Image courtesy of Negin Kiani on Flickr.com

What if I gave you the ability to describe in detail the next person to purchase your product or service? Would you feel empowered? What about the specific item they’ll purchase?

Anyone who has studied, worked with, or for marking has heard the term target market. The growth of digital marketing and analytics has allowed target markets to be broken down even further into what are called personas.

  • Personas
  • Why I need Personas ?
  • How do I get started?
  • Personas & B2B
  • The Do’s
  • The Do Not’s

Also see: 5 Classic Concepts to Increase the Value of Website Visits – Visitor Personas

Personas

A persona is “the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others,” as defined by Google.

In terms of marketing, Kentico defines personas as “archetypal characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic, attitude, or behavior set.” In other words, personas are customer personality trait attributions specific to a buyer of products or services.

Still need help grasping personas? If you’re familiar with Nielsen, a marketing research firm, you may know about Prizm. It’s an online, somewhat free, tool that allows users to input a zip code then shows an overview of the market in that location.

Below is an example of a segment pulled from an Atlanta zip code. A persona is usually a 1-2 page document describing an array of people who fit the traits, but this snapshot gives you an idea of how personas work.

Why Do I Need Personas?

According to Marketo, personas help set the tone and style of your strategies, understand your buyers, and target your market. They can set you in the right direction when marketing your offering.

Knowing your customer on a personal level is paramount to the success of marketing – both online and offline. Personas allow you to predict consumer behavior. If you know your customer’s desires, stresses, worries, and interests you have the ability to quickly assess their needs and save time.

One of the most popular examples of a brand using personas to better serve their customers is Best Buy. The Washington Post interviewed one of Best Buy’s store managers to describe how their personas work:

Just before noon, a blond woman in a fashionable white sleeveless shirt and flower-patterned pants wandered in unsteadily, fumbling inside her purse for a scrap of paper.

She looked at it, then looked up at the signs denoting how the store is laid out, and then she looked down and up again. Bryant recognized her immediately and rushed over.

The woman was a “Jill,” code name for a soccer-mom type who is the main shopper for the family but usually avoids electronics stores. She is well-educated and usually very confident, but she is intimidated by the products at Best Buy and the store clerks who spout words like gigabytes and megapixels.

Best Buy Co. is trying to change that by giving her the rock star treatment at selected stores: Sending sales associates with pink umbrellas to escort the Jills to and from their cars on rainy days and hoisting giant posters in the stores that pay homage to the Jills and their children, who are shown playing with the latest high-tech gadgets.

But Best Buy’s ‘Jill’ isn’t the only one. According to the rest of Ariana Eunjung Cha’s article, other personas include “Buzz (the young tech enthusiast), Barry (the wealthy professional man), Ray (the family man) and, … Jill.”

As much as personas help your organization, it’s really all about benefiting the customer. Personas save them time and energy. For instance, let’s say you sell cameras online, but you have equipment for beginners, recreational, and professional use. The beginner isn’t going to be interested in the most advanced, professional, expensive equipment on the site. Based on their click path, you can determine their skill level and show products that appeal to them. The persona for a beginner may map out their course on the site and save them the trouble of searching for products suited for them.

How do I Get Started?

Creating your organization’s personas is easier than you may think; if you have a customer base get to know them. Even businesses that don’t yet have customers can create personas. Based on product or service offerings you can predict what type of customer will make a purchase and adjust the profile as needed.

Conducting research on existing customers is a great way to start gathering information to create profiles. You can call customers or send out surveys. Talk to your sales and customer service teams -they are usually the first or last point of contact for customers. They know their concerns, likes and dislikes, and issues. There are also awesome and free resources on creating personas, like Hubspot’s free buyer persona template. Some CMS’s (Content Management Systems)  have programs built in to create personas for following and tracking patterns on your website -you just need to learn how to use them.

Personas & B2B

If your organization is B2B, you may think personas are irrelevant, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The only difference between a B2B and B2C persona strategy is that B2B prospects are looking for organizational use of your product or service to solve business problems opposed to personal ones. At the heart of a B2B organization, there are still real, live people making decisions.

Let’s say Jane is the VP of Marketing. She and her team have trouble managing sales contacts. They decided it’s time for a CRM  system but don’t know where to start. You sell CRM software. Jane’s persona would start with her role in the organization, problems, organization type, and concerns. Demographic factors like age and gender still factor in. We can dive further by predicting Jane’s fears with implementing a new system. Her reputation may be on the line as well as her job if the implementation doesn’t succeed.

How can you as the organization alleviate Jane’s fears and concerns? Your persona of Jane better prepares you for what concerns or issues you may encounter while also giving Jane confidence in knowing she made the right choice.

The Do’s

  • Be specific:create personas that have detailed clear traits
  • Conduct your own research: reach out to customers through surveys & interviews
  • Put yourself in customer’s shoes: view the product or service how the customer would
  • Set Goals during persona creation: what does your organization hope to achieve from persons (i.e. better customer relationships)

The Do Not’s

  • Get bogged down by details: be specific but don’t over think your customer’s behavior
  • Be completely company minded: remember personas are in place to benefit your customer, think about them first
  • Over generalize: specificity is key to persona creation you’re not jut looking for a target market but buyers that fit your brand
  • Loose sight of the individual: personas describe many people but customers are still individuals that differ from one another

You know your customers better than anyone else -you have the power to give them what they want.

Also see: 5 Classic Concepts to Increase the Value of Website Visits – Gathering Additional Persona Data on Visitors