marketing executive’s worst nightmare. The CEO is pestering you to improve sales. You’ve been emailing discount offers to a list of existing customers and buying ads on search engines, but no matter how much money you throw at the problem, nothing is working.
That’s because you may not know that your customers are driven by quality, not cost. Perhaps they’re young and don’t use email much. Or, moreover, they might not be searching for the things you might think they are, because they either can have desires or problems that you do not necessarily understand.
Successful marketers can use personas to better understand their customers, categorizing them into distinct groups, each with their own characteristics. They contain information about the customers' values, their knowledge and experience, and how they like to communicate.
Customer Journey Mapping
Personas can help you when designing everything from your website to the product or service that you’re trying to sell, but it can also help you craft the customer’s purchase journey. This is the journey that a person takes through the sales funnel, from awareness of your product category through interest in it, evolving into a desire for it, and finally a commitment to buy.
Building detailed personas is one of the best ways to identify who your customers are, what they need, and how they can engage with your business, reports Inc. online. After all, the problems facing a busy mother trying to keep her children healthy are far different to those challenging a divorced male baby boomer looking for a romantic match. One may want a natural, nutritious food but might be worried that picky kids won’t like it. The other wants to meet someone but frets about awkwardness on blind dates.
A savvy marketer can create content around these desires and problems. An article highlighting the dangers of junk food for kids might tick the ‘awareness’ box for one persona. ‘Five outdoor icebreaker activities for singles’ might tick the ‘desire’ box for the other.
How can companies build accurate personas? Although much of a persona’s content is qualitative, it is based on hard data. Companies can get this information from a range of sources.
Mature companies might have detailed customer relationship management databases that they can use to match demographics to product or service purchases. Mining it provides information about the age, location and gender of the people buying their products. The more data a company has, covering everything from job title through to household income, the more detailed a picture of its customers it can build. It can then use this to identify clusters of customers that can form the basis for personas.
A website can also offer useful insights into visitors. A well-defined website analytics system can reveal what people searched for when they arrived at a site, providing a useful indication of the problems they’re trying to solve.
Even without this data, customer surveys can help identify their characteristics and pain points. Consider complementing this with an effective social media presence that you can use to see what your customers are thinking.
Finally, executives can look to employees for guidance. Sales and customer service staff can speak to existing and potential customers regularly. You can interview them to find out what they’re learning.
Armed with detailed information about customers, marketing executives can map persuasive messaging for every stage in a persona’s journey. Proof of success comes with increased sales. Beyond that, product design and development teams can use this information to create better experiences for those customers, which can keep them coming back for more. A little research now can reap big rewards later.
About the Author
Danny Bradbury has been writing about technology and business since 1989. His clients have included the Financial Times, the Guardian, and Canada's National Post.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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