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How to Create Customer Personas That Breathe Life Into Your Marketing

You can never know your audience too well.

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BY Molly Reynolds - 22 Sep 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

In customer-based businesses, the "customer" is not just an abstract idea; they are living, breathing beings that come to the marketplace with all their "stuff". Understanding exactly who they are becomes imperative when discussing a marketing plan that will reach and connect with them.

Building detailed Personas and Journey Maps are the best way to identify exactly who your customers are, what they need, and how they can engage with your business across the board. The feedback you gain from this type of customer mapping will be essential to helping you build buy-in and assist the teams responsible for creating the most optimal customer experience.

As is always the case with life, one must crawl before one can walk. In the marketing world, that simply means one must have a full understanding of concepts before they can move forward with a plan to execute them.

So, what is a customer? Too remedial? Fine, but understanding exactly what a customer persona entails, why it's important to you, and what the necessary ingredients are to making a good one are essential. And once you've mastered that recipe, you're ready for the second course of journey mapping, which allows you to simulate the consumer's experience. But... first things first.

Personas

What, exactly, is a customer persona? Simply put, personas are fictionalized models you create to represent your target customer. But they must be believable which means you must believe it. Remember what it was like to be a 5-year-old? Well go there, and create fully realized imaginary "friends" for your business. Give them names, personal backgrounds, and behavioral identifiers like motives, attitude, and negative trigger points. Go as deep as you can with this, as long as you don't begin blaming them for writing on the walls with crayons.

The Importance Of Creating Personas

Personas have recently come to the forefront as a great tool to help enterprises target and develop a brand design that is user-centric. As the focus has shifted to the customer experience, personas become wildly useful to achieving that goal. The sales, customer service, operations and HR departments all benefit from the knowledge gained by using them.

Personas cultivate relationships

When developing a user-centric design, personas act as a guide for your business in several ways. Who is the most important person in a business relationship? Everyone all together, "the customer!' Exactly.

By building detailed personas, you cultivate empathy for your customers and empathy leads to a stronger understanding of what your customers desire from you. If the goal is to target them, knowing their goals, motivations, and behaviors only make the road easier to see.

Personas focus design plans

Since our focus is clearly now on the needs of the customer, developing a design that has them at its core only makes sense. Personas give you invaluable information. Learning how your customers engage with your brand through its lifecycle is profitable. Does your design reflect accurately the customer's experience or rather company operations? Clearly, focused persona designs highlight the road your customers will travel within your business and give you the chance to improve upon them.

Personas get everyone on board

Determining an organization's future is key. Stakeholder buy-in, if used optimally, helps determine what the final picture will look like. The support personas provide when building a company-wide customer experience can't be overstated. When backed by statistics and facts, customer personas help describe where your company is headed and stakeholder buy-in become easier to achieve.

Suggestions For Creating Successful Personas

There are a few points every business endeavoring to create good, useful personas should attempt to hit.

First, you must align with your business objectives. Your personas should be a helpful tool for all the teams in your enterprise, and they should ultimately be unified under the common goal of your business. Get input from all the top players on the goals of the company. Diverse perspectives on the company's strengths and weaknesses will only help your persona generating process.

Research fortifies your personas and helps make accurate identifications about who your customers are. Use all the resources you have. Market segmentation, surveys, polls, interviews, and social media driven insights are all fair game. This expansive research will be great in helping you understand your customers "whys" as it relates to how they interact with you. This specificity will only serve your efforts to create truly dimensional personas.

Breathe life into your personas

This is when you must let your creative inclinations rip. Create an engaging first person narrative that really focuses on the kind of customer you have targeted. Your representations for this customer should be so rich and detailed that it feels like it might leap from the page and spring to life. If they can really see it, they will believe it. Specificity, specificity, specificity. Did I mention to be specific? Names and pictures help visualize the customer so every persona should have them, along with the following detailed information:

  1. Demographics: Their age, location, education, income, household or family size

  2. Personal Histories: Their goals, needs, and interests when they interact with your company

  3. Expectations: How their needs differ from various avenues and touch points, and how those needs change over time

How to make them pop

Leaving the right impression is key when creating these personas. For whoever sees them, the goal should be to make sure they don't forget them. Using high-quality photos with layouts and formats that are easy to follow but also catch the eye. Have a clear plan for how to incorporate these personas throughout the company. That, combined with your efforts to create extremely realistic ones, will ensure your teams engage with personas they relate to; thus, responding in a way that ultimately helps the company build the best customer experience.

As you create these personas, understand that you can never know your customer too well. Once you have a true and very vivid idea of your targets, you can apply that to product creation, marketing, and business development. You'll start making products FOR these characters and creating content that is tailored to them . This hyper-focus will cause your marketing to truly resonate with your personas' real life counterparts, leading to increased engagement.

So go ahead and let your imagination run wild!