This is the second in a series of four blog posts focused on marketing strategies and tips as companies set plans for the new year.
How well do you know your customers? As we head into the new year, our target audiences may look different. And, coming off of a year that was difficult for many, reviewing your company’s personas as you develop your marketing plan is more essential than ever. Doing so will play a big part in understanding your customers and developing messaging that resonates with them.
To start, think about your ideal customer(s) and then map those ideal qualities into buyer personas.
What is a persona?
A persona is a character designed to represent your target audience or ideal customer. While a persona is a fictional character, it provides insight into key demographics and behaviors of your customers. Persona development is an exercise in understanding your target audience and their path to purchase.
Personas are an important part of your marketing plan and each year, it’s important to review these personas. Setting buyer personas can provide ideas on how to move those customers down the sales funnel.
How do personas help us understand our customers?
Persona development is an exercise in getting to know our customers. Many times, companies make assumptions on what they think their customers want or the qualities and demographics that describe such customers. In actuality, persona development should be done in conjunction with our customers and clients.
To do this, think about the clients or customers that you love doing business with. Who are the ones that you want more of? And then, reach out to those people directly.
Next, think about those you want to do business with that aren’t current customers. Reach out to them, too. Gather insight, information and answers around their pain points, their needs and other demographics that are important to note in doing business with them.
How to gather customer information
Our messaging is only as good as our customer knowledge. We can have the best looking personas but if we have developed them in silos without input from our actual customers, then it’s still a guessing game as to whether or not we are hitting the mark.
As you look to connect with potential customers and current customers, do so through interviews, surveys, in-person conversations, phones calls and online forms. Many of these questions you can ask directly and others, you can gauge based on location and buyer behaviors, for instance.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to ask your customers what they need, what they want, what their struggles are and why they do business with you. Likewise, think of ways to gather insight on why others have not yet done business with you.
Key traits in persona development
As you outline your target audience and develop your personas, create a document that contains the following information:
- Where do they live?
- How do they get their information?
- What are their pain points?
- How long is their path-to-purchase?
- Who do they trust for information?
- What are their long-term needs? Immediate needs?
- What products/services have they used in the past? Why or why didn’t
those work for them?
Start broad; collect this information for all customer types. Doing so will help you start to see patterns and determine how many different personas are applicable to your business. While there isn’t a magic number, many companies find they have anywhere between 2 to 6 personas.
Customers in times of crisis
We all have high hopes for 2021. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that just because the calendar turns to a new year doesn’t mean the trials of your customers have magically disappeared. This holds true for many industries as it relates to longer buying cycles or the type of persona(s) we may need to focus on even as we head into the new year.
Enter: agile personas and the economic buyer.
In a down economy, our focus of information shifts to the economic buyer or, the person with the most say in spend. For those in B2B (business-to-business) industries, these are typically senior-level executives who are not typically our focus when developing personas in positive economic times. What we find is that many in the B2B space have shifted personas to a focus on senior executives when the focus used to be on mid-level managers.
For companies in product and consumer-based spaces, these economic buyers may be heads of households or budget gatekeepers; those whom we are not normally accustomed to selling to. We find we have to make a better case for our products and services or modify them in a way to meet their needs in the immediate time.
As we continue to navigate the new year and assess our customers’ needs, consider:
- What short-term objectives can you meet for them now?
- What considerations should you keep in mind for the long term?
Change will not be immediate in 2021 and for some industries, a backlash from 2020 is yet to come. In our current economic state, personas may look different. This year, spend extra time reviewing yours and really thinking through your customers’ needs.
Put yourself in their shoes. Use your personas as your guide. Use that research to craft your marketing messaging and plans for the new year. Doing the work up front to understand your audience, your customers, will provide you with a baseline for moving forward. No matter what the new year brings.