Did I tell you?
I met your ideal customer.
Would you like to know who it is and how we met?
If you’ve ever found it hard to write marketing content or if your content isn’t attracting quality leads, then it’s time to meet your customer personas.
Personas guide discussion about what content is needed, topics you should address, the format of your content and where you should promote it.
Most importantly, a persona can make your content sing so that customers listen and take action.
Ideally, you may need personas for multiple decision makers. For example, end users, facilities managers and purchasing agents may all have a say in buying your product, but each have different concerns you’ll need to address in your content.
Personas add clarity
You’ve probably heard that people buy based on emotion and justify it with logic. I like the way Mark Twain said it. “A man has two reasons for what he does – the real reason – and the one he tells his wife.”
The purpose of the persona is to find the real reasons why your customer buys from you. What makes him see a better version of himself? That becomes the basis for the story you weave throughout your content.
Your persona must be as real as your next door neighbor.
So, let’s do a little thought experiment. It’s really a simple exercise, but I like the sound of “thought experiment”. It sounds more scientific.
Meet your customer persona at a party
Let’s imagine you work as marketer for a company that sells nucleic acid extraction kits. You and I are going to a networking party, hoping to meet your ideal customer. But it will be crowded. We agree to split up so we have the best chance of meeting this person.
But wait. How do I know who I’m looking for?
As we drive to the party, you fill me in on the clues that let me know I’m talking to a potential customer: job titles, education, age, gender and so on. This person is likely in their 30s, has a PhD in some area of biology and works as researcher in an academic laboratory.
Now I’ll know when I’m talking to someone I should introduce to you.
Hey! It turns out, I’m really good at this! The first person I meet is a 30 year-old post-doc named Meg.
But I’m not a headhunter. I should be social and have some conversation before I introduce her to you, right? So I ask her about her job.
She describes her work at the bench and what makes it interesting. She studies developmental pathways in zebra fish. Particularly, key transcriptional events in the development of the eye and the optic nerve. She loves her work.
“So tell me, is this really your dream job or is there something else?”
Her eyes light up. “I’d like to become an assistant professor at a major university where I can share my passion for this amazing biology. I need to publish some significant papers to make that happen.”
It’s about more than the job
I decide to change the subject. “You know what? We’re at a party. We shouldn’t talk about work all evening. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?”
“Oh, that’s easy,” she says. “I enjoy going to the beach on weekends with my family. Or my son’s little league baseball games. He’s the pitcher. His team is the Dodgers. I’m a die-hard Giants fan. Go figure. ”
“What keeps you from doing more of that?”
“Oh, sometimes it’s just life, right? But when my experiments don’t go well, I have to start over. Which means I have to stay late. But my husband travels a lot as a sales rep for a tech company. If he’s out of town, I need to pick my son up from daycare.”
“So I’m either late to pick him up or I’ve wasted a day and have to come in on the weekend.”
I nod in sympathy. Problems that spill over from work into the rest of life are the worst. (And your biggest opportunity as a vendor.)
“That’s a drag. What would it take to change that?” I ask.
Without hesitation, she replies, “Consistently pure RNA preps.”
At which point, I say, “Have you met my friend, Ann*? She’s right over here. Let me introduce you. Her company sells some of that rna-bio-something…. whatever. You two should talk.”
I make the introduction and you learn Meg would benefit from your RNA prep kits. She’s familiar with them, but she’s concerned that the packaging contains a lot of plastic that goes straight to the landfill. She’d like a greener solution.
That’s good information for your product marketing and your marcom team to address.
You and Meg chat for a while. You learn you have a few things in common. You also get a lot of information about how she researches product purchases. By the time we leave the party, you know a lot about Meg. You know how she researches product purchases. You know how to make your content more relevant and engaging for her (and people like her).
You summarize what you’ve learned about your ideal customer:
- Reading habits
- Purchasing habits
- Challenges and dreams
When you are done it looks like this.
Validate your persona
Describing a persona is a first step. But how do you know you have it right? The folks who know best are your sales and customer service teams. Check with them. Or better yet, invite them to the party, when you create your personas. (The sales team can buy the drinks.)
Of course, the best way is for the sales team to identify their favorite customers and interview them. No one person matches your persona exactly, but the work they do, the challenges they face and the emotional consequences (lost family time vs. a wasted work day) should be similar.
How to use a persona
Persona development isn’t just an exercise. Your personas should be a part of every marketing discussion you have.
- Make sure everyone involved in creating content has your personas in front of them and knows who they’re writing for. (You’ll need one for each decision maker.) Hang copies in every cubicle.
- Make them real. Refer to them by name. When you discuss content, it should be in the context of who the audience is.
You can do this complete persona exercise in your team. To get the outline for creating a persona, view or download this SlideShare.
*Ann is the persona I made for you – the person who should be reading this blog post. Did I get it right? Let me know.