When you start a company, ideally, you begin with your end goal in mind. That goal is to successfully sell a product or service, at scale, to the right audience. But how do you define who the right audience is? That’s where a customer persona comes in.
From a marketing perspective, developing communication materials meant to illustrate the effectiveness of your product is only successful when you know who you’re speaking to.
Imagine a company that produces fly fishing gear. Now picture their success rate if they developed marketing materials catering to people who are never likely to go fishing. It would be a waste of time and energy, wouldn’t it?
Developing a customer persona (or multiple customer personas, depending on the range of products/services you offer), helps avoid that. But what is it exactly, and why is it critical to your success?
In this post, we’re going to examine what a customer persona is, what it can do for your organization, and how to develop one that helps you strengthen your business.
What is a customer persona?
No matter what kind of product or service you offer, you have an ideal customer in mind. This ideal customer varies depending on the company. This base of customers can be broad or narrow. Nike may see themselves as appealing to anyone participating in athletic activities. Coca-Cola may see its target audience as…well, pretty much everyone.
For companies with a more specific niche, identifying your ideal customer/target audience may be more difficult but even more important. A customer or buyer persona is a fictional description you develop of the customer your product is targeting.
It includes key demographic information, such as:
- Geographic location
- Personality types
- Common paint points/problems/frustrations
Your customer persona is going to describe the primary person you’re selling to. It’s an amalgam of features and descriptors that should apply to the majority of your customers.
Why are customer personas important?
Now that you understand what a customer persona is, it’s also important to understand why you should develop one. The advantage of developing a buyer persona is two-fold:
- It allows you to develop products and marketing materials better suited to your customer base.
- The developing process can help you better understand your customers. You have to confront their problems and challenges to determine if your solution really is the best one for them — which then allows you to ruthlessly examine your own offering to see how you can improve it.
Customer personas are how you demonstrate, at an internal level, your understanding of your customer. It also helps you refine your messaging and product line based on their specific needs.
If your customer persona is off, it will affect how you speak to your customers. Failure to empathize with their pain points will decrease the power of your communication with them — in turn, it will make them less likely to buy from you.
Customer personas take a lot of work to develop, but they’re more than worth it. They allow your team to explore what makes your customer tick. This knowledge will permeate every part of your business, improving all customer-facing materials and, eventually, your products as well.
How to develop a customer persona
Your exact process for persona development will vary depending on your industry or sector, but there are a few components that will play a factor in no matter what business area you find yourself in:
- Keyword research. Understanding the words and topics your customers are interested in is going to be vital to developing messages that speak to and persuade them. You’ll discover these words when you perform keyword research within your industry.
- Customer feedback. The best way to see how well you’re reaching your customers? Listen to what they’re telling you. Sometimes this can be done with words via their written or oral feedback provided via social media. Other times, they do it by examining where they’re spending their money (or not spending their money). Your ability to connect with your customers will directly impact the number of sales you make, as well as what they tell you about your product or service. Use customer feedback as an opportunity to recalibrate your customer persona if necessary.
- Embrace change. Monitoring keywords and feedback may very well tell you that your customer persona isn’t aligned with the reality of what your customers need or want. You shouldn’t be afraid to alter your approach if this is the case. Embrace change when it’s needed.
Using this valuable data, you can begin to draw a picture of what your customer looks like: what they’re like, what they need, and major challenges they face. Once you’re able to identify those factors, you have a better chance of tailoring your offering to their liking.
How many customer personas should you develop? That depends on the complexity of your customers’ business needs. According to HubSpot, it can be as little as one or two or as many as 10–20.
Who will use your customer personas?
Multiple parts of your organization will benefit from taking a look at your customer personas. The two primary components that will develop and use those customer personas, however, are your marketing and sales teams.
Your marketing team will put the customer persona together: performing the research and drawing up the profile based on what that research reveals. The sales team will then use that sketch to develop a sales strategy targeting that fictionalized person.
Communication between your sales and marketing departments is huge here. The marketing team has to share the details of the customer persona with sales, while sales has to let marketing know how effective they were at depicting the customer.