Customer Persona Development: If You Build Them, They Will Come

July 2nd, 2014          No Comments
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Customer Persona DevelopmentOne of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business is to be selling something with no idea who you’re selling to. What’s worse, is to start developing a product or service having no idea who your target market is or if they even exist or will pay you for it.

For this reason persona development is crucial to long term business success.

Now the lines on this subject get a little blurred between marketing and business development, so for the sake of this article we’ll be focusing strictly on the marketing aspect of it.

As we dig into this idea, I want you to come away with a sense of how to identify who’s on your website, who you’d like to be on your website and how to relate to them as a provider of goods and services that meet their specific needs.

Advantages of Persona Development

Advantages of quality persona development and ideal customer profile development include:

  • Identifying pain points that can trigger emotional reaction and connection between your target consumer and your product
  • Knowing what voice to write in when speaking to your target audience
  • Knowing what products, content offers, etc. may attract your target audience to connect with your brand
  • Knowing what hesitations and reservations at a particular consumer may have in regards to doing business with you

Notice that none of these things have to do with the actual product or service you are selling. They have everything to do with how you will market to your consumer.

How To Identify Who Is Already On Your Website

Before we can decide who we should be selling our goods and services to, let’s take a look at who is already doing so, or at the very least is interested in what we are currently offering. Here are a few quick ways to identify who is already on your site:

  1. On-site Survey Mechanisms: One of my favorite ways of getting information about the people visiting my site is simply by asking them. There are a ton of great services out there such as Qualaroo and WebEngage that allow you to poll your visitors in an unobtrusive way.You can simply ask a question like “What are you interested in?” and then provide a few choices, or get somewhat more complex with a multi question approach like “Have you found what you’re looking for?” and if not provide a few possible reasons why.A while back on Steamloft I ran a poll asking readers if they’d be more interested in technical how-to posts, or more articles more along the lines of high level marketing strategy. I got some pretty killer results from such a simple question.
  2. Webmaster Tools Search Query Reports: Here’s another great one. When was the last time you poked your head into Google Webmaster tools? I know we all remember the dreaded day when keyword data was removed from Google Analytics (queue Vietnam style flashbacks), however a lot of that value can still be found in Webmaster tools. For this exercise, perhaps even more so.By taking a look at your search query reports in Webmaster tools, not only can you find out what keywords people are typing in, seeing your result and clicking on (win-win), you can also see what search queries you may be showing up for that might not have a great click through rate (opportunity to become a win-win).When you get the chance to see these phrases people are typing in to find your site, you can get a better understanding of who you are. For example, lets say you sell widgets, and maybe they’re some pretty high end ones. However after looking at your search query reports you might find a lot of the people searching for you are actually looking for something more affordable, using terms such as “inexpensive” or “cheap”.
  3. Asking A New Web Customer or Lead: Another favorite of mine. Sometimes as inbound marketers we get so caught up in the data, when sometimes the best thing to do is just pick up the phone or send an email. Some of the biggest insights I’ve gotten into customer persona development have come straight from the horse’s mouth.Ask your sales staff if there is anyone they think would be ideal to contact and get their info. Ask them questions like “What made you decide to buy from us?”, “What advantages did you see from our product or service?” and “What hesitations did you have?”. I have a feeling you’ll hang up the phone or archive the response email satisfied.
  4. Google Analytics Demographic Reports: Have you ever taken a look at your demographics reports in Google Analytics? You might be surprised to find that a large majority of your traffic could share similar demographic commonalities.

Obviously there are a ton of other ways out there to get some insights into who your visitors are, these are just a few of my favorite. The key is the take something away from it.

Either the people on your site align perfectly with your product, and you now have the opportunity to align your marketing with that even more so, or they’re the “cheap” to your “high end” and there’s opportunity to be had.

Finding Out More About Your Target Personas

So we’ve found out as much about our target personas from the resources we have at our disposal, now it’s time to take a look outside of your site. Here’s a few places to get a better understanding of your audience.

  1. Reddit
  2. Amazon Related Products
  3. Facebook Interests & Category Search
  4. Google Correlate
  5. Google Display Planner

Developing Your Customer Persona Map

Now that we’ve done our research, it’s time for you to start the mapping portion of the customer persona development exercise.

  1. Name: It’s important to bring this persona to life. It makes it easier to write to and for them. So the first thing we can do to expedite that process is give them a name.
  2. Background: Here we want some general info on our customer persona. Things like what their job title might be, what car they might drive, what they do for fun, etc.
  3. Demographics: This will come from your research, based around things like salary range, age, gender…anything you can come up with definitively in this regard.
  4. Objective: Here we want to pinpoint the main reason your customer persona might be on your site or looking for your services.
  5. Pain Points: As with the last one, here it’s important to recognize what problems may have this persona seeking you out.
  6. Objections: What objections might this person have to your product or service? How can you combat these objections?
  7. Elevator Pitch: When it’s all boiled down, what’s your pitch to this person? What will you say to get their attention?

Using Persona Development In Your Inbound Marketing

So there you have it! Persona development complete (for now, obviously this is something you want to revisit over time). But what good does customer persona development do if it isn’t actionable? Knowing who your ideal customer is and what they’re thinking is great, but the secret sauce lies in the ways you may adjust your marketing to directly serve and speak to them more effectively.

Areas you might want to take a look at:

Ad & SEO Copy: By this I mean the copy of your text ads, and the SEO title and meta description of pages a particular persona may be looking at.

On-site Call To Actions: Once you have them on your site, what message is going to drive your visiting customer personas to take action?

Marketing Language on Landing Pages: How can you use language to convey trust and combat objections? How can you write to empathize with your audience’s pain points?

Headlines of Articles or Blog Posts: Getting someone to click is the first step. What titles can you come up with that will really entice your persona to click?

Obviously this list could go on and on. These are only a few examples of how you can use the knowledge gained from your customer persona development activities to create better marketing for your brand.

What ways have you used customer persona insights to increase results for your site or brand? Leave a comment below and share your stories with me!

About Josh Patterson

Josh is a young entrepreneur & inbound marketer from Baltimore, has an unhealthy obsession with tacos, a love of craft beer and is known to occasionally grow a pretty mean mustache. Founder @Steamloft.   

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